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 11: The Marshallian Industrial Districts and Current Trends in Economic Theory

Marco Dardi


Marco Dardi 1. introduction If the notion of industrial district (ID) is often associated with the name of Alfred Marshall, this is not only because of the sparse references to the smallfirm agglomerations of Lancashire and Yorkshire to be found in his writings. As noted by Brian Loasby (1998, pp.70–71), IDs represent an illustration of a broader concept introduced by Marshall, according to which geographic settlements, patterns of social relations, and forms of industrial organization coevolve all as different facets of the same process of organic development. This remained, however, a philosophical concept with no clear connection with the analytical apparatus that constituted the body of Marshall’s economic theory. Thus, modern scholars studying IDs have found in Marshall’s writings a powerful source of inspiration, but not a set of theoretical tools readymade for their field of study. They have had to make do with what mainstream research in general economic theory has been producing, to the dissatisfaction of those who felt that this research was uncongenial to the blending of social and economic considerations on which ID studies are based (Becattini 2004a, pp.55–6). The latter position may have been justified as long as the core of highbrow theoretical research was dominated by investigations on the prop rties of a socially e faceless system in which prices were the only means of information diffusion, and the rule of social interaction. More recently, however, the impression that all this belongs to the past is widespread. In fact, the theoretical debate...

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