Regional Studies and Urban Development

Previously, the existence of resistance to globalization, on the one hand, and the hyper-localization of cutting-edge activities in the contemporary economy, on the other, was seen as paradoxical. This situation is now the object of scientific consensus. In this comparative and international research program, we address regional economic dynamics linked to the emergence of new technologies and innovation activities, in order to determine the impact of these developments on spatial organization and remote relationships. In addition, various studies analyze changes in ties between regions and their effects on public action and the role of government.

This program’s research activities focus on three far-reaching dimensions of the localization and formation of identities. Namely:

Actor networks at the local level

Several comparative studies are being conducted on this topic: one on the American cities of Allentown and Youngstown, and another on networks of elites in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. This work will be broadened to create a cartography of the networks of actors who play key roles in the economic governance of four major, global cities in the Western world: Paris, London, New York, and Los Angeles. Using data on American metropolises, a significantly more detailed analysis of elites will shed light on this topic.

Regional belonging

Here, we will look at the notion of regional belonging – individuals identifying themselves with a region – as an element of economic coordination or perhaps as a factor that explains dysfunction in economic coordination at the regional level. The term “belonging” does not just describe a subjective and explicit feeling of belonging, but also identity traits shared by economic actors from a given region. This analysis will be further enriched by collecting objective indicators on the status and identity of actors from different regions.

Social movements

The third dimension of this research program consists of applying the notion of “social movements” to the network of organizations who participate in the economic governance of a region. The starting point will be that of actor-network theory, but the focus will be organizations and their interrelations. Much more than just a formal network analysis (now rather banal in sociology), our aim is to understand to what degree interactions between organizations succeed in creating shared dynamics for action, which could be seen as social movements, in the context of the region’s economic governance.

The researchers involved in the Regional Studies and Economic Development program are:
Sean Safford
Michael Storper

Research Programs