Locality, Structure, and Agency: A Theoretical Analysis

Essay Excerpt

This contribution is a theoretical analysis of the concept of "locality." The argument proceeds in three stages. In the first part attention is paid to the concept of "community," which is often, erroneously, used as a synonym for locality. It is proposed that community has a particular history as a concept and meaning in everyday life which differentiates it in key ways from locality. Second, there is a discussion of the concept of "nation" that, clearly, operates at a supralocal level but contains important dimensions of social power that have implications for our understanding of the nature of locality too. Finally, using a realist epistemology, an attempt is made to derive the concept of "locality" from a consideration of the theoretical relations that the "national" and the "local" imply for each other in modem society. It is concluded that locality does have conceptual status in social science and that it is to be distinguished, in particular, from community by the active, interventionary capacity that it affords to citizens pursuing diverse social projects. (Cooke, 3)

About the Author

Philip Cooke is University Research Professor in regional economic development, and founding director (1993) of the Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Wales, Cardiff. In 2002 the UK Economic & Social Research Council awarded core-funded UK Research Centre status to CESAGen, a partnership initiative on the Social and Economic Analysis of Genomics in which Prof. Cooke’s Centre has ‘flagship project’ (Economics of Biotechnology Innovation) status. His research interests lie in studies of Biotechnology, Regional Innovation Systems, Knowledge Economies, Entrepreneurship, Clusters and Networks. He co-edited the first & second editions of ‘Regional Innovation Systems’ (UCL Press & Routledge) in 1998 & 2004; co-authored 'The Associational Economy' published in 1998, and 'The Governance of Innovation in Europe' in 2000. He is Special Theme editor and contributor for two issues of The Journal of Technology Transfer focused on ‘Regional Innovation Systems’, 2002 & 2004/5. In 2003 he was Special Theme editor for the issue of European Planning Studies on ‘Biotechnology Clusters & Beyond’ that explored regional biotechnology systems. In 2002 he released a fast-selling ‘clusters’ book – ‘Knowledge Economies’, published by Routledge. In 2004 Regional Economies as Knowledge Laboratories’ co-edited with Andrea Piccaluga is published by Edward Elgar Publishing Co. Prof. Cooke is a UK government advisor on innovation, and advises national & regional governments, the EU, OECD, World Bank and UNIDO on regional innovation systems. He is also Editor of 'European Planning Studies' a bi-monthly +4 journal devoted to European urban and regional governance, innovation and development issues. In 2003 he was elected Academician of the UK Academy of Social Sciences. In 2004 he was made Distinguished Research Fellow (PRIME) of the University of Ottawa School of Management. He is board member of the Canadian ISRN and Swedish CIND and CIRCLE research centres. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Lund, Sweden. In 2007 he is Member of the European Research Area (ERA) Review Committee of the European Commission and the Royal Society Task Force on Nanotechnology.

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