Technological Options and Free Trade Agreements

Science and Society 59 (1):9 - 37 (1995)

A country's technological development takes place through a complex of economic, social and political arrangements — through a particular "social structure of accumulation."Unregulated international commerce ("free trade") tends to undermine this complex of arrangements in ways that harm technological advance and, hence, long-run economic development. This process operates, though in different ways, in both the advanced and poorer partners in an unregulated commercial relation. Most generally, successful accumulation requires that the disruptive and destabilizing aspects of markets be contained by institutions that regulate the system, and "free trade" is inimical to the stability and operation of those institutions. Moreover, parts of the complex of arrangements underlying technological development — issues concerning, for example, income distribution, provision of social services, and environmental protection — are important in their own right. Their consideration along with concerns about technological development raises substantial skepticism about the allegedly salutary impact of "free trade.".
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