Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Regional Learning between Variation and Convergence: The Concept of 'Mixed Land-Use' in Regional Spatial Planning in the Netherlands (*)

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Regional Learning between Variation and Convergence: The Concept of 'Mixed Land-Use' in Regional Spatial Planning in the Netherlands (*)

Article excerpt

The regional scale has come to play an important role in the discussion on learning in capitalist societies. Advocates of concepts such as 'Learning Regions' have even suggested that the region presents a highly appropriate level for organising learning processes (Florida 1995; Morgan 1997; Storper 1997). Other authors have questioned this strong notion of 'learning regions'. Oinas and Malecki (1999) argue that regions accommodate essential processes of interactive learning, but that the appropriate label for that should be 'regional learning' rather than 'learning region'. The term 'regional learning' indicates that while important processes of learning take place at the regional level, these processes do not hint at the region as a learning entity. It also allows for the manifestation of learning processes at other spatial levels. Regions may thus be presented as just one context of learning, embedded in wider networks of exchange and learning at national and international spatial levels.

Following this line of reasoning, the present paper strongly rejects the image of regions as a 'natural' site for learning. Roughly stated, the idea of a natural learning site emerges from the popular notion that crucial phenomena like 'tacit knowledge' and 'interactive learning', through dependence on factors such as 'social-cultural embeddedness' and 'proximity', have become strongly localised (Lagendijk 2001). The idea put forward here is that regions have not become learning sites through universal forces of localisation, but that they have been constructed as learning sites, supported by practices and discourses of localisanon. The reason for this construction is essentially political, that is, borne by the interests of powerful actors in promoting learning capabilities at a regional scale. So to understand the background of regional learning, important questions, besides the usual theme of learning what, are learning for whom and why (Hudson 1999). A related question is where the learning incentives co me from. Indeed, in many cases it is not just regional actors driving regional learning agendas. Often higher-level actors, such as national or international authorities use regions as a kind of 'laboratories' to experiment with new learning configurations, for purposes pertaining at the national or international level. Regional learning, in this perspective, is not a general, pre-given necessity, but presents a good opportunity to achieve specific goals.

An illustration of the constructed nature of regional learning is provided by the discourse on regional competitiveness. Much of the work on regional learning focuses narrowly on competitiveness and innovation. Less interest is paid to those aspects of social innovation and institutional dynamics that do not (fully) target innovation trajectories (Moulaert and Sekia 1999). Regional development is subdued largely to an 'economic finalite', cast by inescapable forces of globalisation and ever-increasing technological and industrial dynamics. On closer observation, the association of regional learning with innovation can be traced back to much less grand stories of change. Over the last decades, the position and role of regions has changed in many parts of the world because of a shift in regional policy from an orientation towards top-down redistribution to bottom-up growth-orientation. Change has also been induced by political processes of decentralisation and regionalisation (Keating 1998). This is the contex t in which much of the stories of, and interest in, regional competitiveness have emerged. For regional actors, stories of competitiveness based on regional learning matched their development ambitions, both economic and political. But also for actors at other spatial levels, national and international, images of bottom-up regional growth chimed with trends towards deregulation, decentralisation and the necessity to restrict policy intervention in national economies. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.