Applied Evolutionary Economics and Economic Geography

Applied Evolutionary Economics and Economic Geography

Edited by Koen Frenken

Applied Evolutionary Economics and Economic Geography aims to further advance empirical methodologies in evolutionary economics, with a special emphasis on geography and firm location. It does so by bringing together a select group of leading scholars including economists, geographers and sociologists, all of whom share an interest in explaining the uneven distribution of economic activities in space and the historical processes that have produced these patterns.

Chapter 1: Introduction: Applications of Evolutionary Economic Geography

Ron A. Boschma and Koen Frenken

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of innovation, evolutionary economics, geography, economic geography, innovation and technology, economics of innovation


Ron A. Boschma and Koen Frenken 1. INTRODUCTION Economic geography is the field of study that deals with the uneven distribution of economic activities in space. Two conflicting theories are currently influential in the field: institutional economic geography and the ‘new’ economic geography. Institutional economic geography is dominated by scholars with a geography background and is akin to institutional economics (Hodgson, 1998). At the risk of oversimplification, institutional economic geography argues that the uneven distribution of wealth across territories is primarily related to differences in institutions (Whitley, 1992; Gertler, 1995; Martin, 2000). The new economic geography has been developed by neoclassical economists (Krugman, 1991; Fujita et al., 1999; Brakman et al., 2001), who view uneven distributions of economic activity as the outcome of universal processes of agglomeration driven by mobile production factors. Recent debates between geographers and economists have been fierce and with little progress (for example, Martin, 1999; Amin and Thrift, 2000; Overman, 2004). The lack of cross-fertilisation between the two disciplines can be understood from two incommensurabilities between institutional and neoclassical economics (Boschma and Frenken, 2006). First, institutional economic geography and new economic geography differ in methodology. Institutional economic geographers tend to dismiss a priori the use of formal modelling. Instead, they apply inductive, often, casestudy research, emphasising the local specificity of ‘real places’. By contrast, the new economic geography approaches the matter deductively using formal models based on ‘neutral space’, representative agents and equilibrium analysis. Proponents of the latter approach do...