A Handbook of Industrial Districts
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A Handbook of Industrial Districts

Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis

In this comprehensive original reference work, the editors have brought together an unrivalled group of distinguished scholars and practitioners to comment on the historical and contemporary role of industrial districts (IDs).
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Chapter 15: The Industrial District as a Local Evolutionary Phenomenon

Maurizio Mistri


Maurizio Mistri 1. introduction The Marshallian industrial district (MID) has been much analyzed in recent times and significant contributions have been made especially in the light of Italian experiences (Bagnasco 1977; Bellandi 1982; Becattini 1987, 1989, 2004a; Brusco 1991). The industrial district (ID) stimulates some economic considerations that can have useful epistemological facets. In particular, the phenomenon of the ID seems to contradict the concept of a long-term entropic equilibrium of the market on which the neoclassical theoretical approach is founded. This chapter refers to Becattini’s definition of the MID in his seminal contribution of 1989 (Becattini 1989, 2004a). It is really the expression of a dynamic process of self-organization of the manufacturing activities that generates discontinuities in the territorial distribution of the economic activities. These discontinuities become manifest over a certain time span and generally become stable over a more or less lengthy period of time – which does not mean that a real ID is immune to processes of disintegration. This chapter focuses on the forces that give life to the formation of a MID and the forces that ensure the stability of its structure over time. The analysis is mainly concerned with the role that institutional and cognitive processes can have in modeling the organizational shape of the ID. In essence, we concentrate almost exclusively on the behavior of district enterprises in their interactions with one another, emphasizing the forces involved in the construction of the district’s social capital. In fact, the formation of a solid social capital...

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