Britain's new industrial space? A case study of high technology Hertfordshire'

Henry, Nicholas David (1991). Britain's new industrial space? A case study of high technology Hertfordshire'. PhD thesis The Open University.



The suggestion is now widespread that fundamental changes within the advanced Western economies are part of the transition to a new era of capitalist development. The geographical repercussions of this change, the form of the new geography of production, has become the subject of much conjecture. The question has become one of explaining how the present period of economic restructuring is being translated into a period of spatial restructuring. A key element of such theories of change has been the "high technologies", defined both as a process of change and as the basis of new industries encapsulating new forms of production. Indeed, for the proponents of the New Industrial Spaces theory, the rise of "high technology" industry is the harbinger of structural change and its spatial development indicative of the new geography of production we may expect throughout North America and Western Europe (Scott and Storper, 1986; Scott, 1988a; 1988b).

This thesis outlines a theoretical and empirical investigation of the New Industrial Spaces theory, an investigation framed by the principal claim of the theory to explain the processes structuring the emergent geography of production. Firstly, a critique of this claim argues that whilst the explanation provided (based on transaction costs) is plausible, it rests upon a particular and deficient conceptualisation of the firm. Secondly, allowing for such reservations, it is argued that the explanation of the New Industrial Spaces' theorists has yet to be shown as empirically valid. Thus, in the search for this evidence, an empirical investigation of Britain's own prominent candidate for the title New Industrial Space, namely "high technology Hertfordshire", is undertaken. Whilst this empirical investigation provides evidence for the New Industrial Spaces theory, it also highlights the theory's failure to explain fully the growth of "high technology Hertfordshire". In contrast, the thesis develops an alternative conceptualisation of contemporary agglomerations of production.

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