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Onward the Spatial: an Essay on the Nature and Relevance of Regional Economics


  • Colin Wren


Abstract Regional economics appears to be losing its currency in academic discourse, with a clear preference over recent years for the term ‘spatial economics’. This essay examines the nature of the developments in order to explore their implications for regional economics, focusing on four key aspects: empirical methods and the ‘tools’ of regional economics; theory and the appropriate spatial scale; the ‘regional problem’; and regional policy. It finds reasons to suggest that the ‘region’ is of less importance, but argues that the use of the term ‘spatial’ does not reflect dissatisfaction with regional economics, but rather it signals the reinvigoration of the subject from its formal connection to mainstream economics. This is primarily in the form of the new economic geography model, although limitations with this have led to an unsatisfactory form of regional policy that is based on growth theory. Avance de l’économie spatiale: une communication sur la nature et la pertinence de l’économie régionale RÉSUMÉ L’économie régionale semble avoir perdu du terrain dans les discussions académiques, et on lui préfère clairement, depuis quelques années, l'expression ‘économie spatiale’. La présente communication se penche sur la nature des développements, afin d'explorer leurs implications pour l’économie régionale, en examinant les quatre aspects principaux suivants: les méthodes empiriques et les ‘outils’ de l’économie régionale; la théorie et l’échelle spatiale appropriée; le ‘problème régional’; et la politique régionale. Il détermine des raisons pour affirmer que la ‘région’ joue un rôle moins important, mais estime que l'usage du mot ‘spatial’ ne reflète pas le mécontentement avec l’économie régionale, mais indique un renouveau pour ce sujet après ses liens officiels avec l’économie générale. Ce renouveau se présente principalement sous forme du nouveau modèle de géographie économique, bien que certaines de ses limitations risquent de donner lieu à une forme peu satisfaisante de politique régionale, basée sur la théorie de la croissance. Avance de lo espacial: un trabajo sobre la naturaleza y la importancia de la economía regional RÉSUMÉN La economía regional parece estar perdiendo su difusión dentro de la disertación académica, mientras que durante los últimos años se observa una preferencia clara por el término ‘economía espacial’. Este trabajo examina la naturaleza de los desarrollos con objeto de explorar sus implicaciones para la economía regional, centrándose en cuatro aspectos clave: métodos empíricos y las ‘herramientas’ de la economía regional; teoría y la escala espacial apropiada; el ‘problema regional’; y política regional. Encuentra razones que sugieren que la ‘región’ tiene menor importancia, aunque arguye que el uso del término ‘espacial’ no refleja insatisfacción con la economía regional, sino que indica la revitalización del tema con respecto a su conexión formal con la economía dominante. Esto se da principalmente en la forma del nuevo modelo de geografía económica, aunque sus limitaciones pueden resultar en una forma insatisfactoria de política regional basada en teoría de crecimiento.

Suggested Citation

  • Colin Wren, 2009. "Onward the Spatial: an Essay on the Nature and Relevance of Regional Economics," Spatial Economic Analysis, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(4), pages 447-465.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:specan:v:4:y:2009:i:4:p:447-465
    DOI: 10.1080/17421770903317660

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wagner, Alfred, 1891. "Marshall's Principles of Economics," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 5, pages 319-338.
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    Cited by:

    1. John B Parr, 2015. "Neglected aspects of regional policy: a retrospective view," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 33(2), pages 376-392, April.

    More about this item


    Regional economics; spatial economics; new economic geography; growth theory; A11; B29; R50;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • B29 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Other
    • R50 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - General


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