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A fundamental question of economic and technological history is why some civilizations adopted new and important technologies and others did not. In this paper, we analyze the effect that new technologies have on agents that legitimize rulers. We construct a simple political economy model which suggests that rulers may not accept a productivity-enhancing technology when it negatively affects an agent’s ability to provide the ruler legitimacy. However, when other sources of legitimacy emerge, the ruler will accept the technology as long as the new legitimizing source is not negatively affected. We use this insight to help explain the initial blocking but eventual accepting of the printing press in the Ottoman Empire and industrialization in Tsarist Russia.tefh


This article was originally published in Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, volume 168, issue 3, in 2012.

Peer Reviewed



Mohr Siebeck



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