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Innovative conservatism in a mature industrial district: An economic history of the Brenta footwear industry.

Novello, Giorgio (2005) Innovative conservatism in a mature industrial district: An economic history of the Brenta footwear industry. MPhil thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis analyses the Brenta footwear industrial district in North-eastern Italy (800 firms, 15,000 workers, total sales of 1.5 billion Euros). Brenta is considered as a test case to assess the relevance today of the industrial district model. In doing so, particular attention is devoted to some aspects usually neglected by the specialised literature: self-help organisations, unionisation, politics and the public authorities, interaction among local actors. The Introduction underlines Brenta's path-dependent development and introduces the concept of "innovative conservatism". Chapter I discusses Brenta's relevance as a case study in the reassessment of the Italianate version of industrial districts. Chapter II provides an historical outline from the establishment of the first mechanised enterprise (1898). Chapter III discusses the respective roles of the main local actors. Entrepreneurs' associations were quite successful over the years but were never able to surmount Brenta's structural weaknesses (in particular its disproportionate emphasis on manufacture at the expense of other activities including marketing). Trade unions contributed largely to the shaping of the area, although unionisation was mainly an outside-driven development. Brenta's mixed political affiliation resulted in the novel co-existence of "red" (Communist) and "white" (Christian Democrat) cultures, which offers an interesting example of "civic capital" a la Putnam. Chapter IV analyses the work of the Brenta Training Centre (1923) as an area for co-operation among the above-mentioned actors. The Conclusion emphasises that Brenta represents a study in contrasts. It remains a conservative area, lagging behind in particular in technological innovation. It has however come closer and closer to the industrial district model, especially through its complex network of institutions drawing upon its "civic capital". Brenta offers a contribution to the current debate about industrial districts and the ongoing reassessment of the "social embeddedness perspective", providing a middle ground between the enthusiasm of the 1980s and the growing pessimism of recent years.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economics, General
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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