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 10: Localized Learning and Social Capital

Mark Lorenzen

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


Mark Lorenzen 1. INTRODUCTION This chapter discusses the importance of social capital (e.g. Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Burt, 1992; Putnam, 1993; Fukuyama, 1995; Woolcock, 1998; Baron et al., 2001; Lin, 2001; Lin et al., 2001; Field, 2003) for localized learning (i.e. processes of technological and institutional development taking place within confined regional spaces, such as clusters, as described by, for example, Malmberg and Maskell, 1999, Lorenzen, 2001 and Maskell, 2001). Increasingly, scholars argue that persistent economic development differences among regions may be understood by focusing on social capital. In a resource-based view of regional economic development (see e.g. Foss, 1996; Maskell et al., 1998; Lorenzen, 2002), unique resource endowments of regions cause persistent differences in company performances, exports and economic growth. Obviously, regions’ different locations, natural resource endowments, access to public or private venture capital, public educational programmes or knowledge transfers from universities often hugely influence their growth potential. However, taking all these resources into account is not sufficient to explain, for example, the persistent growth differences between Italian regions or Indian states, the emergence of successful clusters in hitherto predominantly rural areas around the world, or the success of some regions in restructuring their old industrial areas under the same conditions where others fail miserably.1 Hence, some scholars argue that social capital is the ‘residue’ that may explain these regional performance differences, after we have taken other resource endowments into account.2 In particular, social capital may facilitate learning at the regional...

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