Past decades have witnessed significant contributions to theories of the firm, innovation and economic growth from two closely related paradigms, namely, the Capabilities School and National Innovation Systems Approach. Unlike the neoclassical models of the firm and growth, these two paradigms place emphasis on the knowledge and learning process in understanding economic development. Despite being closer to reality in their treatment of economic issues than their neoclassical school counterpart, the two paradigms have not put human agency in the forefront of their analysis. This paper constructs a theory of national capabilities in the subjectivist perspective, which is then extended to understand firm and national capabilities and competitiveness. While this paper recognizes the influence of institutions on firms' decision making, unlike contemporary evolutionary literatures, the subjectivist perspective highlights the fact that all institutions are the coordinating effort of human actions which attempt to interpret external events or make sense out of social or economic interactions.
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