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Societies of Social Innovation

Voices and Arguments

Ander Gurrutxaga Abad has been Professor of Sociology at the University of the Basque Country since 1994. Among his recent works are Occidente y las Otras Modernidades (2008) and Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country (2011). He has taught as a visiting professor at various universities in Spain and abroad, and is currently Director of the Laboratory on Social Innovation at the University of the Basque Country.

The object of this study is to clarify the meanings and uses of social innovation in contemporary societies. The author makes use of the forms of analysis provided by theories of social change and the multi-disciplinary, long-term approach that is associated with ‘Big History’, with its focus on evidence and insights from different scientific and historical disciplines, together with empirical resources that are employed in advanced countries and societies in the construction of innovative environments.

For contemporary societies, social innovation is a concept that is present in a wide variety of experiences and in multiple situations. Historically, it has been seen as related to a capacity for social experimentation, collective learning, the creation of knowledge and the ability to transfer it. Today, it is associated with a range of experiences, dimensions and fields within the language of management and economics, and in the social and productive uses of technology. Civic organizations of different kinds, public institutions and social movements are all aware of its importance, and repeatedly assert its significance. They associate it with risk, with uncertainty and with a role as an instrument for the reinvention of the ethics of capitalism. It is through this humanistic process that social innovation creates contexts and conditions that can improve the future of society in general.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-513-7
Hardback Price: £22.95 / $39.95
Release Date: August 2013
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No




1 The Instruments and Meanings of Social Innovation

2 Texts and Contexts of Social Innovation

3 The Locations and Varying Visions of Social Innovation

4 Successes and Failures of Innovation Programmes

5 Dilemmas and Paradoxes of Social Innovation

6 Conclusions: Heralds and Prophets of Social Innovation

Consolidated Bibliography

This volume, written by the foremost Spanish student of the sociological dimensions of innovation, focuses on the fact that innovation is not the result of the right economic policies, or a mysterious outgrowth of the appropriate value systems, but a product of certain social contexts, whose properties are still imperfectly understood by social science. Economic policies and legal institutions, especially those that foster investment, human capital formation, and research, certainly help: as do value systems that promote empirical knowledge and reward risk and perseverance. But innovation grows in milieux in which innovators of different types (scientists, technologists, team players, entrepreneurs, risk-oriented investors, etc.) congregate and interact. And the process of innovation takes place in firms and the complex networks they form, at the local, national and international environments. This book discusses these processes at the micro, meso, and macro levels, and it includes both a critical evaluation of theories of innovation and an analysis of case studies (Silicon Valley and others), in order to account for the determinants of the emergence of these contexts. This volume is a must for social scientists interested in the knowledge economy, post-industrial society, and the future of advanced industrial countries.
Carlos Waisman, University of California, San Diego

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