Technological Change: What do Technology and Change stand for?

28 Jan

B. Godin (2015), Technological Change: What do Technology and Change stand for? Project on the Intellectual History of Innovation, Working paper no. 24, INRS: Montreal.


Technological change is a loose concept that has multiple meanings. The concept originates in the 1930s from issues concerning unemployment. It was subsequently applied to the study of economic growth, namely productivity.

This paper documents the origin and subsequent uses of the concept through the main theoretical contributions made. The concept has two broad meanings, a restricted and a large one: change in methods or techniques of industrial production and diffusion of new invention or technology through society. These meanings are explained according to the scholars’ interests, namely the ‘agent’ studied. From the very beginning, the study of technological change was concerned with the effects of technology on people’s lives (unemployment, culture), hence a large meaning. Over time, the concept was distinguished or separated from these issues and achieved ‘autonomy’. It concerns firms and techniques of production as tool for maintaining or increasing productivity.