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 20: Conceptualizing the Dynamics of Industrial Districts

Michael J. Piore


Michael J.Piore 1. iNTRODUCTION The Italian industrial district (ID) first captured the attention of scholars in the 1970s. Since that time it has become a seductive model, attracting public policymakers and industrial development consultants across a wide spectrum. It has drawn the interests of developing countries seeking the survival and prosperity of their traditional industries in an increasingly open and global economy. But it has also become a model for local areas within advanced developed economies seeking to create high-tech clusters. The literature describing these districts has grown apace, and there is now an enormous body of case studies of such districts in virtually every part of the world. But analytically the districts remain something of a mystery. It is very hard to understand why they arise in some places and at certain times and not in others, or what determines whether or not, and for how long, they survive. Moreover, it has proven to be especially difficult to reproduce such districts through public policy. This chapter is an attempt to draw together from several apparently disparate sources some elements of a conceptual framework through which IDs and related, dynamic and innovative organizational structures could be understood. It focuses on two characteristics of those districts, characteristics common to virtually all of the individual case studies: first, the apparently contradictory combination of competition and cooperation; second, the amoeba-like character of the technological changes which define their dynamism (the tendency for both production and product innovation to take place around the edges...

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