Recent approaches to innovation and development have slowly started shifting their emphasis from economic growth to social equality and justice. These two concepts were prominent in the 1970s, but were sidelined during the neo-liberal era and are currently being rediscovered. Thus, innovation and development researchers now agree that ‘making new things in new ways’ has positive and negative impact on equality and socio-economic and political relations within and between countries. They recognise that innovation and technical change are significant from the point of view of distributive justice. However, despite their recognition, none of them adequately defines these concepts or provides a set of principles which ought to guide socially equitable or just innovation and development. This paper explains why innovation and development studies need to move towards the normative terrain in search of a plausible theory of distributive justice. Unless such a theory can be found and defended against other competing theories, the recent shift from economic growth to equality and social justice will be temporary and without any substantial impact on global policies for poverty reduction.
Keywords: innovation, development, growth, global justice, equity, political theory