Clusters and benchmarks on the dynamics of nanoscience and nanotechnology
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Towards conceptual quality in regional studies: The need for subtle critique - A response to Markusen

Book or journal references : Regional Studies, vol. 37, pp. 719-727 (2003).

Author(s) : Lagendijk , A.

Abstract :

How should we respond to MARKUSEN's, 1999, challenge to address the problem of 'fuzzy concepts'? Following a constructionist perspective, this contribution adopts an interpretation of concepts as rhetorical devices that gain prominence through the way they are linked discursively to established concepts and empirical evidence. Conceptual quality, accordingly, depends on the academic practices and conventions that undergird the development of conceptual families and webs in a certain academic field. Applying these ideas to the lineage of regional innovation concepts reveals certain causes of conceptual weakness. For instance, conceptual development in this field strongly draws from ideas articulated in other ( sub) disciplines. While such 'borrowing' has certainly shed new light on questions of regional development, the translation of ideas and concepts appears to be often lacking in accuracy, especially within a longer-term perspective. Likewise, the invocation of empirical material tends to be rather crude. What is lacking, in particular, is an established practice of developing and reviewing more operational concepts (like typologies) that help to bridge the gap between 'grand' concepts and regional development in practice. This leads to the conclusion that conceptual quality requires more emphasis on 'subtle critique', that is, a careful and thoughtful reviewing of the relative value and significance of established and emerging concepts within one conceptual family. Whereas the field of regional studies has a strong tradition in 'grand critiques', i.e. strong discursive competition between conceptual families, it is 'subtle critique' that will improve its level of conceptual quality.

Keywords :

regional studies; scientific concepts; philosophy of science; innovation; social constructivism; spatial reification ECONOMIC-GEOGRAPHY; INNOVATION; POLICY; ACCUMULATION; INSTITUTIONS; KNOWLEDGE; RELEVANCE

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