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 21: Locked in Decline? On the Role of Regional Lock-ins in Old Industrial Areas

Robert Hassink


Robert Hassink When the wind of change blows, some build walls, others build windmills. (Chinese proverb) 1. Introduction Most of the currently debated theoretical concepts in economic geography try to explain the positive sides of geographical clustering of industries, by emphasizing the positive effects they have on networking and innovation (Lorenzen, 2005). This is exemplified by the work on the rise of high-tech regions, industrial districts and regional production clusters in North America and Western Europe and, to some extent, contrary to older theories on unbalanced regional development that addressed both positive and negative aspects of regional evolution (Myrdal, 1957). This chapter takes a critical stance on the modern one-sided view of the correlation between geographical clustering of industries, networking and innovation. It makes clear that the geographical clustering of industries in some constellations negatively affects innovativeness and renewal. This is particularly the case in the under-theorized old industrial areas (Cooke, 1995; Hamm and Wienert, 1989). To some extent they can be regarded as the industrial districts of the past, in which initial strengths based on geography and networks, such as industrial atmosphere, highly specialized infrastructure, close inter-firm relations and strong support by regional institutions, turned into barriers to innovation. In the 1990s Grabher (1993) emphasized the role of path dependence and lock-ins as concepts explaining the lack of renewal in old industrial areas in general and the Ruhr area in Germany in particular. His studies can be linked to recent work done in order to introduce evolutionary economics into...

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