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Development Models and Logics of Socio-Economic Organization in Space

Final Report Summary - DEMOLOGOS (Development Models and Logics of Socio-Economic Organization in Space)

This project aimed at improving the analysis of socio-economic development paths and models leading to the knowledge society. To this purpose, a new methodology was designed and applied to case-studies in a variety of industrialised countries, regions and cities. The ultimate goal was to provide observatories of socio-economic development with a multi-dimensional analytical tool.

Socioeconomic development can only be studied in structural-realist terms if several epistemological perspectives are combined. Such a combination has been achieved in the four convergence paths based on the thematic synthesis papers. Two convergence paths have been privileged as vehicles to work toward a meta-theoretical framework capable of hosting case-study analysis:
- Convergence path 1 that makes sure that the pre-informed conceptual equilibrium between agency-structure-institution-discourse is empirically verified through form and institutional analysis.
- Convergence path 4 in turn is important for empirical socioeconomic development analysis, because it highlights the role of intermediate concepts to link relatively abstract-simple concepts to practice (and communities of practice) and to change in the real world (and participants' perceptions of change).
The combination of convergence path 1 and 4 has allowed to build to a case-study methodology which basically consists of the following elements:

Dialectics of change and spatio-temporal fixes: A regional or local case study can be organised temporally, focusing on moments of change or periods of relative stability. This requires a periodisation that interprets conjunctural moments as specific material condensations of substantive temporalities and spatialities (or, better, spatio-temporalities) that can inform empirical analysis not only of strategic agency but also (and necessarily) of its institutional, discursive and structural context(s) (TSP1, ASID). The structural moment then comprises those elements that are time-space robust within a given spatio-strategic context and cannot be altered by a well-identified configuration of agents at a given point of time in (a) particular spatial configuration(s).

Scale-wise: ASID, form analysis and mediations between scales given the continued importance of space and territory alongside the increased significance of scale, DEMOLOGOS notes that regional and national arrangements and (regional, local) 'social armatures' matter, especially in terms of the articulation of the state with territorial social relations and forces. In this context, our project has been very interested in the institutions that facilitate and consolidate the regionalisation of socio-economic development.

But our case studies must also refer, of course, to national development dynamics shaped or guided by national state regulations and institutions (money, law, internal market). This is an area where form analysis and the regulation approach are especially useful (convergence path 4) as long as one considers not only the Parisian approach but also those variants that have focused on local, regional, supra-regional, international, and global regimes and modes of regulation too.

Power, imaginaries and the politics of the possible

Three approaches to power as a social relation are especially relevant for DEMOLOGOS:
(i) the resources (organised coercion, legal rights, labour power, land, money, organisational capacities knowledge, etc.) that actors can mobilise in pursuit of their ideal and material interests;
(ii) the strategic material and discursive selectivity of forms, institutions, organisations, and interpersonal relations;
(iii) the structural-institutional dynamics of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces that set the time-space context in which power struggles emerge, reproduce their resources and create or destroy potential for collective action.

Discourse analysis

Discourse is not just the action of individual discursive action or its product but involves the inter-subjective production of meaning. Thus, discourse often has institutional meaning and where it is regularised and embodied in typical patterns of belief and conduct, it can have a significant structural impact. In particular, changing discourses are usually key aspects of institutional and structural change. Discourse as a rhetoric is an economic practice with powerful impacts on e.g. investment decisions, macro-economic policy making, employment strategies of firms and public administrations.

Story telling with shared anchors.
Finally, all DEMOLOGOS case studies tell stories. History and geography frame the presentation of all cases. This gives a certain primacy to emblematic moments, particular spatial forms, as well as the agency dimension of ASID and CDIH. Theoretically-informed, historically and geographically embedded story telling focuses on specific emblematic moments and the structural as well conjunctural dynamics which they reflect. Stories have to name actors (individuals, groups, parties, etc.) instead of abstract bearers of social transformation; they should refer to behavioural motives but contextualise them in regulatory dynamics and governance institutions. And as conjunctural moments refer to either emblematic or turning points that end periods of stability, the latter's features and forms (modes of regulation, hegemonic agents, landscape of social forces and arenas of confrontation…) must be explicitly integrated into the analysis. This also holds for the complex inter-scalar geographical situation, which requires a reinterpretation of the territorial dynamics that have formed a region or locality as well as its encompassing spatialities; these territorial dynamics are intrinsically social processes and their analysis therefore requires 'spatialised' form and institutional analysis to cover their reproductive dynamics.

Prominent results from the case-studies

a) Using discourse analysis, many analyses of regional and local development, it was found, confuse analysis of real development, its structures and institutions, with the stories telling the imagineered growth and development aspirations. At the same time, the role of discourse as a development tool, policy catalyst and hegemony-builder, is usually not recognised by mainstream case-study analysts, as several of our case-studies have observed.
b) The meticulous articulation of the different scales, but also their relation to place-dynamics, have produced a rich case-study analysis of local agencies, institution building, policy oriented discursive chains, etc. Several case-studies have shown both the pervasiveness of higher scalar influences at the local level, but also the empowering impact of extra-local relations and resources on locally-initiated strategies and institutional transformations.
c) Weakness of counter-hegemonic projects and movements. Most case-studies have discovered that counter-hegemonic forces at the local and regional level are statistically weak and dispersed. However, innovative strategies in response to new development challenges have become quite tangible; their local impact remains limited, but networking between initiatives at higher spatial scales, may have a strong local 'return' multiplier effect in the medium or longer run.