Andrea Ascani, Riccardo Crescenzi, Simona Iammarino, 2012


This review offers an analysis of the main concepts explored in the regional and local economic development literature. We start by explaining the rationale for a regional approach to development in a context of growing internationalisation of the world economy. Therefore, the relevance of local social and institutional characteristics is discussed by arguing that favourable conditions for development are the result of a highly context specific combination of rules, norms and social relations which encourage and facilitate knowledge diffusion and exploitation mostly on a localised basis. In this respect, some evidence is provided about the emergence of spatial inequalities connected to the localised nature of development processes and innovative activities. We then discuss the importance of a bottom-up approach to economic development emerging from the frequent ineffectiveness of top-down policies employed to spur regional development. Finally, we argue that the increasing demand for decentralisation of powers and resources from central governments to regional and local administrations in most parts of the world in the last decades can be interpreted as the acknowledgement that regional forces and characteristics are strongly relevant in shaping local development trajectories in a context of increasing globalisation. In this framework, therefore, decentralisation represents the capacity of heterogeneous regions and territories to tailor specific development strategies in order to address their particular needs and influence their own destinies.