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 5: Industrial Districts and Large Firms: The Stubborn Persistence of a ‘Weak’ Productive Model

Andrea Colli


Andrea Colli 1. Introduction This chapter looks at the evolution of the role of the industrial districts (henceforth IDs) over time in conjunction with other forms of production organization. The focus of the analysis is not – differently from other chapters in this section – on the organizational dynamics of IDs, nor on their governance mechanisms. Nor does it deal with a specific case study of an ID from which to draw more general perspectives. Instead, the aim of this contribution is to reflect on the changing relative efficiency of IDs in comparison with other forms of organizing the production process that have over time appeared in response to changes in technology and market dynamics. The reference to historical analyses enables a careful and detailed evaluation of the role played by specific organizational structures like those associated to IDs following the main technological shifts of the three industrial revolutions. In general, literature (in several fields of research) more or less explicitly em hasizes the nature of the ID as an alternative organizational form to the scalep intensive, large corporation.1 Large companies and self-organizing aggregations of small firms and ‘dispersed factories’ geographically concentrated, as in classi cal IDs, have been frequently considered two alternative ways of organizing the process of production in different sectors and industries. From a macroeconomic perspective, the performance of a modern economy in terms of growth and development can be directly related to the presence of different organizational forms of the production process, suitable for different industries and technologies....

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