Directing Innovation Towards Just Outcomes: The Role of Principles and Politics

Papaioannou, Theo (2023). Directing Innovation Towards Just Outcomes: The Role of Principles and Politics. In: Critiquing the Direction for Innovation – The Role of Justice and Exnovation, 13-14 Apr 2023, University of Montreal.


Contemporary innovation theorists tend to defend a combination of Schumpeterian and Keynesian politics of innovation as a solution to the problem of directionality of new technologies towards socially just outcomes. Their hope is that the Schumpeterian motor of innovation would keep entrepreneurs incentivised to take market opportunities and the Keynesian state would invest in infrastructure, redistributing risks and rewards of new technologies. In contrast, Hayekian theorists of innovation insist that top-down state interventions aiming at directionality suffer from epistemological and moral problems. For them, politics of innovation ought to abandon the idea of directionality towards social justice altogether because it is morally questionable and creates disincentives for taking up new risky ventures in the market. Instead, politics of innovation ought to be restricted in promoting an institutional environment that is conducive to entrepreneurship. I will argue that despite differences, both theoretical camps rely on liberal notions of morality and politics which justify predominantly distributional currencies of justice, overlooking questions of relational equality in innovation. Therefore, they fail to go far enough to eliminate unjust relations of private ownership, domination, and oppression within processes of production of novel technological goods and services (e.g., IPRs). I will conclude that what really matters for the direction of innovation towards social justice is to introduce principles (from the bottom-up) and related politics which do not reproduce unequal social relations but instead equalise them through appropriate level of distribution of risks and rewards of innovation.

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