Commodification of science and technology

At the beginning of XX century, Joseph Schumpeter developed the concept of creative destruction  to characterize the waves of development based on clusters of innovations -both technical and institutional. In the last decades, these waves have included petrochemical products, automobiles, information technologies and biotechnologies, especially genetic modification.

Looking back, throughout the postwar era in advanced Western societies, scientific research and technological development included research councils, scientific advisory boards, expert commissions and specialized government agencies in different areas, such as health, agriculture and especially atomic energy. The target was to transform the scientific and technological development in a profitable process. As a result, for instance, new kinds of chemical products have been introduced, especially fertilizers, insecticides and additives used in food production.

Accordingly Eric Hobsbawn (1997), deep concerns turned out to grow because of the social implications of these scientific and technological trends in the 1960s.  Indeed, in Western societies, signals of social discontent included the critique of science and technology applied to military targets, and of the deleterious effects of automation technologies on labour and working conditions.  In addition, high concern also arose on behalf of health and environmental costs that resulted from the widely-used chemical in agriculture.

More recently, the outcomes of globalization revealed the impacts of financial and business interests on scientific and technological development. For instance, among others, these outcomes have included the “restructuring” of universities and research institutes.

Recalling Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval (2013, there is a set of values spread in Western societies that supports progress as a “truth” called efficiency. This scenario calls for a serious reflection about the social implications of current scientific and technological trends and the ethical issues that overwhelm the current manifestations of disembeddedness and the commodification of science and technology.



Dardot, P. and Laval, C. (2013) The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. New York: Gregory Elliott London.

Hobsbawm, E. (1994) The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991, London: Michael Joseph.

Jamison, A. (2012) “Science and Technology in Postwar Europe”. In Oxford Handbook in Postwar European History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Polanyi, K. (1944) The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, New York: Rinehart.

Schumpeter, J.A. (1912 [1934]) The Theory of Economic Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


  1. dmf said:

    certainly not new that most of the money for research in lab-sciences and engineering comes from government agencies (like DARPA here in the US) or commercial interests, there seem to be two big new pushes I know of one is a general shift in federal dollars towards research that can show (or at least make a show of showing) some near-term application, and than on the academic side as departments have come to reward grants over all else top faculty earners are feeling free to pit universities against each other for their services and making tenure even more fragile, but like with all matters in “higher” ed faculty aren’t organizing anything like viable forms of resistance and as far as I can see never will…

  2. Maria Alejandra Madi said:

    Thanks for your comment about the “two big new pushes”. I would like to receive some reading references.


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