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Emergence and Transformation of Clusters and Milieus


  • Antonio Vazquez-Barquero



A renewed interest in the location of the productive activity has appeared during the last two decades. The literature analyzes a great number of cases of local productive systems in which all types of activities are produced and which locate in regions and countries with different levels of development (Altenburg and Meyer-Stamer, 1999; Rosenfeld, 1997; Staber, 1997; Porter, 1998). Electronics in Silicon Valley, U.S.A. and Silicon Glen in Scotland, but also in Guadalajara, Mexico and in Penang, Malaysia; the car industry in Detroit, U.S. and in Vigo, Spain, but also in the Gran ABC in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, Brazil; ceramic tiles in Sassuolo, Italy and in Castellón, Spain, as well as in Criciuma, Brazil; the shoe industry in Brenta, Italy and in Elche, Spain, as well as in León, Guanajuato, Mexico; textiles and the garment industry in Reutlingen, Germany and in La Coruña, España, but also in Itaji Valley, Brazil. Financial services in New York City, in London and in Frankfurt, Germany, but also in Hong Kong and Shanghai, in China. This diversity has been dealt with from different points of view; no doubt due to the fact that sociologists, geographers and economists believe that at the present time the organization of production is going through a profound transformation process. Mass production, integrated in the fordist model of large firm reduces its hegemony and gives way to more flexible forms of organization, as are industrial districts and milieus. This has produced multiple interpretations such as the industrial districts (Becattini, 1979), flexible specialization (Piore and Sabel, 1984), the new industrial spaces (Scott, 1988), industrial clusters (Porter, 1990), the knowledge economy (Cook, 2002), the new economic geography (Krugman, 1991; Fujita et al., 2000), the theory of the innovative milieu (Aydalot, 1986; Maillat, 1995), or economic sociology (Granovetter, 1985). Thus, a single unique interpretation or theory as to how production is organized within the territory does not exist for explaining the factors that make the agglomerations and industrial production centres appear, the mechanisms through which they develop, as well as the reasons for its change and transformation. Gordon and McCann (2000) conclude that the diversity of the analytical approaches led to some degree of confusion in the analyses and interpretations. The paper discusses the question of spatial organization of production from the perspective of economic development. It maintains that the spatial organization of production takes shape, as the markets and relations between cities and regions developed, the transportation and communication system consolidated itself, firms developed their form of organization, innovation and knowledge was introduced in firms and the transportation and communications system, and the economic system integrated itself as a result of globalization. In fact, given that development takes on different forms in each historical period, spatial organization of production also changes and these changes are affected by the territorial strategies of firms and the economic strategies of cities and regions, and they are responsible for the emergence and reconstruction of clusters and milieus.

Suggested Citation

  • Antonio Vazquez-Barquero, 2006. "Emergence and Transformation of Clusters and Milieus," ERSA conference papers ersa06p648, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa06p648

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-1037, October.
    2. Feldman, Maryann P. & Audretsch, David B., 1999. "Innovation in cities:: Science-based diversity, specialization and localized competition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 409-429, February.
    3. Masahisa Fujita & Paul Krugman & Anthony J. Venables, 2001. "The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262561476, July.
    4. John H Dunning, 1998. "Location and the Multinational Enterprise: A Neglected Factor?," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 29(1), pages 45-66, March.
    5. Altenburg, Tilman & Meyer-Stamer, JORG, 1999. "How to Promote Clusters: Policy Experiences from Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(9), pages 1693-1713, September.
    6. repec:sae:niesru:v:170:y::i:1:p:87-98 is not listed on IDEAS
    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. Bennett Harrison, 2007. "Industrial Districts: Old Wine in New Bottles? (Volume 26, Number 5, 1992)," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(sup1), pages 107-121.
    10. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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