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Approaching the Thresholds of Cultural Change - The Case of Andalusia

Listed author(s):
  • Dietmar Bastian


    (Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany, Chair of Comparative Government)

With no significant tradition in industry, but positive growth rates in the second half of the eighties and again since 1995, Andalusia -- usually rather related with high unemployment rates, sunny beaches and traditional folklore -- has been able to profit from a certain economic dynamism. At first glance on broad economic indicators furthermore suggests assuming a relatively modern structure with a strong service sector often regarded as favourable for advanced forms of socio-economic development. Likewise in political terms, dynamic tendencies could be observed in the last two decades: after having assumed the status of autonomy in the aftermath of Spain's transition towards democracy, regional policy making has been experiencing emancipation from Madrid and, at the same time, a participation in the distribution of European funds. Thus, changes in regional politics and economics have contributed to a certain modernisation, yet the potential for a self-centred regional identity in terms of cultural attitudes has so far not been fully addressed. Socio-economic development on the regional level can easily be delineated politically and economically already by mere statistical data as figures indicate disparities or differences. Regional identity can than be conceptualised as an analytical tool to get behind the cultural determinants of this statistical façade and has therefore been defined as being composed of a set of cultures, which are inherent to any society respectively economy. They may vary to a certain extent along the scale of different sectors, in sum, however, they make up what is analysed here as regional culture. This economic definition of culture departs from the assumption that socio-economic set-ups can be interpreted as inhibiting a specific culture. Cultural attitudes and settings impinge on the capability of regions to participate in and to contribute to innovative processes. The idea of attitudes differs from the concept of mentality often used in academia and is rather designed as being compound of orientations such as openness towards changes and influences from outside, willingness to collaborate for a joint management of socio-economic change, ability to catch up with changes in organisation, readiness of political decision-makers to pursue enabling approaches, or capacity of research structures to contribute to successful innovation. Where such orientations can be found in the three decisive areas of regional industrial, research and government systems, the nature of socio-economic development can be regarded as being more dynamic than in regions where these orientations remain weak or largely absent. The impression of an apparent dynamism in Andalusia not only soon fades away if one takes a closer look at economic indicators. Much more than this, the ongoing changes have merely had any major cultural effects on the mix of attitudes to be met in the region. Growth rates in industry were largely due to foreign investments which did not yield major extensions in productive capacities or enterprise organisation. Accordingly, the production system continued to be characterised by “taylorist” attitudes, while adjustments materialised above all in internationalised marketing strategies. Likewise, the impact on industrial R&D activities has remained marginal. An extension of public capacities in education has not been paralleled by a sufficient intensification and specialisation of research which could then become functional for a wider application in regional industry. The Andalusian government has profited from a transfer in competence both in legal and financial terms but so far has proved to be unable to elaborate a clear-cut strategy for catching-up with more advanced forms of socio-economic developments. Accordingly, made-to-measure policies supporting innovative streams in research and industry are still premature in nature if not completely absent.. Obviously, these deficiencies in regional identity can not be explained exclusively by structural determinants and rather demand for an adaptation of new attitudes functional for more ambitious forms of social organisation. When a region approaches critical thresholds of cultural change at least two possibilities can be conceived: while jumping over the threshold would require an adaptation of attitudes functional for new socio-economic arrangements, passing by the threshold would allow to digest socio-economic changes without any substantial cultural adjustments.

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Paper provided by Chair of Comparative Government of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany in its series Archipelago Studies with number 200003.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2000
Handle: RePEc:arc:wpaper:200003
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