2009 volume 41(1) pages 13 – 30

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Turok I, 2009, "The distinctive city: pitfalls in the pursuit of differential advantage" Environment and Planning A 41(1) 13 – 30

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The distinctive city: pitfalls in the pursuit of differential advantage

Ivan Turok

Received 28 October 2004; in revised form 13 August 2007; published online 14 November 2008

Abstract. In the face of growing competitive pressures, cities in Britain and elsewhere have been exploring new ways of promoting their distinctiveness in order to increase local prosperity. I analyse the main approaches used for this purpose and consider their underlying rationale. I argue that there is some justification for developing more specialised activities and sources of differential advantage that other cities cannot reproduce. However, many cities appear to be pursuing the same policy formula comprising one or more of the following elements: nascent industries, high-level occupations, signature buildings, and consumer identities. I discuss the limitations of each of these. I conclude with some constructive suggestions for what cities might do to develop more original and distinctive advantages.

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