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Ron Martin and Peter Sunley

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Competitiveness and regional economic resilience

Contemporary Theories and Perspectives on Economic Development

Ron Martin and Peter Sunley

As is often the case with new ideas, both the notion of ‘regional competitiveness’ and regional economic ‘resilience’ have found currency among those interested in policy. Alongside the competitiveness concept, resilience has emerged as an imperative ‘whose time has come’ in policy debates around localities, cities and regions, propelling a new discourse of ‘constructing’ or ‘building’ regional and urban economic resilience. Indices of local and regional resilience have been compiled, akin to those for competitiveness. This chapter explores the issues that need to be meaningfully addressed before the concepts of local and regional resilience can be used in a productive manner within policy agendas and practices. Firstly there is a need for a clear definition, conceptualization and understanding of precisely what it is that the concept is trying to foster. In particular, there is as yet no theory of regional economic resilience, and relatively little discussion of how the notion relates to concepts such as regional competitiveness. Also, there is the issue of what determines the resilience of a regional or local economy: what is it that makes a local economy more or less resilient? Given these and other concerns, some economic geographers have questioned the applicability and relevance of the concept in regional and urban settings, and queried whether it adds anything new to our existing theoretical and explanatory schemas. These are all issues that need discussion and resolution before we can talk meaningfully about ‘building’ local and regional resilience.