The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography
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The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography

Edited by Ron Boschma and Ron Martin

This wide-ranging Handbook is the first major compilation of the theoretical and empirical research that is forging the new and exciting paradigm of evolutionary economic geography.
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Chapter 12: Clusters, Networks and Economic Development: An Evolutionary Economics Perspective

Elisa Giuliani


Elisa Giuliani 1. Introduction This chapter explores the relationship between networks and economic development in geographical clusters of firms,1 by developing a conceptual framework based on evolutionary economics (Dosi, 1988; Nelson and Winter, 1982). This is an important issue in economic geography because industrial clusters have come to play an increasingly central role in the analysis of economic growth and competitiveness of countries (Krugman, 1991; Porter, 1998) and in the debate between convergent versus divergent economic growth (Martin and Sunley, 1998). In a context of increased trade liberalisation, in fact, processes of Marshallian (1920) industrial localisation are believed to fuel the emergence of ‘growth poles’ or successful clusters (Porter, 1998). This is often associated with the fact that firms operating in clusters are likely to generate a socio-economic environment, characterised by dense inter-firm networks, which enhances their likelihood to innovate. The importance of networks in regional clusters has been emphasised by several scholars since the beginning of the 1980s (e.g. Camagni, 1991; Piore and Sabel, 1984; Scott, 1988). Part of these studies has focused on the analysis of social and business relations among economic actors located within clusters and has given emphasis to the role of the territory, which, via its localised networks, influences the innovative behaviour and performance of firms.2 This focus became predominant in the 1990s, up to the point that, in a recent contribution, Boggs and Rantisi (2003) argued that economic geography, as a field of studies, has undertaken a ‘relational turn’, which pays more attention...

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