Where is the value-added in the cluster approach? Hermeneutic theorizing, economic geography and clusters as a multi-perspectival approach

Paul Benneworth, Nick Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

65 Citations (Scopus)


Barnes has argued that (new) economic geography has moved in to a phase of theory development that he describes as 'hermeneutic' theorising. This epistemological position is characterised by an interpretive, reflexive and open-ended mode of inquiry that recognises the diversity of sources available for theorising and the subsequent conversations that will ensue from such diversity. In a recent deconstruction of the clusters concept in economic geography, and especially that version (or brand) expounded by Michael Porter, Martin and Sunley ask the question as to what added value is delivered by the concept's gatecrashing of academic and policy debates. This paper argues that clusters should not be overendowed as a singular 'brand', but recognised as an emergent set of multiple perspectives in dialogue. From a position of hermeneutic theorising, 'clusters' have the potential to add value by allowing theoretical debate across a wide range of (overlapping and competing) perspectives whose partiality and situatedness are made explicit. The possibilities for theoretical, empirical and policy cross-fertilisation from the difficult act of holding together these threads is one potential drawn from the conversations engendered through hermeneutic theorising in economic geography. Nevertheless, this 'work in progress' must be deepened and extended if the potential of clusters is to be realised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1023
Number of pages13
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number5/6
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2004


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