Technological progress and regress in pre-industrial times

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

This paper offers micro-foundations for the dynamic relationship between technology and population in the pre-industrial world, accounting for both technological progress and the hitherto neglected but common phenomenon of technological regress. A positive feedback between population and the adoption of new techniques that increase the division of labor explains technological progress. A transient shock to productivity or population induces the neglect of some techniques rendered temporarily unprofitable, which are therefore not transmitted to the next generation. Productivity remains constrained by the smaller stock of knowledge and technology has thereby regressed. A slow process of rediscovery is required for the economy to reach its previous level of technological sophistication and population size. The model is employed to analyze specific historical examples of technological regress.

Inventions don't just get adopted once and forever; they have to be constantly practised and transmitted, or useful techniques may be forgotten.

Jared Diamond, Ten Thousand Years of Solitude, 1993

TidsskriftJournal of Economic Growth
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)125-144
Antal sider20
StatusUdgivet - 2008

Bibliografisk note

JEL Classifications: O10, O33, O40, J11

ID: 3848257