The role of services in urban and regional development: recent debates and new directions
The growing prominence of service activities in the advanced economies poses a substantial challenge for studies of urban and regional development. This paper is a review of different approaches to the analysis of service growth. Studies directed specifically at the development of producer or information services have contributed a valuable sense of the way in which services are leading economic change. They are, however, constrained by the predominantly sectoral nature of their approach, which plays down the diverse character of services and the intimate links between services and other sectors. The conceptualisation of structural change is also too narrow, viewed almost solely through the lens of changes in the service sector. In contrast, a number of Marxist-inspired analyses provide a broader interpretation of the character of structural change, emphasising the role of services in changing phases of capitalist development. They also provide a more sophisticated analysis of the diverse character of services and the types of development they provide. However, they have generally so far been constrained by the limited and derivative role given to services in the dynamics of the economy. The authors argue for a 'service-informed' view of structural change which contains a broad analysis of the dynamics of the advanced economies and a sense of the significance of individual service activities in change.
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