Historical Research Workshop

Tag Archive for digital resources

Online Databases

Browsing the list of online databases on lib.berkeley.edu I found a few that might be relevant to my topic: Italinemo, Historical Abstracts, Humanities International Complete (as well as the familiar JSTOR and ProQuest). Unfortunately only the latter furnished me with…

Online Database Article

So I came upon an article about Japanese-American college students who sought for justice their gap in education. This article focuses on a family of Japanese-Americans who were enrolled in the University of Oregon. The article describes how the members…

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Today, I am reviewing Joel Mokyr’s Lever of Riches. I followed a tip from one of my professors, Sarah Knuth, and tracked down this seminal tome about why does innovation occur, and what are the mechanisms required for its appearance and sustainability. Sadly/happily, this tome barely covers Russia and the Soviet Union, but it does cover via case studies roughly 500 BC to 1914. As I have started delving into my topic, I realized I needed to handle the basics, the how-and-why of innovation, before I could return to my Soviet sources. As I learned from Knuth, who gave me a rather full recommendation sheet, the topic is of intense interest but is not very settled, and that Mokyr was one a few good starting places. Happily, I found it online with a modicum of search-fu.

Mokyr comes from a Schumpeterian background, interested in disequilibrium, disruption, and the progress of technology that arises from such. One of his primary arguments, and one that I am most interested in, is that although we of today equate the passage of time with rapid economic and technological advancement, and tend to implicitly think it will continue indefinitely, we are in a historically interesting moment. We exist in a society where innovation has won out against the forces of conservatism again and again, where the forces of Polanyi’s Double Movements (the social resistance against marketizing forces detailed in Polanyi’s The Great Transformation) lose time and again.

For me, as Polanyi (who I will come back to in a future post) demonstrates the effects, the resistance, that doomed the Soviet computer industry, Mokyr with his discussion of path dependence and the space required for innovation is valuable as I see what the Soviet cyberneticists tried to use to create a new Soviet society.