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Where is the value added in the cluster approach? Hermeneutic theorising, economic geography and clusters as a multiperspectival approach

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Paul Benneworth, Dr Nicholas Henry


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Barnes has argued that (new) economic geography has moved in to a phase of theory development that he describes as 'hermeneutic' theorising. This epistemological position is characterised by an interpretive, reflexive and open-ended mode of inquiry that recognises the diversity of sources available for theorising and the subsequent conversations that will ensue from such diversity. In a recent deconstruction of the clusters concept in economic geography, and especially that version (or brand) expounded by Michael Porter, Martin and Sunley ask the question as to what added value is delivered by the concept's gatecrashing of academic and policy debates. This paper argues that clusters should not be overendowed as a singular 'brand', but recognised as an emergent set of multiple perspectives in dialogue. From a position of hermeneutic theorising, 'clusters' have the potential to add value by allowing theoretical debate across a wide range of (overlapping and competing) perspectives whose partiality and situatedness are made explicit. The possibilities for theoretical, empirical and policy cross-fertilisation from the difficult act of holding together these threads is one potential drawn from the conversations engendered through hermeneutic theorising in economic geography. Nevertheless, this 'work in progress' must be deepened and extended if the potential of clusters is to be realised.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Benneworth P, Henry N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Urban Studies

Year: 2004

Volume: 41

Issue: 5-6

Pages: 1011-1023

ISSN (print): 0042-0980

ISSN (electronic): 1360-063X

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/00420980410001675869


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