Accepted paper:

Inflated aspirations: innovation as development and new articulations of entrepreneurialism


John Cox (La Trobe University)

Paper short abstract:

Innovation is emerging as a new development paradigm, indexing Silicon Valley start ups and disruptive technologies. Innovation is imprecise and experimental. It lacks the routine practices of prior entrepreneurial models like microfinance. This paper explores the dawn of innovation in the Pacific.

Paper long abstract:

"Innovation" is emerging as a new development "buzzword" (Cornwall and Eade 2010), indexing Silicon Valley "start ups" and particular technologies, like Blockchain. Looking to capitalise on "disruptive" visions of the future, development as "innovation" is imprecise and experimental. It lacks the routine programmable practices of earlier entrepreneurial paradigms such as microfinance, even as it shares the ethic of entrepreneurialism and the attendant practices of self-making. Here, however, kin, community and other personal connections are not turned into "social collateral" (Schuster 2015) but the would-be entrepreneur is introduced to a network of innovation that is global in its orientation and focused on technological problem solving, or simply the deployment of high-tech motifs. The state's role in fostering innovation is more that of a venture capitalist than the classic neoliberal regulator of enabling conditions and guardian of property rights. This paper explores the introduction of "innovation" as a new development paradigm in the Pacific region, drawing on preliminary observations of development programming and Australian aid and other government, university and NGO policy documents.

panel P42
Modernization 2.0: new directions in the anthropology of development