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Path Dependence, Agency and Technological Evolution

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The notion of path dependence is regularly deployed to account for the way past commitments have an important bearing on current choices. We make a distinction between the notions of past and path dependence and focus on path dependence as two types of event sequences: selfreinforcing and reactive. We then address the issue of how the notion of path dependence can be reconciled with a temporal–relational perspective on agency. These notions are tested and refined using a longitudinal case study of ICI's move away from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the decision to build three plants to produce one CFC alternative (HFC-134a) for the global refrigeration market. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of path dependence for research on technological and firm evolution.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: March 1, 2002

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