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Strategic Coupling and Regional Development in Resource Economies: the case of the Pilbara

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The relationship between regions and external capital has been a topic of recurring interest in economic geography and regional development studies since the 1970s. This relationship has recently been re-conceptualised in terms of strategic coupling, a concept that is closely associated with the adoption of a Global Production Networks (GPNs) approach among economic geographers. Like many other concepts in economic geography, strategic coupling has been informed by the experiences of manufacturing and service-orientated regions in developed countries. As such, the question of the applicability of strategic coupling to resource economies in semi-peripheral regions of the world economy remains unexamined, despite the emergence of critical work seeking to unpack and evaluate the concept. This paper aims to extend this embryonic strand of research by providing a critical appraisal of the meaning and relevance of strategic coupling in the Pilbara mining region of Western Australia. My argument is that the relationship between mining capital and regional actors in the Pilbara is more akin to an unbalanced form of structural coupling than the balanced process of strategic coupling depicted in the GPN literature. This underlines the enduring relevance of some long-standing themes of geographical political economy such as external domination, uneven development, conflicts over value and the distinction between development ‘of’ a region and development ‘in’ a region.
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Keywords: Global production networks; regional development; resource economies; strategic coupling; the Pilbara

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Newcastle University, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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