Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2001


Europe and the New Economy

Lecturer: Professor Dr. Luc Soete,
Faculty of Economics and Business Administration,
Maastricht University, the Netherlands
Dates: 30. July - 3. August 2001


Course description
There is a growing debate about the way in which the current wave of new information and communication technologies might be today at the origin of the emergence of a "new economy". The latter appears increasingly characterized by the production and consumption of immaterial goods and services, their trading and exchange at a global, world level without the actual physical movement of such goods or persons; and a shift in value away from material production to immaterial content and talent. Many books have been written on some of these features under the heading of "new economy" over the last couple of years. In the early years most of these books, often written by non-economists, argued that there was now also a need for a new economics discipline, no longer focusing on the traditional distributional issues of scarcity, typical of material goods, but on issues of the selection of relevant information in an economic world primarily characterized by abundance.

Later on, starting with Shapiro and Varian's Information Rules. A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy, many economists have started to address the issue of the new economy, avoiding though often the specific wording "new economy" and being at pains to illustrate how existing (micro-)economic theory would actually be well-suited to explain the main features of this new environment. In doing so, much of the new economy debate became reduced to a number of particular features of the new information and communication technologies, such as their network advantages, low marginal costs, transaction cost reductions or product versioning features, to name some of the most popular features of new information and communication goods and services. Hence, a growing popularity to talk about "e-conomy": economics, in particular micro-economics, applied to Internet transactions. Internet is from this perspective in the first instance a distribution revolution with major implications for e-commerce and the possibility for significant reductions in transaction costs.

In this course, a much broader view is taken, in which the phenomenon of the "new economy" is part of a gradually further expanding economy entering thanks to the new digital technologies, new spheres of exchanges of information, data, knowledge, opinions, emotions and other interchanges between humans and humans and machines. Some of these exchanges can now become "commoditized" for monetary value, some can be integrated into existing goods and services, increasing the value of such goods, some is becoming part of barter exchange systems.


Basic readings


Plan of the lectures

Lecture 1 - The new economy as an extension of the sphere of economics
Lecture 2 - The technological perspective: a new long wave growth upswing?
Lecture 3 - New growth, ICT and the trading of services
Lecture 4 - New macro-economics, finance and investment
Lecture 5 - New globalisation
Lecture 6 - New firms strategies and forms of competition
Lecture 7 - New distribution, new products and active consumers
Lecture 8 - New welfare: in search of hapiness
Lecture 9 - On the future of work and ageing
Lecture 10 - New times for work and leisure


Course plan with specified readings

Lecture 1 - The new economy as an extension of the sphere of economics


Lecture 2 - The technological perspective: a new long wave growth upswing?


Lecture 3 - New growth, ICT and the trading of services


Lecture 4 - New macro-economics, finance and investment


Lecture 5 - New globalisation


Lecture 6 - New firms strategies and forms of competition


Lecture 7 - New distribution, new products and active consumers


Lecture 8 - New welfare: in search of hapiness


Lecture 9 - On the future of work and ageing


Lecture 10 - New times for work and leisure


The lecturer
Luc Soete is Professor of International Economics at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and director of the Maastricht Economic Research institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT), the International Institute of Infonomics (IIoI) and the Maastricht McLuhan Institute (MMI). He holds degrees in economics and development economics from the University of Ghent, Belgium, and the University of Sussex.

His research interests cover the broad range of theoretical and empirical studies of the impact of technological change, in particular new information and communication technologies on employment, economic growth, and international trade and investment, as well as the related policy and measurement issues. With respect to the latter he is currently one of the strong proponents of the "new economy" phenomenon. Luc Soete has published a large number of books, articles and policy reports.