The Co-Evolution of Technology and Work-Organization

  • Gerhard O. Mensch
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 11)


According to Benjamin Franklin, “Man is a tool-making animal.” Had he lived today, Franklin might have said that man is a technology maker, and that he is very successful at that. Skeptics, on the other end, think that this success has generated over-industrialization, over-technologication, and man has become a technology taker╌;nolens volens.

This paper argues that the market process seems not to follow the skeptic’s value judgment. Instead, the market forces react to the fact of over-supply of some types of technology with even stronger demand for technology; for different technologies, though. Inter-industrial, inter-regional, and inter-national competition propels the re-direction and acceleration of technological change, and in the future as in the past, the individual and organized human capabilities for technology making and technology taking will determine the course of events in the co-evolution of technology and society.

In discussing the universal tendencies and the temporal deviations from this development, a distinction between different types of technological innovation is in place. As these different sub-trends in the rate and direction of product and process innovations are pre-programmed by developments in the life styles and work organizations of the population, they in turn impact upon the way of life and the development of new forms of work organization.


Technological Change Process Innovation Work Organization Creative Destruction Basic Innovation 
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  1. 1.
    G. O. Mensch, Social Preprogramming of Technological Change, forthcoming in Technological Forecasting and Social Change (extended version of German original in: Tijdschrift voor de Studie van de Verlichting, 8(1980/81), 127–141.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    G. Mensch, Stalemate in Technology: Innovations Overcome the Depression. Cambridge, Mass., Ballinger, 1979 (German original Frankfurt: Umschau, 1975).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    G.O. Mensch (with H. Freudenberger), “Bruno Study.” A Contribution to the Political Economy of Social Innovation, Illustrated by the Cluster of Innovations of the Industrial Revolution in the Bruno Region, Goetinger, 1975).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    M.I.T. Center for Policy AlternativesfReport to the Office of Technology Assessment, Congress of the United States, on Government Involvement in the Innovation Process, 1978.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerhard O. Mensch
    • 1
  1. 1.Weatherhead School of ManagementCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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