Innovation as social change: an institutional analysis

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Based on Robert Merton’s typology of social deviance and his distinction between manifest and latent functions, this article explores the nature and consequences of deliberately-engineered innovation in the modern world. The substitution of spontaneous scientific and technological innovations by engineered ones through institutions created for that purpose represents itself a major innovation of the XX century. However, celebratory accounts of this innovation neglect the process of reverse causality created by it, impacting deeper levels of the culture and social structure of affected societies throughout the world. This process can have both positive and negative consequences, including the substitution of real innovations for apparent ones and the mass displacement of communities and workers linked to earlier technologies and practices. These often unintended consequences of deliberately-engineered innovation are discussed and their implications for individuals and for the social order identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Review of Sociology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • culture
  • innovation
  • Institutions
  • social change
  • social structure
  • stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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