Edited by Roger Sugden, Rita Hartung Cheng and G. Richard Meadows
Chapter 9: Industrial clusters and districts in the new economy: some perspectives and cases
Marco Bellandi* 1. INTRODUCTION ÔIndustrial clustersÕ and Ôindustrial districtsÕ seem to offer an interesting model for local and regional development in many parts of the developed and less developed world. They prosper where international markets are open to trade. However, the progress of globalisation and of the connected diffusion of new information and communication technologies seems to raise important problems. This chapter presents a condensed summary of concepts and questions related to (territorial) clusters of specialised production activities (more briefly, what might be called Ôindustrial clustersÕ or simply ÔclustersÕ). It also addresses local development in this context. Section 2 recalls some general issues illustrated by specific types of cluster, namely those centred in Italian industrial districts in the last half-century. Section 3 goes into the details of some preliminary definitions concerning clusters and local development. Section 4 tries to expand on the problems raised by the new economy. Section 5 applies the previous remarks to some aspects of debates concerning cluster development in a particular case; it concentrates on South-eastern Wisconsin. 2. SOME SUGGESTIONS FROM ITALIAN EXPERIENCE Large Companies and Industrial Districts Among most industrial, development and business economists, the startingpoint for interpretation is the reference to a rational economic organisation and to a path for industrialisation defined in the leading capitalist economies, which must be imitated by backward or laggard economies. The growing role and visibility of large firms in the first half of the twentieth century had a 196 Industrial clusters in the new economy 197 pivotal importance...
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