2001 volume 33(7) pages 1145 – 1167

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MacLeod G, 2001, "Beyond soft institutionalism: accumulation, regulation, and their geographical fixes" Environment and Planning A 33(7) 1145 – 1167

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Beyond soft institutionalism: accumulation, regulation, and their geographical fixes

Gordon MacLeod

Received 10 November 1999; in revised form 22 September 2000

Abstract. This author offers a circumspect appraisal of the recent controversies surrounding an 'institutional turn' in economic geography and urban and regional studies. He contends that, although the prevailing institutionalist perspectives undoubtedly yield many welcome innovations and useful departures, they are also beset by certain conceptual difficulties. These include, first, a thin political economy most discernible in the failure to appreciate fully the crucial role of the state in shaping the urban - regional process, and a related weakness in examining the asymmetries of power which enframe the governance of space economies. Second, there is a danger of drifting towards a soft institutionalism: a tautological trap that could invite researchers and policymakers mistakenly to envisage the presence or otherwise of a regional 'institutional thickness' or a local 'social capital' as an adequate explanation of uneven economic development. It is then contended that one relatively mature but continually evolving institutionalist political - economic framework, the Regulation Approach, might help to redress these deficits and to illuminate further our understanding of urban - regional economic change. Recent contributions examining the shifting geographies of accumulation and the rescaling of regulation are viewed to be particularly germane in this regard.

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