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Clusters, Power and Place: Inequality and Local Growth in Time–Space

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The argument of this paper is that a deeper appreciation of the nature of the power relationships between firms and the circuits of power that bind them together is key to understanding how clusters function — including how they might emerge and how they might decline. We begin to develop a conceptualization that allows us to generate a deeper understanding of the processes that enable the production and reproduction of enterprise clusters under some combinations of circumstances but not others. The sections of the paper explore: (1) concepts of power and circuits of power including their spatialities; (2) the temporarily stabilized relationships which occur in clusters of economic activity; (3) the openness and permeability of clusters as a way of understanding conditions that foster cluster growth; (4) a tentative integration of concepts. From this reading of the concepts of clustering and power we draw the conclusion that clusters are, at any particular point in time, temporary and transient conjunctures of interfirm relationships. They depend on specific circumstances in ‘time–space’ and, because of their very transience and specificity, those conditions might be very difficult if not impossible to create through the blunt instruments of policy.
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Keywords: Clusters; Local Growth in Time–Space; Power and Place: Inequality; circuits of power; clustering; local growth; power; ‘time–space’

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Phillips University of Marburg email: bathelt@mailer.uni– 2: University of Birmingham email:

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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