Hybrid Rule in Innovation Policies: Recasting Public-Private Relations in the Reagan Era

Friday, June 24, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM
235 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Shelley Hurt, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
Contemporary debates over technological innovation and economic growth have solidified around “public-private partnerships” as the best model for breaking free from the looming threats of stagflation that hover over industrialized economies, especially the United States.  These public-private partnerships are widely heralded across the political spectrum as a politically neutral method for addressing myriad public policy challenges, such as education, incarceration, and immigration.  Despite this emphasis on political neutrality, however, this paper argues that public-private partnerships harbor many unforeseen risks by weakening democratic accountability and oversight of government functions.  In exploring these risks, this paper examines innovation policies in the Reagan administration from 1981-1988 in the area of biotechnology, particularly agricultural biotechnology, to highlight how neoliberal rhetoric about privatization and deregulation masked the institutional transformations that emerged between government and industry during this time.  Drawing upon newly declassified material from the Reagan Presidential Library, the paper shows how these partnerships were constructed in the name of national security to further shield these new relations from being openly contested. Hence, this study recasts the Reagan era by demonstrating its commitment to hybrid rule, which strengthens state power at the expense of democratic accountability and oversight.