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Evolution in economic geography: institutions, political economy, and adaptation

MacKinnon, Danny and Cumbers, Andrew and Pike, Andy and Birch, Kean and McMaster, R. (2009) Evolution in economic geography: institutions, political economy, and adaptation. Economic geography, 85 (2). pp. 129-150. ISSN 0013-0095

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Abstract

Economic geography has, over the past decade or so, drawn upon ideas from evolutionary economics in trying to understand processes of regional growth and change. Recently, some researchers have sought to delimit and develop an "evolutionary economic geography" (EEG), aiming to create a more systematic theoretical framework for research. This article provides a sympathetic critique and elaboration of this emergent EEG but takes issue with some aspects of its characterization in recent programmatic statements. While acknowledging that EEG is an evolving and pluralist project, we are concerned that the reliance on certain theoretical frameworks that are imported from evolutionary economics and complexity science threatens to isolate it from other approaches in economic geography, limiting the opportunities for cross-fertilization. In response, the article seeks to develop a social and pluralist conception of institutions and social agency in EEG, drawing upon the writings of leading institutional economists, and to link evolutionary concepts to political economy approaches, arguing that the evolution of the economic landscape must be related to processes of capital accumulation and uneven development. As such, we favor the use of evolutionary and institutional concepts within a geographical political economy approach, rather than the construction of some kind of theoretically separate EEG-evolution in economic geography, not an evolutionary economic geography.