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Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis
Chapter 36: Industrial Districts and the Governance of Local Economies: The French Example
Georges Benko† and Bernard Pecqueur 1. Introduction At the beginning of the 20th century, geography was taught in primary schools in France on the basis of Le tour de la France par deux enfants (‘A journey round France by two children’, Bruno 1877). André and Julien (the two children), going from town to town and region to region, encounter the range and varied nature of French industry. In the different places, they notice the concentration of hosts of small, specialist firms, and of accumulated skills focused around one sector of activity: silk making in Lyon, cutlery at Thiers, china in Limoges and clocks and watches in the Jura Mountains. France then appeared like a mosaic of local production systems (LPSs) related to historical traditions in a country that was not particularly industrialised. Only centres making iron and steel grew up around deposits of coal and iron, as did textile centres along river valleys (in particular the Rhone and the Loire). In France in the post-war period, the so-called ‘Glorious thirty years’ (1945–75) because of the exceptionally high growth rate, the State encouraged large-scale public companies and destabilised the traditional sectors typically characterised by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The time was not ripe for an appreciation of industrial districts (IDs): in fact, for the practical involvement of the State in supporting SMEs, and a fortiori LPSs, one has to wait until the mid-1980s when the idea of local development starts to emerge in conjunction with the laws on decentralisation...
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