Photonic Technology and Industrial Policy

U.S. Responses to Technological Change

By Ernest Sternberg

Subjects: Economics
Paperback : 9780791411827, 311 pages, November 1992
Hardcover : 9780791411810, 311 pages, November 1992

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Table of contents


1 A Technology and an Argument Introduced

2 The Rise of Photonic Technology

3 Technology as a Common Resource

4 Privatization and the Industrial Policy Debate

5 Disaggregation

6 Collaboration

7 Sheltering

8 Conclusions and Implications


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A revolutionary technological development of the late twentieth century, photonics embraces lasers, fiber optics, imaging devices, and optical applications to computing. It affects the fortunes of numerous industries and, other than conventional microelectronics, may now be the leading arena for worldwide technological rivalry. While Japan has seen its photonic industries grow faster than any other high technology sector, the United States, where much of photonics originated, has experienced a declining industrial capability in world markets.

Why is the U. S. floundering in this critical new technology? Are market solutions adequate as a national response to such massive technological change? After describing the history and economic implications of photonics, this book places these questions in the context of industrial policy debates about the proper role of government in response to strategic industrial sectors. The author then assesses the U. S. public policy response by examining various government programs directed at photonics. These programs add up to an implicit government photonics policy, but one that is shortsighted, incoherent, and unplanned. Sternberg concludes that it is this failure to plan that explains United States' retrogression in a critical technology.

Ernest Sternberg is Assistant Professor in the Department of Planning and Design at the State University of New York, Buffalo.


"This book deals with a very important and timely problem—the debate over whether the U. S. needs an industrial policy to direct high-technology investment in order to make the country more competitive—by providing a comprehensive and very informative account of a key set of technologies. This will be the first book in which this complex of technologies is examined in such breadth and detail. " — Sanford Lakoff, University of California, San Diego