Kristie Bohm Byrum, APR: Naming the Knowledge Economy in South Carolina: Defining a Language of Economic Communication
“There are bodies of knowledge that are independent of the sciences… but there is now knowledge without a particular discursive practice may be defined by the knowledge that it forms,” Michel Foucault.
When the South Carolina Research Authority Bill Mahoney stepped onto the InnoVenture stage to present a “Knowledge Economist” award to entrepreneurial activist John Warner on March 24th, 2009, the crowd seemed to nod with a collective understanding of the meaning of the term “Knowledge Economy.”
The attributes of the South Carolina Knowledge Economy had finally come together. After years of concerted branding, collaborations between universities and private enterprise, and stories in the news media, the South Carolina Knowledge Economy was formed, giving birth to a new economic description of a notably traditional state.
Taking lessons from Michel Foucault’s concepts of discursive formation, this paper reveals how the state has progressed economically from the hands-on manufacturing-oriented industrial economy to a mind-conceived, formative Knowledge Economy. This paper points to aspects of post-modernism citing scholars such as Jean Francois Lyotard and shows how a new vernacular has been revealed in the language of South Carolinians, who are now articulating aspects of the knowledge creation with ideas, words and actions.
Defining the Knowledge Economy
As we document the advent of the Knowledge Economy, it is important to understand the grounding of this discontinuous event of the creation of a new knowledge-based economy.
Jean-Francois Lyotard’s book, The Postmodern Condition defines the use of knowledge in societies. Author Neils Brugger interprets the book’s themes by stating that Lyotard attempts
to address the condition of knowledge in the most highly developed societies and in doing so classifies them as post-modern, assigning a new epoch to the time. Lyotard uses “post-modern” as a point of departure to define legitimacy in the modern. He characterizes modern “by science (which is concerned with the truth) and by the institutions controlling social bonds (which are concerned with justice) that are beginning to legitimate their activities with reference to a grand narrative. The dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth.” (Lyotard)
We repeatedly note words related to science and wealth creation in our analysis of the vocabulary of the Knowledge Economy. While creating “A Knowledge Economy Index for 50 States With a focus on South Carolina,” Clemson Researcher Tate Martin Watkins described the Knowledge Economy this way: “In a Knowledge Economy, value lies increasingly in ideas, services, information, technological innovation and relationships. A Knowledge Economy is characterized by the recognition of knowledge as the source of its competitiveness, the increasing importance of scientific research and development and innovation in knowledge creation, and the use of technology to generate, share and apply knowledge.” (Watkins). In a survey of the 50 states, Watkins found in 2008 that South Carolina ranked 39th in a Knowledge Economy Index, behind the frontrunners of Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia. Clearly, while strides to expand the scope and reach of the new economy, work remains to be done on growing the knowledge economy in South Carolina. The South Carolina Research Authority, the Palmetto Institute, New Carolina and other organizations actively lead the charge.
In its own self-definition, SCRA defines the knowledge economy: “A knowledge-driven economy generates and exploits knowledge and plays the predominant part in the creation of wealth. In South Carolina, the Knowledge Economy is growing around high technology industries such as the life sciences, advances materials and alternative energy.” (SC Launch)
To propel and recognize leaders in the knowledge economy and further create a “community,” SCRA established the Knowledge Economist Award, simultaneously paying homage to the innovators of Ancient Greece. “In history, economists have explored the unknown as in Homer’s Odyssey.” These experts have created society’s structures for transactions, including the inventing of the first Greek Coin. SCRA recognizes the individuals today who bring new life to this ancient heritage of applying science to the creation of new forms of wealth, according the SC Launch Website explaining the Knowledge Economist awards program. (SC Launch) Dozens of individuals have been recognized, creating a pool of thought leaders and broadening a base of activism for the knowledge economy.
Shedding the Past: Embracing the Knowledge Economy
For this new community to form, a collective consciousness among politicians, business executives and community activists emerged and encompassed the economic imperatives of job creation and future sustenance for the residents of South Carolina. As Foucault articulated, the emergence of this new consciousness required a “clearing” of former views and ideas.
“Because there is negative work to be carried out first: we must rid ourselves of a whole mass of notions, each of which, in its own way, diversifies the theme of continuity,” according to Foucault. (Foucault). For the politicians, economic developers, citizens and educators in South Carolina, economic forces, the advent of new technologies and digital age business models prompted a collective community mindshift. The Knowledge Economy was here, and despite the nostalgia of clinging to an agrarian economy, manufacturing and traditional “old economy business models,” profits of the Knowledge Economy forecasted a change to the South Carolina Economy.
