Local and regional development international

Post by Andy Pike on 22nd October 2012

Local and regional development has traditionally focused upon localities and regions in the historically industrialised and urbanised higher-income countries across the world – especially in Europe and North America. Development Studies has been concerned with more recently industrializing and urbanizing nations particularly in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Central and Latin America. Such strands of work have tended to run in parallel with limited interaction and cross-fertilization historically. Each has been marked by evolving concepts, theories and language: ‘First’, ‘Second’ and ‘Third World’; ‘Developed’ and ‘Less Developed Countries’; ‘High’, ‘Middle’ and ‘Low Income Countries’; ‘Less Favoured’ and ‘Disadvantaged Regions’; ‘Emerging economies’; ‘Transition economies’; and, ‘Post-socialist economies’. The terms ‘global North’ and ‘global South’ have emerged more recently as a way of capturing these broad groupings of countries.

Yet there is growing recognition that such enduringly disconnected approaches are limiting in an increasingly globalised and inter-dependent world, creating gaps in our understanding and fragmenting our collective knowledge. The traditions of disciplinary and sub-disciplinary demarcations continue, reflecting academic culture, institutionalization and the political economy of the academic publishing business. They shape our perspectives but risk constraining explanation, policy formulation and praxis in addressing global development challenges including prosperity, livelihoods and wellbeing, demographic shifts, equalities, food and energy security, climate change, financial system instability, poverty and socio-spatial inequalities.

To begin to bridge these boundaries, our recent work on local and regional development with Andrés Rodríguez-Pose and John Tomaney  has sought to develop a more international outlook and focus. In putting together the Handbook for Local and Regional Development  – recently awarded the Best Book Award 2012 by the Regional Studies Association’s international membership  – our aim was deliberately to bring together leading voices to address the challenges of development regionally and locally in an international context. In a Local and regional development in the global North and South (PDF: 206KB), we argue for much stronger connection and deeper interaction concerning local and regional development within and between the global North and South.

Conversation can benefit research across different camps by encouraging challenge and reflection upon prevailing ways of thinking to identify and frame new research questions, problems, gaps and contradictions, and innovative ways of tackling them. Our research outlines the basis for such dialogue in several shared concerns:

  • Challenging ‘one-best-way’ and ‘one-size-fits-all’ universal models of ‘development’
  • Asking ‘what kind of local and regional development and for whom?’
  • Addressing common issues including socio-spatial inequalities, spatially imbalanced growth, inter-territorial competition, sustainability and government and governance.
  • Developing greater sensitivity in handling the contexts of particular places and more general and broadly-based understandings.

There are no doubt other areas of potential discussion. But we see these issues as cross-cutting concerns of relevance across (sub-)disciplines capable of encouraging conversation. Rather than providing any kind of singular framework, attempting to answer all the questions or prematurely concluding what we envisage as an ongoing dialogue, our intention is to encourage discussion on these connecting themes better to tackle vital issues of local and regional development within and between the global North and South.