, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 277-307
Date: 27 Aug 2010

Innovation Without the Word: William F. Ogburn’s Contribution to the Study of Technological Innovation

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Abstract

The history of innovation as a category is dominated by economists and by the contribution of J. A. Schumpeter. This paper documents the contribution of a neglected but influential author, the American sociologist William F. Ogburn. Over a period of more than 30 years, Ogburn developed pioneering ideas on three dimensions of technological innovation: origins, diffusion, and effects. He also developed the first conceptual framework for innovation studies—based on the concept of cultural lags—which led to studying and forecasting the impacts of technological innovation on society. All in all, Ogburn has been as important to the sociology of technology as Robert K. Merton has been to the sociology of science and Schumpeter to the economics of technological innovation.