The system approach developed by Christopher Freeman can arguably be fruitfully applied to explain and understand the systemic interdependencies of technology, economics, and social change, a framework deduced from Joseph Schumpeter. This thesis is therefore concerned with investigating Christopher Freeman’s research programme and assesses it in detail and in relation to Schumpeter’s notion of a “broad kind of economics”, namely Social Economics. It presents central books and journal articles written by Freeman, and analyses especially the evolution of his system approach to capitalist evolution. The assessment is done in the spirit of Schumpeter in the sense that parallels are drawn between Freeman’s theories and propositions and what we have termed Schumpeter’s Social Economics.
The thesis traces the evolution of the system approach along four assumed features; that the National System of Innovations is deduced form the idea of the R&D system identified in “The Economic of Industrial Innovation” (1974). The second evolutionary feature is the connection between the development of technology systems and techno-economic paradigms, as well as a connection between these two systems and the national system of innovation. The third feature is the connection between techno-economic paradigms and the long wave pattern in world economic development. Finally, the fourth feature assume that all the above systems interact and is merged into the Theory of ‘Reasoned History’ presented in Freeman’s last book “As Time Goes By” (2001).
The thesis concludes that there has been a significant evolution of a system approach in Freeman’s research programme along the proposed features, and that he developed the ideas and propositions set forth by Schumpeter by extending the empirical evidence both supporting and refuting Schumpeter’s theories. As such Freeman has contributed to the development of Schumpeter’s intellectual legacy by defining new concepts, theorems and propositions, and new frames of interpretation and understanding, thus establishing a dialectical relationship between new real historical data and a progressing theoretical field. The thesis also reveals a relative compatibility between the two kinds of Social Economics.
Keywords: Christopher Freeman, Economic Development, Joseph Schumpeter, National Systems of Innovation, ‘Reasoned History’, Social Economics, Techno-Economic Paradigms