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Can the U.S. sustain its global position? Dynamism and stagnation in the U.S. institutional model

The United States in Decline

ISBN: 978-1-78350-829-7, eISBN: 978-1-78350-830-3

Publication date: 24 June 2014


In this chapter, we argue for an essential dualism in the U.S. economy; there are simultaneously institutional sources of dynamism and institutional patterns that portend a process of decay and decline. This dualism corresponds to a growing divide between innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises and big corporations – both financial and nonfinancial – that are increasingly predatory in their business strategies. Surprisingly, firms on both sides of the divide are increasingly dependent on government. The small- and medium-sized firms rely heavily on government science and technology programs to help them innovate. The large firms need government to protect their position. Whether dynamism or decay will prove to be stronger, we think, is contingent on political choices that will be made over the next ten years. This contingency, in turn, makes it easier to understand the highly polarized nature of partisan politics in the United States today.




Fred Block is grateful to support from the Ford Foundation for research that has informed this chapter, and to staff members at the UN Human Development Report for valuable criticisms on an earlier version. Miriam Joffe-Block and Marian Negoita contributed key ideas. John Kincaid provided helpful research assistance. Matthew Keller thanks Sean O’Riain and colleagues at the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) at the National University of Ireland (Maynooth) for conversations and space provided during a research leave.


Block, F. and Keller, M.R. (2014), "Can the U.S. sustain its global position? Dynamism and stagnation in the U.S. institutional model", The United States in Decline (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 19-51.



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