Inderscience Publishers

The horse and the molecule: reflections on biotechnology and social change

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Ethnographic accounts of the induced innovation created by the harnessing of horse technology on the Great Plains of North America are used as an analogy to situate social change as a consequence of biotechnology. Ethno historical reconstructions of social change on the Great Plains emphasise cultural continuity as a theme and this guides analysis in the case of biotechnology. The two narratives of induced innovation and social change are summarised but with stress on how continuity is maintained. The principle lesson drawn from the analogy is an emphasis on the ideational function of technology (its emotive character) and the necessity to distinguish ideational from social organisational features in models for induced innovation.

Keywords: biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, social change, Plains Indians, culture and technology, induced innovation

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