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The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy [Paperback]

by AnnaLee Saxenian
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 30, 2007 0674025660 978-0674025660

Like the Greeks who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece, the new Argonauts--foreign-born, technically skilled entrepreneurs who travel back and forth between Silicon Valley and their home countries--seek their fortune in distant lands by launching companies far from established centers of skill and technology. Their story illuminates profound transformations in the global economy.

Economic geographer AnnaLee Saxenian has followed this transformation, exploring one of its great paradoxes: how the "brain drain" has become "brain circulation," a powerful economic force for development of formerly peripheral regions. The new Argonauts--armed with Silicon Valley experience and relationships and the ability to operate in two countries simultaneously--quickly identify market opportunities, locate foreign partners, and manage cross-border business operations.

The New Argonauts extends Saxenian's pioneering research into the dynamics of competition in Silicon Valley. The book brings a fresh perspective to the way that technology entrepreneurs build regional advantage in order to compete in global markets. Scholars, policymakers, and business leaders will benefit from Saxenian's firsthand research into the investors and entrepreneurs who return home to start new companies while remaining tied to powerful economic and professional communities in the United States.

For Americans accustomed to unchallenged economic domination, the fast-growing capabilities of China and India may seem threatening. But as Saxenian convincingly displays in this pathbreaking book, the Argonauts have made America richer, not poorer.

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The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy + Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Argonauts, Saxenian's mythic term for global commuters employed in the high tech sector, are not the ominous invaders American economic isolationists fear-stealing jobs and ideas from Americans and spiriting them abroad. Rather, Saxenian argues, such global entrepreneurs have created domestic and foreign jobs and reduced the cost of technology for businesses and consumers. Saxenian is at her best when describing the relatively short history of the international entrepreneur-commuter: the Argonauts, though equipped with Ph.D.s from American universities, hit ethnicity-based glass ceilings in the States and chose entrepreneurship over floundering in middle-management. Bright, young, foreign-born entrepreneurs formed technology companies (with the help of western venture capital and management theory) in their home countries and succeeded where traditional development initiatives failed. However, when Saxenian projects the implications of Argonaut activity or their future, she sounds prematurely optimistic; some readers may have a hard time envisioning, as Saxenian does, widespread future interglobal cooperation aimed at solving humanity's problems.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Saxenian's thrilling first book, Regional Advantage, described how Silicon Valley became the information technology center of the universe. The New Argonauts shows how engineers who came to Silicon Valley from China, India, Taiwan, and Israel are creating entrepreneurial networks and seeding those countries, transforming what was once a brain drain into brain circulation, and allowing Silicon Valley to deepen its managerial, technical and professional know-how. The New Argonauts is a winner. (Charles Perrow, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Yale University)

AnnaLee Saxenian has long been the leading observer of Silicon Valley's "entrepreneurial ecosystem." She now follows her classic studies of Silicon Valley with this remarkable volume in which she employs her unique blend of economic, sociological, and business expertise to bring to life the New Argonauts--world-class engineers and entrepreneurs from newly emerging economies who are creating new centers of high-tech excellence around the globe, while also transforming Silicon Valley. This book is essential reading for all who want to understand how the global technology economy operates in the 21st century. (Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University)

This book will change the world's perception of the global digital divide. Without denying existing patterns of inequality, it demonstrates the shift from "brain drain" to "brain circulation" in the new international division of labor based on technological innovation. It offers reasonable hope to people and countries around the world of sharing the potential of the information technology revolution rather than reproducing the traditional hierarchies. In this new perspective, Silicon Valley, China, Taiwan, Israel, and India are intertwined in the manufacturing of a new global knowledge economy. (Manuel Castells Olivan, Open University of Catalonia)

Remarkable...There is probably no more experienced and astute chronicler of the advent of the Silicon Valley ecosystem than AnnaLee Saxenian... This will be a much discussed and cited book, and deservedly so. It has focused our attention on a potentially decisive phenomenon for 21st century economic development. (Michael Storper Journal of Economic Geography 2006-11-03)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674025660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674025660
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
AnnaLee Saxenian has long been a follower of localized firm and professional networks in the hi-tech industry, highlighting their superiority over corporate hierarchies in her book "Regional Advantage." More recently, in "The New Argonauts," she has turned to ethnic professional networks in Silicon Valley, especially in the Indian, Chinese and Israeli communities. These networks, originally founded for social purposes, evolved to become professional networks for advice, capital and know-how for immigrant entrepreneurs. As immigrant entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley identified business opportunities in their home countries, the networks extended to support these new ventures. They also tied into their home-countries' networks through alumni associations and family ties.

