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Regional science on the crossroads between theory and practice

MTA KRTK Regionális Kutatások Intézete
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  • Regional Science
  • Unequal Development
  • Perroux
  • Growth Poles
  • Innovative Milieu
  • Regionális Tudomány
  • Egyenlőtlen Fejlődés
  • Perroux
  • Fejlesztési Pólus
  • Innovatív Miliő
  • Economics
  • Political Science


The first part of the study examines some of the circumstances of the birth of regional science with its simultaneous emergence in North America and in countries which adapted the growth pole strategy advocated by François Perroux. After reviewing some main features dividing and uniting place-specific regional science, the author proceeds to review the formidable work of François Perroux, the inventor of “science régionale á la français” and his specific perception of the economy as a field that should be concerned with the full development of every human being on earth, including the poorest. The disputed success of growth poles and the succeeding euphoria concerning the establishment of science and technology parks (the “technopolis” concept) highlights some issues our societies are faced with, namely, that as a direct consequence of globalisation an ever diminishing part of the world’s population disposes of the resources vital for the wellbeing of any given society. The fruits of global linkages are reaped by the wealthy regions of rich countries, while poorer countries are confined to a state similar to that of colonies. The beneficiaries of centralised governmental policies have not been able to fulfil the promises of illusory and quite often unrealistic plans. Perroux’s idea was to remedy this situation via supranational redistribution and supranational growth poles. Moving on from initial growth theories of regional science, the incorporation of endogenous factors into regional development models emphasizes the fact that both the backwardness and catching-up capability of each individual area are determined by its ability to continuously adapt to processes and requirements imposed by global economic conditions. In this context, internal assets, entrepreneurial ability, organisation, history, culture and institutions are increasingly viewed as determining factors of local development. Due to the uneven distribution of the factors of production, the gap between individual countries, regions and urban areas is constantly increasing, and is most spectacular among subnational regional units. As a consequence, the most appropriate territorial framework for spatial development policies in countries characterised by an extremely high level of territorial fragmentation and heterogeneity is the subnational level, the region or the city, depending on scientists’ preferences. Regional science has introduced space into its investigation, abandoning the idea of a “spaceless wonderland” and, setting out from uniform-abstract space, has elaborated the concept of diversified-stylized space which is beginning to resemble real-life situations somewhat closer. The heterogeneous, open and unfinished nature of space has become accepted among scientists as opposed to a modernist conceptualisation of space where spatial disparities reflect the different phases of only one possible way, the one based on economic and technological development. The elaboration of ever more sophisticated models, however, might appeal only to a restricted group of experts without society reaping any immediate benefits or benefits visible to all. Does the social utility and practical relevance demanded from regional science pose a threat to its autonomy? The answer remains to be found in light of an interdisciplinary approach which should replace the idea of a hierarchy of the value of the various scientific disciplines.

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