Proposal preview

Resilience in regional economic systems

Regional dimensions have a lot to offer in our historical understanding of how agents coped with the successive waves of globalization. In many places of the world, firms and its accompanying economic institutions concentrate and specialize. Such geographical concentrated networks may coincide with industrial districts or clusters (Beccatini 1979, Porter 1998). One of the rationales of these regional economic systems is the adaption to changes outside the system. Although changes can be manifold, a wide range of scholars are paying increasingly attention to shocks. Shocks can be induced by international market integration and the growth of trade (O’Rourke and Williamson 1999, Findlay and O’Rourke 2007). This was the case in the 19th century as well as in the last decades of the 20th century, when a new globalization wave took place and a global process of economic re-localization emerged. Shocks can be also connected to economic recessions, technological breakthroughs or political constrains accompanied with it. Such major developments can affect a regional system. Regional networks may (or may not) react on a way in which they re-establish order and maintain their initial stage of growth. Regions, clusters and districts do respond different on the challenges posed by increasing global competition, however. The capacity to adapt to changing circumstances has been phrased ‘resilience’. With Martin and Sunley (2015) we define regional economic resilience as ‘the capacity of a regional or local economy to withstand or recover from market, competitive and environmental shocks to its developmental growth path, if necessary by undergoing adaptive changes to its economic structures and its social and institutional arrangements’.

The aim of this session is to use the notion of resilience for historical purposes and explore its potential for innovative approaches in the study of regional economic history. Regional approaches within the field have been cultivated by scholars such as Pollard (1981). Recently, interdisciplinary informed studies on the history of clusters and industrial districts were added to this (Wilson and Popp 2003), Studies on the life-cycle of clusters deal with the capacity of regional change too (Trippl 2015). These approaches still leave space for a more explicit focus on resilience related to globalization. The guiding question of the session is what determines the resilience of regional economic system: what kind of factors and circumstances do influence the capacity to change? We welcome contributions which analyse the presence (or absence) of resilience in regional economic systems throughout the world. While connected to the ‘waves of globalization’ we limit our timeframe to the period covering from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Themes which fit well in the session are coupled to the possible factors which influence resilience, such as: the structure of region’s economy related to the type of shock it has to cope with; the ability to formulate and execute regional policy strategies; the influence of knowledge structures and knowledge driven innovations for viable economic regions; and the development of clusters and districts related to external shocks. Up to eight papers will be accepted (four for each block time). In order to raise the quality of the discussion, they will circulate in advance and will be commented by one or two discussants.


  • Marijn Molema, Fryske Akademy,,
  • Ramon Ramon-Muñoz, University of Barcelona,,

Session members

  • Rolv Petter Amdam , BI Norwegian Business School,
  • Ove Bjarnar , Molde University College,
  • Mila Davids , University of Eindhoven,
  • Pierre-Yves Donzé , Osaka University,
  • Marijn Molema, Fryske Akademy,
  • Ramon Ramon-Muñoz , University of Barcelona,
  • Alberto Rinaldi , University of Modena and Reggio Emilia,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Karel C.A. Davids, Professor of Economic and Social History, VU University Amsterdam,