Thus, organizations that were once highly localized began to reach across continents - and their benefits with them. Access to tacit knowledge (technical and managerial), a common understanding of entrepreneurship, shared language and culture have all been considered factors that are bound by geography and contribute to the success of regional economies. Now, they are transcending vast distances thanks to the kinds of networks described by Saxenian. New "Argonauts" (people who work in two or more regions, shuttling back and forth several times per month) literally carry market and technological knowledge, contacts, business models and capital around the world.

As a result, "Silicon Valley, once the uncontested technology leader, is now integrated into a dynamic network of specialized and complementary regional economies. These new technology regions are not replicas of Silicon Valley, nor are they becoming new Silicon Valleys [...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Regional Advantage in a Global Economy July 30, 2008
AnnaLee Saxenian has a clear vision of how the global economy is being transformed. Like Jason's mythic quest for the Golden Fleece, the new economic landscape is being conquered less by policy makers, global investors, and multinational corporate behemoths than by legions of modern day Argonauts - technically skilled entrepreneurs from many nations who "sail" back and forth between their home countries and their other home in Silicon Valley.

Traditional economic worldviews assumed that the success of companies and countries from peripheral 20th century economies - Taiwan, China, India, Israel - were destined to build on the successes and advancements of leading edge G8 economies (U.S., Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia). These worldviews anticipated a constant brain drain from the trailing economies to the leading economies, assuming talent would aggregate and then remain where the opportunity was. And, until recently, there was plenty of evidence for this view.

Not anymore.

Today's global economic reality has turned this worldview on its ear - or at the very least forced a serious revision. The percentage of talent who come to the U.S. to be educated and then remain here to work has reversed - to spell it out: More people are returning to their homes to seek opportunity, even after many years in the U.S.

One current worry is that the U.S. now faces a brain drain as these technologically astute entrepreneurs exit our economy. Saxenian discovered that what we're experiencing is not a brain drain but a "brain circulation." Many, often two or more from the same country, are founding companies that think globally from day one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good work of Anna Lee Saxenian August 5, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The aurhor has studied for the last twenty years or so the development of the silicon industry from the persepctive of regional growth and development experiences. Her previous published work was concerned mostly with cases within the United States. This book is about a related area but this time ilustrated from the international context of native entrepenurs comming back home after an educational and job experience abroad in techologically advanced industries. It is a well articulated analysis and a rich fountain of examples for regional development policies for developing nations who want to take advantage of the return migration of their human capital which has in the past years gained professional skills, valuable contacts and rich employment experiences abroad. The book is well written and provides valuable clues on the success and nature of recent industrialization processes in some middle income countries. A valuable buy for people working in the fields of economic growth, planning, economic development and techological change.
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Shame on me! How is it possible I review so late AnnaLee Saxenian's book, as well as the importance of migrants in entrepreneurship? I had shortly mentioned Regional Advantage in Silicon Valley - more of the same?, but this was more about the openness of Silicon Valley culture and why it did a better job than the Boston area. In her second book, published in 2006, The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy Saxenian analyzed the importance of migrants in high-tech entrepreneurship, both for the USA and for the countries of origin of these migrants.

In a related paper, she had written: "In the United States, discussions of the immigration of scientists and engineers have focused primarily on the extent to which foreign-born professionals displace native workers. The view from sending countries, by contrast, has been that the emigration of highly skilled personnel to the United States represents a big economic loss, a brain drain. Neither view is adequate in today's global economy. Far from simply replacing native workers, foreign-born engineers are starting new businesses and generating jobs and wealth at least as fast as their U.S. counterparts. And the dynamism of emerging regions in Asia and elsewhere now draws skilled immigrants homeward. Even when they choose not to return home, they are serving as middlemen linking businesses in the United States with those in distant regions." [Brain Circulation: How High-Skill Immigration Makes Everyone Better Off - 2002] In the end, she added: "Essentially, the new argonauts are people who have learned the Silicon Valley model, usually by doing graduate work in the U.S. and getting absorbed into the Silicon Valley boom. They marinated in the Silicon Valley culture and learned it.
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