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Beyond the Knowledge-Based Theory of the Geographic Cluster

  • Alexander Cole

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    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.

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    File URL: http://econ.geo.uu.nl/peeg/peeg0708b.pdf
    File Function: Version November 2007
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    Paper provided by Utrecht University, Section of Economic Geography in its series Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) with number 0708.

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    Length: 34 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2007
    Date of revision: Nov 2007
    Handle: RePEc:egu:wpaper:0708
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    Web page: http://econ.geo.uu.nl

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    1. Ron Martin & Peter Sunley, 2002. "Deconstructing Clusters: Chaotic Concept or Policy Panacea," ESRC Centre for Business Research - Working Papers wp244, ESRC Centre for Business Research.
    2. Mark Lazerson & Gianni Lorenzoni, 1999. "Resisting Organizational Inertia: The Evolution of Industrial Districts," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 361-377, December.
    3. Marjolein Cani�ls & 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.
    4. Lars H�kanson, 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. 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.
    6. Anders Malmberg & Peter Maskell, 2006. "Localized Learning Revisited," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 1-18.
    7. Ann Markusen, 1999. "Fuzzy Concepts, Scanty Evidence, Policy Distance: The Case for Rigour and Policy Relevance in Critical Regional Studies," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(9), pages 869-884.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Anders Malmberg & Dominic Power, 2005. "(How) Do (Firms in) Clusters Create Knowledge?," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 409-431.
    11. 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.
    12. Anders Malmberg & Peter Maskell, 2002. "The elusive concept of localization economies: towards a knowledge-based theory of spatial clustering," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 34(3), pages 429-449, March.
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