This article examines cooperative modes of regulation of local economies that in Europe increasingly take the form of concertation (partnership) – i.e. formalized agreement on common goals stated by collective actors with traditionally/potentially contrasting interests. This kind of agreement (‘pacts’) is increasingly institutionalized; ‘institutionalization’ being the process through which certain behaviours are steadily promoted, required, even made obligatory, by actors other than those putting them into effect, who demand conformity to their values and beliefs in return for making resources available. The process in question is particularly visible in EU countries, and it can be interpreted both as an opportunity to construct a model of a social Europe and as an opportunity to defend the features of this model that were subject to rapid erosion during the 1990s. Recurrent forms of partnership are: public–private and public–public partnerships; ‘regionalized’ industrial relations; ‘second–generation’ industrial districts; urban strategic planning; and territorial pacts. To order them, a typology is proposed on the basis of the dichotomy between exogenous/endogenous actors/resources. Three main constraints to an effective working of local concertation are then discussed: local presence of ‘global players’; excessive institutionalization; and lack of adequate implementation structures. Starting from the latter, some working hypotheses are proposed on a new ‘organizational population’, namely, the organizations of local development.
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