The Political Economy of Disruptive Innovation

Lundi, 2 Mars, 2015 - 10:00 to 12:00

PhD Seminar - Jacob HASSELBALCH

IEE, Kant Room

How do disruptive innovations affect regulatory practices? Disruptive innovations are those innovations that radically upset the status quo by challenging existing technologies. Historical examples include the replacement of horses by cars, rifles by machine guns, or landline by cellular telephony. Some disruptive innovations imply political consequences, for example by reallocating harm and benefit among different societal groups or raising moral concerns. This leads to societal demands for regulation of disruptions, but the characteristics of disruptive innovations make them very difficult targets of regulation: they are fast-moving, technologically complex and controversial. In my project, I investigate the politics of two such contentious disruptive innovations in the European Union: electronic cigarettes and hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

The core research puzzle lies in understanding how fast-moving processes of disruption clash with slower-moving processes of regulation. I understand this clash as playing out in the daily work practices of actors in the EU-level policy arena: regulators, lobbyists, activists, journalists, academics, and so on. Drawing on theories from the sociology of professions, I study the strategies these actors make use of to control the issue area and influence regulatory decisions. My data derives primarily from interviews with the involved professionals, supplemented by document analysis. The project is interdisciplinary in both theory and method and aims to contribute policy-relevant knowledge to topical areas of transnational regulation.