Local Development and Economic Restructuring

This seminar rests on the consideration that any intervention for the development of a depressed (or declining) area should be informed by an understanding of both the direction in which the global economy is moving, and of the specific characteristics of the area in question. Thus, this class is organized around two components. The first deals with the tendencies that emerged in the economies of most industrialized countries as part of the process of economic restructuring of the last fifteen years. Without denying the increasing importance of services and communication, this class focuses on what is generally identified as the shift from an organization of production based on mass methods to flexible systems. More specifically, the course pays particular attention to the importance that industrial districts (very roughly, an industrial district is a geographical cluster of small and medium size firms organized in a system of related activities) have assumed in this context. The second component of the course builds on this understanding of industrial districts. It concentrates on the identification of local preconditions and dynamics that can be interpreted as \'seeds\' for the endogenous development of a district and should be encouraged. The implication of this approach is that the seminar relies heavily on in-depth knowledge and analysis of specific case studies. Students are invited to propose cases according to their interests and knowledge. Urban planning and design come into the picture as important policy and physical means to supplement and reinforce the seeds already present in the chosen locality.