Networks, districts, cities, regions : evidence from the Third Italy
For over three hundred years, including its most recent, "Fordist" phase, industrial capitalism has been shaping the organisation of territory, fostering urbanisation and the emergence of the great cities and industrial regions. Recently, many observers have suggested that Fordism is in crisis and a period of transition is underway to a "post-Fordist" economy, the characteristics of which are antithetical to those of Fordism. Though territorial aspects are in many ways at the core of the post-Fordist school, particularly the so-called "rise" of the industrial district, regional and especially urban factors are not systematically dealt with in the literature. There is scant empirical evidence of the territorial organisation of the post- Fordist productive systems, nor a clear delineation of the logic behind this particular structure of territorial organisation. Drawing on evidence of three case studies of industrial districts in the Third Italy, the central thesis put forward is that the pattern of cities and regions that has been evolving relatively smoothly since the beginning of the industrial era is currently undergoing a dramatic reorganisation, as a result of a new logic of post-Fordist capital accumulation. New patterns of uneven development are being forged, that are in many ways a reversal of previous and long-standing urban and regional evolutionary trends. The role of spatial and territorial factors in the evolution of certain forms of post-Fordist organisation of production are also explored. In basic outline, the thesis: o argues that we are entering a post-Fordist era and industrial districts can be marshalled as evidence of this; o offers explanations as to why these particular territorial systems of production emerged in the Third Italy, and how they relate to the logic of post-Fordist accumulation; and o concludes that post-Fordism is associated with a reorganisation of urban and regional territory at all geographical scales: regions, urban systems and the urban hierarchy, intra-urban and intra-district space.