Institutional networks and industrial restructuring : local initiatives toward the textile industry in Nottingham and Prato
The effects of global change in the nature of production are most acutely felt at the local level. Local authorities have been quick to respond to these changes with a flurry of policy measures. An important debate has surfaced as to whether local initiatives can indeed mediate global restructuring in order to sustain the economic well-being of the locality. My thesis is a contribution to this debate. The organizing hypothesis is that, under certain conditions, local activity can help to moderate the restructuring process. In particular, a locality is most effective when it possesses thick institutional networks between public and private actors that supply a wide range of services to aid industrial adjustment. Specifically, certain types of institutional networks can provide the essential infrastructure for learning, which refers to the ability of institutions to habitually adapt both these support services and their institutional relationships to meet the new politico-economic conditions engendered by the restructuring process. My research compares how two proactive localities (Nottingham in the East Midlands and Prato in Tuscany), both historic centres of textile and clothing production but with different institutional architecture, have assisted their industry to restructure away from the mass production of low-priced goods toward the more flexible production of high value products. Chapter one critically reviews the debate on the role of local institutions in economic development. Chapter two then discusses how different institutional networks emerge and establishes the methodology for recognizing networks, measuring thickness and assessing institutional learning capacity. Chapters three and four present an institutional map of each locality, identifying the key institutions and the types of networks that have developed. Chapters five and six examine the evolution of both the support services provided to the industry and the institutional relations during the restructuring period to assess each locality's institutional learning capacity. Chapter seven looks specifically at the growing, albeit recent, influence of the European Union on local institution-building in the two cases. Finally, chapter eight directly compares the two localities to draw general conclusions regarding the role of institutional networks in the industrial restructuring process and in economic development more generally.