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America Inc.?

America Inc.?: Innovation and Enterprise in the National Security State

Linda Weiss
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    America Inc.?
    Book Description:

    For more than half a century, the United States has led the world in developing major technologies that drive the modern economy and underpin its prosperity. In America, Inc., Linda Weiss attributes the U.S. capacity for transformative innovation to the strength of its national security state, a complex of agencies, programs, and hybrid arrangements that has developed around the institution of permanent defense preparedness and the pursuit of technological supremacy. She examines how that complex emerged and how it has evolved in response to changing geopolitical threats and domestic political constraints, from the Cold War period to the post-9/11 era.

    Weiss focuses on state-funded venture capital funds, new forms of technology procurement by defense and security-related agencies, and innovation in robotics, nanotechnology, and renewable energy since the 1980s. Weiss argues that the national security state has been the crucible for breakthrough innovations, a catalyst for entrepreneurship and the formation of new firms, and a collaborative network coordinator for private-sector initiatives. Her book appraises persistent myths about the military-commercial relationship at the core of the National Security State. Weiss also discusses the implications for understanding U.S. capitalism, the American state, and the future of American primacy as financialized corporations curtail investment in manufacturing and innovation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7113-1
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 The National Security State and Technology Leadership
    (pp. 1-20)

    Bill Gates’s “state-less” depiction of America’s high-tech economy perfectly captures the prevailing understanding of U.S. techno-industrial preeminence. Both at home and abroad, the United States is widely portrayed as the quintessential free-market economy. In this reputedly freewheeling entrepreneurial setting, robust antistatism combines with weak state capacity to ensure that the U.S. government contributes little more to America’s global technology leadership than a business-friendly environment.

    This book tells a different story, one that links high technology with national security and (antistatist) political norms.¹ It proposes that there is more to American capitalism and the American state than meets the free-market eye....

  6. 2 Rise of the National Security State as Technology Enterprise
    (pp. 21-50)

    The genesis of the national security state (in the usual sense rather than as I define it) has been richly detailed in several historical studies.¹ Rather than retell that story here, I highlight just one aspect of pivotal importance to the argument of this book: namely, the rise and evolution of the NSS as an innovation enterprise that concentrates national responsibility for science and technology. How that role emerged and took shape and how it embraced a variety of actors in the private sector is a fascinating story in itself. Nothing like it had ever been created before. Regarding the...

  7. 3 Investing in New Ventures
    (pp. 51-74)

    Under pressure of geopolitical competition, the NSS moved to become an engine of innovation. Far from confining its activities to the funding of “research,” it took an active role in seeding new commercial ventures. Consider for a moment what American icons like Intel, Apple Computer, Sun Microsystems, Fedex, and America Online have in common: all received government venture capital funding in their critical early startup phases.¹ As we shall see, for the emergence and growth of many such entrepreneurial initiatives, federally sponsored venture capital has long offered a significant source of early-stage financing.

    This chapter examines the NSS involvement in...

  8. 4 Beyond Serendipity: Procuring Transformative Technology
    (pp. 75-95)

    Ever since World War II, technology procurement has been a key instrument of U.S. high-technology leadership. With its modern roots in military contracting during the war, technology procurement soon evolved into a means to drive American firms to undreamed-of technological feats. Its catalytic role in the emergence of high-tech industries in postwar America has been well recognized in policymaking circles and its contribution to breakthrough innovations has been well documented by analysts of technology policy. But for much of the postwar period the prevailing view has been that commercial applications that grew as spin-offs from defense and security-related technology were...

  9. 5 Reorienting the Public-Private Partnership
    (pp. 96-122)

    It is often claimed that the mission agencies of the NSS, because of reduced market and R&D spending power relative to the private sector, no longer influence commercial innovation; that on the contrary, the influence flows in the opposite direction in a unidirectional (spin-on) manner, with the private sector setting the course for the NSS to follow. In this chapter I show why this declinist assumption needs revision: rather than (relatively) reduced market and spending power simply diminishing NSS influence over technology development, the mission agencies have instead sought to become more commercially proactive. The growth of new partnerships that...

  10. 6 No More Breakthroughs?
    (pp. 123-145)

    Like the Owl of Minerva, we usually recognize the moment of a historical shift or significant change only with hindsight—once it is fully under way. This chapter probes the basis for the claim that the United States can no longer look to the NSS for the high-tech innovations that have served its economic growth so well.

    Some analysts have raised the concern that with the end of the Cold War and the focus on shorter-term asymmetric threats, the impetus for defense innovation may now lack the strength and sense of purpose needed to launch new breakthrough technologies in either...

  11. 7 Hybridization and American Antistatism
    (pp. 146-170)

    The road traveled so far has taken us from the transformative technologies of the early Cold War years right up to the present quest for new breakthroughs. Along the way, we have witnessed the emergence of a major innovation engine in the form of the NSS—one that has evolved to influence and serve both government and commercial sectors. We can agree with Aaron Friedberg that what we see is a far cry from a despotic garrison-style state, in spite of the heavy focus on national security. However, we must also conclude that the result is equally a far cry...

  12. 8 Penetrating the Myths of the Military-Commercial Relationship
    (pp. 171-193)

    The central proposition of this study is that the NSS is the originating source of America’s commercial prowess in high-technology. Without the NSS and the strategic stimuli that have sustained its existence, the United States would probably be an innovator much like Germany or Japan, but it would not generate the revolutionary multipurpose innovations that give rise to whole new industries. In short, it would not be a high-tech hegemon.

    In the course of advancing this proposition, I have also challenged several influential ideas and assumptions that have framed conventional thinking about the relationship between defense and commercial industry—concepts...

  13. 9 Hybrid State, Hybrid Capitalism, Great Power Turning Point
    (pp. 194-212)

    Concluding chapters traditionally invite reflections on the larger implications of a work, both theoretical and practical. Before tackling that task, however, let me start by recalling the key substantive issue. My orienting question focused on the unusual capacity for transformative innovation that has underpinned America’s postwar dominance in high technology. Why, in particular, has the United States, more than any other country on the planet, been the source of so much high-tech industry, and why after, but not before, World War II? And is this pattern likely to continue into the future?

    I have set my story within the evolving...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 213-234)
  15. References
    (pp. 235-254)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 255-256)
  17. Index
    (pp. 257-262)