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What about Industrial District(s) in Regional Science?


  • Sforzi, Fabio

    () (University of Parma)

  • Boix, Rafael

    () (Universitat de València)


The aim of this paper is to critically consider how the concept of «industrial district» was born and evolved in the field of regional science. Despite the claim by Isard that the emergence of a spatial dimension in economics was being hampered by Marshall’s alleged prioritising of time over space (Isard, 1956), the concept of «localization economies» introduced into regional science by Ohlin, Hoover and Isard clearly is itself a legacy from Marshall. This contradiction in the work of Isard and others followed to a large extent from the way in which Marshallian concepts were historically situated in economic thought before Giacomo Becattini’s re-reading of Marshall and his ideas. This re-reading began in the 1960s, focussing on conceptual issues related to industry (Becattini, 1962), and then culminated in the following decades with work on the idea of the «industrial district»: considering it first as a unit of investigation of economic research (Becattini, 1979) and, later, as a way of industrial development (Becattini, 1989). In brief, the originality of Marshall’s economic thought can be found in Book IV of his Principles of Economics. This originality can be seen in the statement that economics is more important as a way of studying man in society than as a way of studying wealth; and continues through the affirmation that man’s character is moulded by his daily work. That is to say, a person’s «place of living» (where individuals live and work) is important not only for the formation of human skills but also for the formation of character. The place as the unit of investigation (i.e. the «functional region») is one of the main elements which distinguishes the identity of regional science from other branches of economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Sforzi, Fabio & Boix, Rafael, 2015. "What about Industrial District(s) in Regional Science?," INVESTIGACIONES REGIONALES - Journal of REGIONAL RESEARCH, Asociación Española de Ciencia Regional, issue 32, pages 61-73.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:invreg:0293

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brigitte Waldorf, 2003. "Path-breaking books in regional science," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 83(1), pages 59-89, October.
    2. Sforzi, Fabio, 2008. "Unas realidades ignoradas: de Marshall a Becattini
      [The industrial district: from Marshall to Becattini]
      ," MPRA Paper 40059, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Brigitte Waldorf, 2003. "Path-breaking books in regional science," Papers in Regional Science, Springer;Regional Science Association International, vol. 83(1), pages 59-89, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:epolin:v:44:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s40812-017-0076-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sforzi, Fabio, 2015. "Rethinking the industrial district: 35 years later," INVESTIGACIONES REGIONALES - Journal of REGIONAL RESEARCH, Asociación Española de Ciencia Regional, issue 32, pages 11-29.

    More about this item


    industrial district; regional science; regional studies; regional economics;

    JEL classification:

    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General
    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General


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