Giacomo Becattini has made several important contributions to our knowledge about “industrial districts” based on Marshall’s reasoning in his works Economics of Industry (1879), Principle of Economics in 1890 and Industry and Trade published in 1921, all of which focus on the importance of proximity for small firms in order to achieve external economies of scale. In his seminal article “From the industrial ‘sector’ to the industrial ‘district’”, published in Italian in 1979 and in English 1989, he introduced the concept of “industrial districts” and rediscovered the Marshallian concept in an Italian context. A major contribution to the understanding of industrial districts was Becattini’s strong emphasis on the role of the cultural and historical background of the districts, and he was the first to point out that a skill that appears abundant in a specific area may be scarce on the world market — for example, people who have been manufacturing clothes for centuries tend to possess a kind of “clothing culture and knowledge” that is of great significance. Thus, Becattini extended Marshall’s analysis of the purely economic effects of agglomeration to a broader perspective, to include the social, cultural and institutional foundations of local industrial growth. He also introduced the idea of “embeddedness” of the local industrial structure as a key analytical concept in understanding industrial districts. However, Becattini is more interested in using the concept of “sense of belonging”, which is a more active concept. In order to have a sense of belonging you not only have to share a vision of the future but also act accordingly — as opposed to “embeddedness”, which implies a more passive approach.
KeywordsSmall Firm World Market Industrial District External Economy Italian Economist
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