|A localized region of industrial production characterized by its concentration on a particular range of productive activities and, more tellingly, by close internal linkages based on horizontal and vertical disintegration and untraded interdependencies and conventions (Storper, 1997; Storper and Salais, 1997), or taken-for-granted rules, routines and norms between firms constituting the productive organization of the district.
The term is not restricted to manufacturing and, instead, draws on insights relating to the interconnected sequence of processes involved in the transformation and consumption of value. Thus Sarah Whatmore (1995), for example, shows how the analysis of agriculture now goes well beyond the farm gate by looking at the processes of capital accumulation in the agro-food sector and the associated forms of standardization of diet and consumption embodied in agro-food complexes and in the regulatory programmes attached to it. Central to such analyses are notions of commodity chains which themselves have highly significant but varying geographies organized at scales ranging from the local to the global. This dialectic between local and global is central to the formation and development of industrial districts.
The term was coined originally by Alfred Marshall (1919) who referred to Sheffield (cutlery and specialized steel production) and south-east Lancashire (cotton textiles) as examples of industrial districts. He noted the significance of the distinctive characteristics of what he called the \'industrial atmosphere\' of such places â€” a context which provided them with a highly competitive momentum.
A contemporary example is \'motor sport valley\' (Henry and Pinch, 1997) â€” a regional cluster of firms centred around mid-Oxford-shire in and through which has developed the world\'s major agglomeration of Formula 1 and Indy car engineering. This region is a community of knowledge which is sustained by and expands through the rapid production, application and dissemination of knowledge â€” through observation, gossip and rumour and direct contact â€” amongst and between the network of highly secretive small and medium-sized enterprises which constitute the region. High rates of new firm formation (itself a source of knowledge) and the movement of knowledge through a mobile workforce operating within a relatively small area (the whole of motor sport valley extends in a 160 km-long crescent about 60 km to the north and west of London) has created a \'knowledge pool â€¦ on a constant learning trajectory\' (Henry and Pinch, 1997, p. 7). The matrix of production here, then, is the socially and industrially constructed region of firms rather than the individual firms which form part of it.
Such an example points to the developmental power of new industrial spaces (Scott, 1988), such as the \'third Italy\' and Orange County in California, through which the transmission of impulses around closely integrated but independent firms is seen as both an effective and a flexible means of production â€” hence the Marshallian argument that the geography of such spaces is a powerful influence upon their productive dynamism and flexibility (Storper and Scott, 1989). This argument is compelling in its spatiality: Storper and Salais (1997), for example, insist in novel and convincing ways on the geographical foundations of economic activity and so place geographical space at the centre of their discourse.
In assessing this work, in part through an illuminating conjunction of two industrial districts â€” the City of London and Santa Croce in Tuscany â€” Amin and Thrift (1992) accept that place certainly constitutes social and economic practice but argue that the way in which this constitution takes place is itself shaped by the geographical requirements of social practice. The localization of economic geographies is not an autonomous influence of geography on production but is shaped by the geographical demands of increasingly globally integrated economic geographies. One of the conditions of existence of such geographies is the presence of centres to act as places of representation (centres of authority), interaction (centres of sociability) and as a means of making sense of data and information (centres of discourse). Industrial districts are, in short, doubly geographical: both required for social practice and constitutive of that social practice. However, despite their mutuality, power relations (see Massey, 1995) within such districts are asymmetric whilst those that construct their connection to the world economy point up their vulnerability to influences which may overwhelm their internal coherence (expressed in political, social and cultural forms as well as economic) and place severe limits on any notions of determinant autonomy that such coherence may imply.Â (RL)
References Amin, A. and Thrift, N. 1992: Neo-Marshallian nodes in global networks. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 16: 571-87.Â Henry, N. and Pinch, S. 1997: A regional formula for success? The innovative region of motor sport valley. Edgbaston: University of Birmingham.Â Marshall, A. 1919: Industry and trade. London. Massey, D. 1995: Spatial divisions of labour, 2nd edn. London: Macmillan.Â Scott, A.J. 1988: New industrial spaces: flexible production organisation and regional development in north America and western Europe. London: Pion.Â Storper, M. 1997: Regional economies as relational assets. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 19. London and New York: Arnold, 248-58.Â Storper, M. and Salais, R. 1997: Worlds of production: the action frameworks of the economy. Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press.Â Storper, M. and Scott, A.J. 1989: The geographical foundations and social regulation of flexible production complexes. In J. Wolch and M. Dear, eds, The power of geography: how territory shapes social life.Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman.Â Whatmore, S. 1995: from farming to agribusiness: the global agro-food system. In R.J. Johnston, P.J. Taylor and M.J. Watts, eds, Geographies of global change. Remapping the world in the late twentieth century. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 36-49.
Suggested Reading Henry and Pinch (1997).