The Learning Region

The Learning Region

Foundations, State of the Art, Future

Edited by Roel Rutten and Frans Boekema

The aim of this book is to present a much-needed conceptualization of ‘the learning region’. The editors scrutinize key concepts and issues surrounding this phenomenon, which are then discussed in the context of recent literature. This unique conceptualization of the learning region presents a state of the art exploration of theories. Leading scholars from across Europe, the USA and South Africa draw upon various disciplines to explain how regional actors perform regional learning.

Chapter 4: Industrial Districts as ‘Learning Regions’: A Condition for Prosperity

Bjørn T. Asheim

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, economics and finance, regional economics, geography, economic geography, innovation and technology, innovation policy, organisational innovation, urban and regional studies, regional economics


Bjørn T. Asheim 1. INTRODUCTION The future of industrial districts has been critically discussed during the past years. Some observers have raised questions about the long-term stability of industrial districts, arguing that they will be fragmented either through the take-over of the most successful small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by transnational corporations (TNCs) or the formation of hierarchies of firms inside the districts led by the most dynamic SMEs (Harrison, 1994a, 1994b). Others suggest that some industrial districts will develop a ‘post-Marshallian’ organization of production, i.e. to become Marshallian nodes within global networks (Amin and Thrift, 1992). As this will imply a reduced level of vertical disintegration locally, one could ask how ‘Marshallian’ such nodes would eventually become (Harrison, 1994b). While this position basically treats the changing role and function of industrial districts as problematic, caused by the globalization process, another position looks at industrial districts as a specific stage of development in a process of industrialization (Dimou, 1994). Garofoli has presented a typology of Italian industrial districts representing a redynamization of the concept (Dimou, 1994). This implies that industrial districts can pass through a possible development process from ‘areas of productive specialization’ via ‘local productive systems’ to ‘system areas’ as the most advanced form (Garofoli, 1992). In this view, industrial districts do not represent a stable organizational model of industrial production. On the contrary, development and change should be looked upon as a ‘natural’ part of the history of industrial districts. Such a process of change...

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