New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by André Torre and Frédéric Wallet
Chapter 9: Proximity relations and global knowledge flows: specialization and diffusion processes across capitalist varieties
Since the late 1990s, the debate regarding proximity relations has been strongly shaped by the French proximity school (Rallet and Torre, 1999, 2009). This work mirrors an earlier literature, in the fields of management, marketing and economic geography, on producer-user interaction and the question of how close firms in producer-user networks ought to be in order to establish strong interactive learning processes (Ford, 1980; Lundvall, 1988; Gertler, 1993). This early work did not explicitly revolve around the proximity debate per se; rather, it focused on the institutional and cultural affinities enabling network partners to draw from similar understandings, develop consistent expectations and collaborate with one another. The French proximity school is primarily based within, and directed towards, the field of economics, where issues of space and proximity had long been neglected. The ensuing debate tried to merge different types of spatial and 'non-spatial' proximities in order to demonstrate that economic interaction is especially efficient if it is based on proximate relations. Such relations were viewed as a core feature of economic collaboration. Although many of the arguments surrounding the initial proximity debate were not new to economic geography, the general idea that effective economic interaction is fundamentally based on proximate relations appeared highly plausible.
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