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