Abstract: Circulation of Knowledge in the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions
Many observers have noted a fundamental shift in the political economy around the world sometime around the 1970s, sometimes known as the "Third Industrial Revolution." The semiconductor industry was the foundational sector that led the change. The semiconductor industry was a product of big businesses and their corporate research laboratories of the 1950s. Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the household names in the sector gradually gave way to an emerging network of smaller firms. What did the changes in the industrial ecology mean for the global circulation of technical knowledge? In particular, what did this mean for the Japanese semiconductor manufacturers, who were on the verge of take-off as industry leaders? I will argue that the new mode of knowledge circulation provided the Japanese firms with unique advantages that led to their rapid ascent in the late 1970s and 1980s.