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Beyond the Knowledge-Based Theory of the Geographic Cluster

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  • Alexander Cole

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Abstract

The knowledge-based theory of the geographic cluster represents a major attempt to re-conceptualize clusters, in essence arguing that the localization of firms in similar and related industries stimulates learning and innovation, giving a competitive advantage to clustered firms. This paper critically examines the knowledge-based theory the cluster, arguing that it has greatly overstated the advantages of co-location to firms and misidentified the mechanisms through which learning occurs in clusters. In particular, the theory is criticized on three points: the flexible, under-specified way that it defines its object of study; the focus on firms as an explanatory variable instead of more fundamental processes of resource accumulation; and the functionalist mode of theory that employs as an explanation. Ways to address of each of these issues are discussed. In a final section I suggest that the rather static notions of learning put forward in the knowledge-based theory of the cluster be replaced by a developmental theory of regional dynamics that focuses on both learning and structural transformation.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Cole, 2007. "Beyond the Knowledge-Based Theory of the Geographic Cluster," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 0708, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Nov 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:egu:wpaper:0708
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    File URL: http://econ.geo.uu.nl/peeg/peeg0708b.pdf
    File Function: Version November 2007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Peter Maskell & Mark Lorenzen, 2003. "The Cluster as Market Organization," DRUID Working Papers 03-14, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
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    3. Russo, Margherita, 1985. "Technical change and the industrial district: The role of interfirm relations in the growth and transformation of ceramic tile production in Italy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 329-343, December.
    4. Lars Håkanson, 2005. "Epistemic Communities and Cluster Dynamics: On the Role of Knowledge in Industrial Districts," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 433-463.
    5. Ann Markusen, 2003. "Fuzzy Concepts, Scanty Evidence, Policy Distance: The Case for Rigour and Policy Relevance in Critical Regional Studies," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(6-7), pages 701-717.
    6. Anders Malmberg & Peter Maskell, 2006. "Localized Learning Revisited," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 1-18.
    7. Young, Allyn A., 1928. "Increasing Returns and Economic Progress," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 38, pages 527-542.
    8. Ron Martin & Peter Sunley, 2003. "Deconstructing clusters: chaotic concept or policy panacea?," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 5-35, January.
    9. Marjolein Caniëls & Henny Romijn, 2003. "Agglomeration Advantages and Capability Building in Industrial Clusters: The Missing Link," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(3), pages 129-154.
    10. Mark Lazerson & Gianni Lorenzoni, 1999. "Resisting Organizational Inertia: The Evolution of Industrial Districts," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 3(4), pages 361-377, December.
    11. Lissoni, Francesco, 2001. "Knowledge codification and the geography of innovation: the case of Brescia mechanical cluster," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1479-1500, December.
    12. Anders Malmberg & Dominic Power, 2005. "(How) Do (Firms in) Clusters Create Knowledge?," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 409-431.
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    Keywords

    geographic cluster; localization; relatedness; knowledge-based theory;

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