Clusters, Dispersion and the Spaces in Between: For an Economic Geography of the Banal
AbstractWhile the geographical clustering of economic activities remains an enduring feature of the industrial landscape and a perennial source of theoretical and empirical interest, the geographical scale at which external economies and agglomerative effects are now claimed to operate is on the increase. Such changes in the spatial form and potential causes of agglomeration over time pose important questions. How should we analyse changes in the spatial extent of external economies and agglomerative effects? Ought we to pay more attention to the sorts of banal economic spaces thrown up as part of increasingly diffuse forms of agglomeration? To answer the first of these questions, it is noted how economists and geographers have explained agglomerations often in the rather singular and invariant categories of pecuniary and Marshallian externalities respectively. This paper considers the relevance of neo-Marshallian analysis and the concept of 'borrowed size'—as variations on these classical principles—to an analysis of the mobility and fixity of external economies and contemporary diffuse forms of agglomeration. Whilst reflecting important changes in the spatial extent of industrial agglomerations, they are insufficiently sensitive to the interaction of different types of external economies with different scale-dependencies. In answering the second question, it is noted that part of the value of analysing the economic basis of largely overlooked 'banal' intermediate places lies in what they may reveal about the functioning of diffuse forms of agglomeration.