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Clusters as Theory and Politics: The Discursive Practices of Regional Growth Policy
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Politics and History. (Forskarskolan i regionalt samhällsbyggande)
2012 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The starting point for this study is the successive changes in regional policy that have taken place in Sweden. These changes can be understood within the context of a new regional discourse emphasising the role of ‘strong regions’. Regional actors are expected to ‘pull together’, mobilising regional resources in a more globalised world. In Sweden, the introduction of the cluster concept in the politics of regional growth can be seen in the light of this new discourse. Inspired by the works of Michael Porter, and clusters such as Silicon Valley, public actors all over the world are taking various measures in attempts to support ‘existing’ or ‘potential’ clusters. The regionalisation of decision-making power has also been motivated by increased democratisation of the politics of regional growth. At the same time, it has been argued that regional policy is strongly marked by consensus and that politics and ideology have been left aside in these processes.

This thesis analyses the conditions for the political in this new regional discourse. Building on qualitative data and with regional cluster policy as an empirical case this is done through analysing clusters as politics. From the ontological assumption that the articulation of politics shapes how politics is done, the research question that underlies the study is: how is the regional politics for cluster development articulated and formed?

Two of the main conclusions are that the cluster discourse has changed over time and that regional politics for cluster development can be seen as depoliticised. ‘Clusters’ are introduced in Swedish regional policy as an ‘interesting theory’ about how firms create and sustain competitiveness. Today, cluster development is understood as organised cooperation between ‘clusters of firms’, universities and public actors. New forms of political organisation are taking place within the regions. At the same time, the regional politics for cluster development can be described as depoliticised. It is strongly marked by consensus and there is a lack of public discussion concerning who gains and who loses in this form of organisation. The findings suggest that the depoliticisation can be understood in the light of the theoretical articulation of cluster policy, in the light of the relation between theory and politics, knowledge and power.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2012. , 128 p.
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2012:29
Keyword [en]
Regional growth policy, clusters, discourse, depoliticisation, democracy
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-13428ISBN: 978-91-7063-433-8OAI: diva2:529729

This licantiate thesis was originally published in Swedish "Kluster som teori och politik: Om den regionala tillväxtpolitikens diskursiva praktiker".  It  has afterwards been translated into English by Rosemary Nordström at Proper English AB.

The original thesis can be found here:

Available from: 2012-05-31 Created: 2012-05-30 Last updated: 2012-09-06

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