Craft production, craft-based labor markets, and urban industrial districts were once central to the development of many US industries in the early nineteenth century (Jackson, 1984; Jacoby, 1991; Atack and Passell, 1994). In manufacturing these industries included meat cutting, brewing, clothing, printing, iron mills, and various kinds of non-electrical machinery. Outside of manufacturing, craft production was common in the maritime industry and the railroads as well as in construction. Craft-like production and craft skills, however, were subsequently replaced by large-scale firms using less-skilled labor, mass production technologies, and new forms of work organization that could more efficiently serve emerging mass markets (Stinchcombe, 1959; Chandler, 1962; Atack and Passell, 1994, chs 1, 17). As these industries matured, however, growth slowed in the latter decades of the twentieth century and often reversed as global competition and the international product cycle resulted in the transfer of much of US mass production offshore (Vernon, 1966; Dicken, 2011). In an environment of debate about the future of industrial societies, Piore and Sabel (1984) advanced the provocative concept of ‘flexible specialization’ to describe a new manufacturing model for industrialized countries. The flexible specialization model was patterned after northern Italy’s flourishing industrial districts, such as the manufacturing cluster of Emilia Romagna, where manufacturing is characterized by a high degree of product variety, small firms, highly skilled and flexible labor, and overlapping work and social communities that promote industrial performance through trust and cooperation.
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