From Determinism to Synergy: Technologies and Institutions in the 20th-Century United States
The four papers in this panel go beyond the genius inventor paradigm and linear determinisms to analyze how institutions shaped and were shaped by technological developments. Whether focusing on the first federal regulation of civil aviation in the 1920s, the development and application of the F-15 and F-16, the role of women’s organizations in the creation and diffusion of traffic safety standards during the 1950s, or the post-World War II regulatory dialogue surrounding the computer, they analyze how the mutually formative relationship between technologies and political, economic, and cultural institutions at the local, state, national, and international levels contributed to and reflected broader changes within the twentieth-century United States.
[i] Examples include Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor J. Pinch, eds., The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1987); Ruth Swartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic Books, 1983); Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983); Donald Mackenzie, Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990); and Steven W. Usselman, Regulating Railroad Innovation: Business, Technology, and Politics in America, 1840–1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
[ii] Avner Grief, Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 30.
[iii] Douglass North, Understanding the Process of Economic Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 2.