The local state and economic development in peripheral regions : a comparative study of Newfoundland and Northern Norway
This comparative study of local development initiatives is inspired by efforts to address the chronic economic underdevelopment of Newfoundland. It explores the combination of economic and political forces which generate and sustain regional disparities within industrialised countries. This requires a conceptualisation of peripherality, underdevelopment and development. In the face of global economic restructuring, there are emerging trends which may be creating development opportunities which peripheral regions have social and economic advantages in exploiting. As these are rooted in the the potential of regional production systems of interdependent small and medium sized firms, economic development strategies must be implemented on a sub-national, and - in the Canadian context - subprovincial level. Traditional regional development policies by higher levels of government have failed on both political and economic grounds; a lower level of economic decision-making must take the lead if these emergent possibilities are to be realized. Local economic decision-making can take many forms: voluntary, third sector bodies, regional boards or bureaucracies of higher levels of government, or elected local government. Because only the last, the local state, can draw on the legitimacy of local democratic accountability, combined with the authority and resources of a state body, it is argued that it is best suited to implementing local development strategies, particularly those which must foster the trust and regional consensus for the delicate balance of co-operation and competition necessary for successful inter-firm networks. These conceptualisations provide the analytic thrust for a comparative analysis of development efforts implemented by a range of local organisational forms in Newfoundland and Northern Norway. Like Newfoundland, Northern Norway depended upon resource exploitation, particularly the fishery, with similar labour market and demographic characteristics. As part of a unitary state with weak regional government but substantial local government autonomy, Northern Norway provides a useful contrast in terms of local institutional forms. No assumption is made that the findings of the four Norwegian case studies can be generalised to the experience of the four Newfoundland cases examined. By relating the varying forces at work in each context, however, analytic generalisation is possible, in which the primary causal forces discerned in specific cases can inform theory, which can in turn be related to other contexts. Only by attemptig .to discern the substantial constraints on efforts to generate economic activity in peripheral regions can appropriate organisational forms and development strategies be adopted.