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Scientists as Free Riders: Natural Resource Exploration and New Product Discovery in the Dutch East India Company

Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics

ISBN: 978-1-78560-093-7, eISBN: 978-1-78560-092-0

Publication date: 10 August 2015

Abstract

As the Dutch East India Company expanded its presence in Asia during the seventeenth century, discovery of new products and medical materials was central to its continued success and survival. This new product innovation was difficult to manage directly however because the routine-driven, efficiency-focused organization was ill-suited to research and discovery required for bioprospecting and innovation. Instead, the Company tacitly allowed its employees in Asia to conduct this research on their own. Scientists became free riders, exploiting their administrative authority and corporate resources to further their private research projects. This symbiotic public–private partnership enabled employees to use Company resources to undertake large-scale economic and scientific surveys of its Asian domains. These decentralized, entrepreneurial projects cut across the boundaries of caste, language, religion, and theoretical orientation to assemble new, systematic views of Asian knowledge. While not centrally planned (nor always officially condoned), these surveying efforts had all of the hallmarks of a systematic colonial project to map out the sources of value in foreign colonies.

Keywords

Citation

Sargent, M. (2015), "Scientists as Free Riders: Natural Resource Exploration and New Product Discovery in the Dutch East India Company", Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 219-238. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0198-871920150000029012

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited