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Title: Institutional thickness and Liverpool exploration of a methodology
Author: Cocks, Matthew Anthony
ISNI:       0000 0004 2697 783X
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis operationalizes the concept of 'institutional thickness' and evaluates its utility as a framework with which to gUide empirical research. The institutional thickness concept was introduced in 1994 by Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift and is concerned with the ability of a locality to chart its own economic destiny in the context of global capitalism. Specifically, it focuses upon the institutions operating in areas, and how their collective efforts at economic development can have a bearing upon that area's economic success. They define four elements of institutional thickness: 1. A strong institutional presence 2. High levels of interactions between institutions 3. Sharply defined structures of domination and patterns of coalition 4. Mutual awareness that they are involved in a common enterprise However, studies surrounding the concept in the years since have not proved any obvious link between the presence of these four factors and a resulting economic prosperity. Indeed, it has been suggested that an area can be institutionally 'thin' and prosperous, as well as institutionally 'thick' and unprosperous. Nevertheless, the majority of authors agree that the concept provides a useful way of framing the issues involved. In line with this proposition, Andrew Coulson and Caterina Ferrario (2007) developed a replicable methodological framework for the investigation of institutional thickness in a locality. This comprised of a series of quantitative and qualitative indicators and was based upon Amin and Thrift's four factors mentioned above. This thesis develops, applies and evaluates their methodology within a general consideration of the utility of the institutional thickness concept as a framework for empirical research. The case of Liverpool, UK, is investigated across a 30 year time horizon - 1978 to 2008 - using an expanded version of the methodology, based upon Coulson and Ferrario's assessment as to how it could be improved, as well as the commentaries of other authors. In testing the framework, a number of theoretical concepts are drawn upon. These include 'regulation theory', theories of political ideology, theories surrounding local governance and Bob Jessop's 'Strategic Relational Approach'. Further, 'critical realism' also provides an ontological and methodological basis for the study, as well as a series of concepts which are utilised during evaluation. Although the primary focus of the thesis is in evaluating the institutional thickness framework, the investigation into institutional developments, roles and interactions in Liverpool resulted in a series of detailed empirical findings. These findings are considered in the context of the theoretical concepts mentioned above, and a judgement is made as to how institutional thickness has evolved in the city during the 30 year period. Finally, the concluding chapter to the thesis suggests areas where the institutional thickness framework could be improved, and also provides some general conclusions surrounding the role of individuals in economic regeneration processes and considerations as to the public's perception of the institutions investigated in the study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available