Non‐Economic Factors in Economic Geography and in ‘New Regionalism’: A Sympathetic Critique


In the current debate on local and regional development and after several ‘turns’, dominant critical models have found some security in institutional, cultural and evolutionary approaches. Interest today centres on success and competitiveness and how they are reproduced in a few paradigmatic regions. A distinctive feature of these regions and places is the embeddedness of certain non‐economic factors such as social capital, trust and reciprocity based on familiarity, face‐to‐face exchange, cooperation, embedded routines, habits and norms, local conventions of communication and interaction, all of which contribute to a region’s particular success. Although these approaches may not deny the forces of the capitalist space economy, they do not explicitly acknowledge them or take them on board and so they tend to discuss non‐economic factors and institutions as autonomous forces shaping development. This essay provides a critique of these concepts based on their (1) inadequate theorization, (2) depoliticized view of politics and de‐economized use of economics and (3) reduction of space to territory. The essay concludes that we need a far more penetrating renewal of radical critique of the current space economy of capitalism. Old concepts such as uneven development, the social and spatial division of labour, the geographical transfer of value, accumulation and imperialism must be combined with cultural and institutional issues, with those non‐economic factors mentioned above.