Material and energy constraints have had a major influence in the history of technology. However, prior research has surprisingly little to say about what these constraints actually are, how they emerge, and which are the mechanisms through which they influence technological change. This article studies a case where energy constraints were supposedly the source of a radical innovation in copper smelting in post-Second World War Finland. It finds that the constraints were significantly more ambiguous and socially constructed than the technologists themselves acknowledged, and highlights the context dependence of constraints and how technologists may perceive them. Technological feasibility influences the perception of constraints, and the perception of constraints influences what is found to be technologically feasible. This relationship is moderated by political power wielded by technologists.


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