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Deconstructing Clusters: Chaotic Concept or Policy Panacea

  • Ron Martin
  • Peter Sunley

Recently there has been growing interest in local industrial agglomeration and specialisation, by economic geographers, economists and policy-makers. Michael Porter's work on 'clusters' has proved by far the most influential to have emerged. His 'cluster theory' has become the standard concept in the field, and policy-makers worldwide have seized upon it as a tool for promoting national, regional and local competitiveness, innovation and growth. However, seductive though the cluster concept is, there is much about it that is problematic, and the rush to employ 'cluster ideas' has run ahead of many fundamental conceptual, theoretical and empirical questions. Our aim is to deconstruct the cluster concept in order to reveal and highlight our concerns relating to the definition of the cluster concept, its theorisation, its empirics, the claims made for its benefits and advantages, and its use in policy-making.

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Paper provided by ESRC Centre for Business Research in its series ESRC Centre for Business Research - Working Papers with number wp244.

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Date of creation: Sep 2002
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Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp244
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  1. Belleflamme, Paul & Picard, Pierre & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 2000. "An Economic Theory of Regional Clusters," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 158-184, July.
  2. Dan Johansson & Dilek Cetindamar & Bo Carlsson & Pontus Braunerhjelm, 2000. "The old and the new: the evolution of polymer and biomedical clusters in Ohio and Sweden," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(5), pages 471-488.
  3. Audretsch, David B, 1998. "Agglomeration and the Location of Innovative Activity," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 18-29, Summer.
  4. Catherine Beaudry, 2001. "Entry, Growth and Patenting in Industrial Clusters: A Study of the Aerospace Industry in the UK," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 405-436.
  5. Audretsch, David B & Feldman, Maryann P, 1996. "R&D Spillovers and the Geography of Innovation and Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 630-40, June.
  6. Paul Almeida & Bruce Kogut, 1999. "Localization of Knowledge and the Mobility of Engineers in Regional Networks," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(7), pages 905-917, July.
  7. G. M. Peter Swann & Rui Baptista, 1999. "A comparison of clustering dynamics in the US and UK computer industries," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 373-399.
  8. Julian Birkinshaw & Neil Hood, 2000. "Characteristics of Foreign Subsidiaries in Industry Clusters," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 31(1), pages 141-154, March.
  9. Best, Michael, 2001. "The New Competitive Advantage: The Renewal of American Industry," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198297451, July.
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