It is interesting to note that the one economist who can claim to have continued in Heckscher’s tradition of combininginternational economics and economic history, Charles Kindleberger, identified intellectual and doctrinal forces as a powerful agentof economic change and liberalization (see Kindleberger, 1975).
Industrial Revolution. But it is fair to say that explaining the Industrial Revolution was not the mainfocus of his work.In pointing this out, however, Heckscher identified something that subsequent economichistorians have been ignoring at their peril, namely that the causes of the Industrial Revolutioninclude intellectual changes, that is, changes in what people knew and believed to be true. It is notenough to postulate economic change in terms of changes in technology, prices, population, and physical constraints: what people
about their world and one another was central.
Such belief systems can be self-reinforcing and constitute a system that can produce a multiple of equilibria, some of which are more conducive to economic progress than others. In that sense, theIndustrial Revolution may have been more “contingent” than economic historians often tend to believe (Mokyr, 1998, pp. 31-32).For those who wish to understand of what is known as the “Great Divergence” or the“European Miracle,” it seems natural to examine the intellectual roots of economic progress besidethe economic and social ones. In Mokyr (2002) I explore in detail one set of reasons why intellectualfactors mattered next to the standard tales of factor endowments and socio-political environment.The argument is that the Industrial Revolution involved above all changes in technology, and thattechnology is knowledge, that is, possesses a clear-cut intellectual dimension. Knowledge itself,however, is socially constructed, if not precisely in the way that the constructionist school in thestudy of technology would have us believe. Instead, intellectual changes matter to economic changes because societies set research agendas according to certain preferences and beliefs held by a small