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 31: Regional Peculiarities in Italian Industrial Districts

Francesco Musotti


Francesco Musotti* 1. Introduction An industrial district (ID) is a socio-economic entity which is much larger and more complex than its population of firms, and analysing the phenomena which affect it cannot generally be reduced, as for clusters à la Porter, to a study of inter-firm manufacturing systems. First of all, each ID is a local society,1 and thus an entity the formation of which was made possible by the history of not strictly economic prerequisites, but rather social, political, institutional and cultural. The mix between these prerequisites and the offer of particular public goods by institutional actors who operate in contact with firms, in relatively recent times and in favourable market conditions, have had the result of releasing the effects of the prerequisites, allowing stage specialisation (and the multiplication of the corresponding subpopulations of small productive units) in the most well-established industry in that territory, and gaining competitive advantages on international markets. In the Italian experience in particular, these prerequisites have been so diffuse, extensive and pervasive that the proliferation of IDs profited by a kind of humus, equally propitious in regions formed by sometimes centuries-long, separate and very different histories.2 The political unification of Italy was tardy, 1861, and the later tendency to the persistence, more or less until the Second World War, of labour division between each city and its surroundings, led to considerable difficulties in creating markets and a truly national bourgeois class. These factors meant that the developmental patterns of IDs, from their very beginnings,...

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