Knowledge and Competitive Advantage: The Coevolution of Firms, Technology, and National Institutions / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $3.48
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 96%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (9) from $3.48   
  • New (3) from $71.04   
  • Used (6) from $3.48   


Entrepreneurs, managers, and policy makers must make decisions about a future that is inherently uncertain. Since the only rational guide for the future is the past, analysis of previous episodes in industrial development can shape informed decisions about what the future will hold. Historical scholarship that seeks to uncover systematically the causal processes transforming industries is thus of vital importance to the executives and managers shaping business policy today. With this in mind, Johann Peter Murmann compares the development of the synthetic dye industry in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States through the lenses of evolutionary theory. The rise of this industry constitutes an important chapter in business, economic, and technological history because synthetic dyes, invented in 1856, were the first scientific discovery quickly to give rise to a new industry. Just as with contemporary high tech industries, the synthetic dye business faced considerable uncertainty that led to many surprises for the agents involved. After the discovery of synthetic dyes, British firms led the industry for the first eight years, but German firms came to dominate the industry for decades; American firms, in contrast, played only a minor role in this important development. Murmann identifies differences in educational institutions and patent laws as the key reasons for German leadership in the industry. Successful firms developed strong ties to the centers of organic chemistry knowledge. As Murmann demonstrates, a complex coevolutionary process linking firms, technology, and national institutions resulted in very different degrees of industrial success among the dye firms in the three countries.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Murmann's book all in all is a masterpiece of historical sociology. It achieves both completeness and particularity. For business historians, Murmann's work demonstrates the exciting potential of an organized and systematic effort, creatively presented, to make industrial history meaningful to managers, and other historians, without sacrificing richness of detail." Enterprise and Society

"Rarely has any student of economic change combined impeccable scholarship, sophisticated theory, challenging ideas, and engaging narrative in the elegant manner of Johann Peter Murmann. Readers who have no interest whatsoever in industrial chemistry will nevertheless learn a great deal about economic processes from Murmann's original, ambitious work." Charles Tilly, Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University

"If evolutionary models are to be successful at all in the social sciences, it is in enhancing our understanding of technological and economic performance in the past. In this pioneering work, Johann Peter Murmann does exactly that, and immediately establishes himself as one of the most innovative and bold scholars in the field. Using evolutionary theory and management science, this book sheds important light on the nineteenth-century chemical industry. This is one of the most methodologically original books in interdisciplinary history to come out in recent years." Joel Mokyr, Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics and History, Northwestern University

"Murmann's study of the synthetic dye industry puts one in mind of some grand painting by an Old Master: not only is the main scene imposingly displayed, but fascinating, well-rendered details are to be found in every corner and shadow. His account of the early decades of the industry reveals the remarkable complexity of the social processes of industrial development. At the same time, his coevolutionary perspective transcends the details, organizes this complex story in a compelling fashion and leads the reader to a deeper understanding." Sidney G. Winter, Deloitte and Touche Professor of Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

"Darwin not only set out his theory of biological evolution at some length but also provided as much empirical backing as was available at the time. In this remarkable book Johannn Peter Murmann sets out a general analysis of coevolution and provides a detailed example to back it up how quickly the discovery of synthetic dyes by an academic scientist gave rise to an industry that in turn influenced the development of academic science. Murmann provides a well-developed theory and evidence to support it. Who could ask for more?" David L. Hull, Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus), Northwestern University

"Johann Peter Murmann's book is a major contribution to our understanding of the interrelations between technological change and industry evolution. This comparative study of the emergence of the synthetic dye industry wonderfully illustrates how differences in public policy, university traditions, and industry context affect both technical as well as industrial change. Murmann's book will have a major impact on coevolutionary theory as well as industrial policy. It is a book for researchers as well as for policy makers." Michael Tushman, Paul R. Lawrence, Class of 1942 Professor, Harvard Business School

"Murmann's admirable book provides the most persuasive account, to date, for Germany's early leadership and long dominance of the synthetic dye industry after the momentous, serendipitous scientific discovery by a young Englishman in 1856. It is an account that employs a sharply focused, coevolutionary lens upon the differing historical experiences of Germany, Great Britain and the United States. The book calls attention to the ways in which the earlier development paths of the German states had equipped them, much more effectively than their potential competitors, to exploit the specialized research tools of synthetic organic chemistry, upon which commercial success was to become heavily dependent." Nathan Rosenberg, Professor of Economics (Emeritus), Stanford University

"Murmann's book will interest and stimulate the thinking of anyone involved in management in a technology-based operation. I also recommend it to policymakers in government and the host of non-governmental organizations that seek to influence international policy. As Murmann hopes, it should also encourage additional research." Chemical & Engineering News

"Johann Peter Murmann's book shows convincingly that competitive advantage, especially in the knowledge-intensive industries, is firmly rooted in national institutions. Blending quantitative analysis and case study evidence over a period of decades, he makes a major contribution to the fields of strategic management, organizational theory, and technological innovation." Mauro F. Guillen, Dr. Felix Sandman Professor of International Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

"Ambitious.... Murmann should be given credit for his masterful synthesis both of scholarship on the emergence of the organic chemicals industry and of a wide array of—frequently theoretical—literature from management studies, economics, and business, economic, and technological history."
Technology and Culture, Ray Stokes, director of the Centre for Business History, University of Glasgow

"Murmann's book is a convincing comparative economic and business history that is likely to inspire further empirical studies." - Christian Kleinschmidt, Ruhr University

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Johann Peter Murmann is Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of International Business Studies and is the editor of Evolutionary Theories in the Social Sciences.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Country-level performance differences and their institutional foundations; 3. Three times two case studies of individual firms; 4. The coevolution of national industries and institutions; 5. Toward an institutional theory of competitive advantage; Appendices; Bibliography.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)