For example, the efforts of SC Launch, with the self proclaimed title “Knowledge Economy Engine,” has yielded impressive results for the citizens of South Carolina. For example, the group has directly funded 251 corporations with grants up to $250,000 since its formation in 2006. Further, as we look at wealth creation, SC Launch has created jobs throughout the state with average salaries of $64,000 each. With dramatic economic impact, SC Launch as generated $167 million in follow-on capital invested into SC Launch Portfolio companies reflecting revenue sources from angel investors, venture capitalists, acquiring corporations and other private capital sources.
The Economic Results of Conceptual Multiplicity
As the critical mass of the Knowledge Economy ethos emerges in South Carolina, we observe tangible idea multiplicity, reflecting the Foucault ideal of conceptual multiplicity. “The preconceptual field allows the emergence of the discursive regularities and constraints that have made possible the heterogenous multiplicity of concepts, and beyond these, the profusion of the themes, beliefs and representations with which one usually deals when one is writing the history of ideas, according to Foucault.” (Foucault), p 63. Thus, with a multiplicity of concepts the door swings wide open thrusting forth new business models, scientific breakthroughs and an economic inflow of venture capital into the state. For example, South Carolina’s major research universities are licensing technologies to private enterprise for commercialization. SC Launch is actively funding companies in advanced materials, chemical and engineering process, energy, transportation, information technology, and the life sciences.
The Inner-Connectivity of the South Carolina Knowledge Economy
Yet an economy does not emerge without an interaction and manipulation of human actors. These human actors often work in collaboration and sometimes at cross-purposes creating an energy that yields a “newness,” in this case a new, knowledge-based economy. “When one speaks of a system of formation, one does not only mean the juxtaposition, coexistence, or interaction of heterogeneous elements (institutions, techniques, social groups, perceptual organizations, relations between various discourses), but also the relation that is established between them – and in a well-determined form – by discursive practices,” according to Foucault (Foucault), p 72. For the Knowledge Economy to thrive and prosper the collaboration of public entities and private enterprise was vital. Beyond these institutional levels individual contributions emerge from specific Knowledge Economy leaders. Clemson leaders such as President Jim Barker, Chris Przirembel, former Spiro Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Executive Director Caron St. John and others have earned the Knowledge Economist acknowledgement.
The interactivity migrates to hyper levels in a Knowledge Economy as the public sector and private sector converge to forge new economic pathways to the future. For example, Darla Moore’s Palmetto Institute commissioned economic Michael Porter’s economic study of South Carolina providing a rallying point and call for action to repurpose the South Carolina economy. Under the leadership of State House Leader Bobby Harrell, the South Carolina General Assembly passed significant legislation that led do the formation of Venture Capital Act and the statewide endowed chairs program bringing a vehicle for venture based investments and providing the state’s universities needed resources to propel the knowledge economy forward.
Multiple Relations Signifying Language and Economic Formation
With the advent of the Knowledge Economy, we see the formation of a new state, a condition that can be seen, and yet simultaneously a condition that cannot yet be seen. In what Foucault called the “preterminal regularities to which the ultimate state is defined by its variants. “Behind the completed system, what is discovered by the analysis of formation is not the bubbling source of life itself, life is in an as yet uncaptured state; it is an immense density of systematicities, a tight group of multiple relations.”
As we chain words together into sentences to form a dialog, the leaders of South Carolina wove a tight group of relations to effectively network the Knowledge Economy. For example, SC Launch developed a partners program comprised of professional service providers such as attorneys, accountants, marketing communications strategists and many others to help the fledgling start-up companies through the sensitive steps of venture formation and growth.
Applying Foucault’s “Archaeology of Analysis” instead of the “History of Ideas” to interpret Knowledge Economy Growth in South Carolina. Foucault states four main differences between archaeological analysts and the history of ideas: the attribution of innovation, the analysis of contradictions, comparative descriptions, and the mapping of transformations. (Foucault), p 138.
With regard to interpreting the formation of the Knowledge Economy in South Carolina, we note that we do not try to define thoughts about the Knowledge Economy, but instead the discourses. Further in Foucault style, we do not attempt to “rediscover the continuous, insensible transition that related discourses, as we do not attempt to pinpoint the droplets in a new economic wave. Third, as Foucault states, “Archaeology is not ordered in accordance with the sovereign figure of the oeuveres, it does not attempt to grasp the moment in which oeuvre emerges on the horizon.” Lastly, archaeology does not “try to restore what has been thought, wished, aimed at, experienced, desired by men in the very moment at which they expressed it in discourse.” For practitioners in the Knowledge Economy, this means not rehashing specific moments of success or failure in the quest for innovative business models.
Today, in 2012, collaborators continue to work on the fledgling Knowledge Economy in South Carolina. It seems that we are deftly moving from preliminary definition of the economy to new possibilities by extending beyond the past and harvesting the benefits of conceptual multiplicity and unparalleled levels of collaboration. So while Knowledge Economist John Warner has a plaque and lapel pin to recognize his contributions, other citizens may rest assured that he, like thousands of others, is simply a pebble in the mosaic of the Knowledge Economy.