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 16: Semi-automatic and Deliberate Actions in the Evolution of Industrial Districts

Gabi Dei Ottati


Gabi Dei Ottati* 1. introduction When in the 1970s, the emergence of local systems of small and medium-sized firms captured the attention of social scientists, especially in Italy where these systems were and are particularly common, Giacomo Becattini was the first to note that this phenomenon coincided with the return of an or anisational g model that had already existed and had been analysed by Alfred Marshall (Becattini 1979). Since then the industrial district (ID) has become the focus for scholarly research and the notion has been further developed especially in Italy, where the emergence and consolidation of districts coninues to this very t day.1 More recently, however, further research in the field has shown that, in response to the accelerating pace of globalisation, several IDs in developed countries are currently experiencing a deep crisis and are undergoing a phase of radical restructuring. Taking the current state of the art in district theory as its starting point, this chapter will reexamine the typical modes of coordination of this peculiar form of social and economic organisation (Dei Ottati 1991) with the intent of highlighting its strengths when adjustments to gradual and conjunctural changes are required, but at the same time, its difficulty to cope with more radical and structural changes. This discussion will draw on relevant contributions on IDs, as well as on the work of Albert Hirschman (1982) in particular, on his idea that agents engaged in public action fuse striving and attaining. This occurs because public action is often...

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