Modern economies can be characterised as learning economies in which knowledge is the crucial resource and learning is the most important process. Different kinds of learning and economically relevant types of knowledge can likewise be identified. It is argued that pure market economies, if such existed, would have severe problems in terms of learning and innovation. The 'learning economy' is a mixed economy in a fundamental sense.
In the public debate, knowledge is increasingly presented as the crucial factor in the development of both society and the economy. In a growing number of publications from the European Commission and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development it is emphasised that we, citizens of member countries, currently operate in ‘a knowledge-based economy’. For several reasons many prefer the term ‘the learning economy’ in characterising the current phase of socio-economic development.
Criticism and scarcity of empirical studies
Much of the initial theorizing about the advent of a fundamentally new era in which economic activity is increasingly 'abstract', i.e., disconnected from land, labour, and physical capital (machines and industrial infrastructure) was associated with the 'business management' literature of the 'new economy' NASDAQ bubble, which collapsed in 2001 (but slowly recovered, albeit, in a leaner format, throughout the 2000s). This literature was initially known more for its hyperbole and faddishness than for its academic/empirical integrity. More recently  however, empirical research from cross-disciplinary fields such as innovation studies are altering that perception.
- Lundvall and Johnson 1994, Lundvall 1996