The Philosophy of Paradigm Change in the History of Social Evolution

  • John CantwellEmail author


A technological paradigm identifies the coherent features consistently present in the evolution of an innovation system over time. These shared characteristics refer to a widespread cluster of innovations during a given era that rely on a common set of scientific principles and on similar organizational methods. The idea of an overarching paradigm that depicts commonalities in innovation efforts may be applied at the level of an industry, a technical field, or in society as a whole, as in the case of a techno-socio-economic paradigm. Occasional paradigm shifts entail some change in the framework for innovation, while preserving certain features of the old ways in a new synthesis. Thus, paradigm shift takes the form of an Hegelian evolutionary or dialectical process. The evolution of an innovation system as a whole derives from the interaction or co-evolution of its central elements: knowledge, institutions, and technology in production. While conventional science isolates causal associations between specific parts of a system, Hegelian conceptual reasoning addresses the combined and interconnected movement of a complex relational system with multiple interdependencies. In the light of this contention, I argue that we should move away from age-old debates over whether social evolution or development is driven primarily by knowledge, by institutions or by the forces of production. Our attention should now turn instead to how these parts move together in an evolving system, and how their mutual goodness of fit adjusts during phases of paradigm shift and realignment.


Technological paradigm Techno-socio-economic paradigm Paradigm shift Hegelian approach Social evolution Technological evolution 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rutgers UniversityNewarkUSA

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