Disentangling Porterian Clusters: or Philosophies of Similarity

Tue Jagtfelt

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the contemporary phenomenon of industrial clusters based on the work of Michael E. Porter, the central progenitor and promoter of the cluster notion. The dissertation pursues two central questions: 1) What is a cluster? and 2) How could Porter’s seemingly fuzzy, contested theory become so widely disseminated and applied as a normative and prescriptive strategy for economic development?
The dissertation traces the introduction of the cluster notion into the EU’s Lisbon Strategy and demonstrates how its inclusion originates from Porter’s colleagues: Professor Örjan Sölvell, Dr. Christian Ketels and Dr. Göran Lindqvist. Taking departure in Porter’s works and the cluster literature, the dissertations shows a considerable paradigmatic shift has occurred from the first edition of Nations to the present state of cluster cooperation. To elaborate on this change and the above questions, Porter’s sources of inspiration are charted and the British economist J.A. Hobson, who is very likely the source of Porter’s theoretical ideas, is acknowledged as the antecedent proper of cluster theory. It is additionally shown that Porter’s initial cluster notion was put forth prior to his membership on the Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, and that the cluster notion found in his influential book, Nations, represents a significant shift in his conception of cluster compared with his early conceptions. This shift, it is argued, is a deliberate attempt by Porter to create a paradigmatic textbook that follows Kuhn’s blueprint for scientific revolutions by instilling Nations with circular references and thus creating a local linguistic holism conceptualized through an encompassing notion of cluster. The dissertation concludes that the two research questions are philosophically intertwined and that Porter’s consciously paradigmatic textbook very likely gained worldwide influence due to two interrelated factors. The first factor is the deliberately holistic gestalt figure propounded in Nations, which prompted scientific communities to pursue cluster research; the second factor is that through the promulgation of Nations by Porter’s institutional context, i.e. by various scientific communities, the notion of cluster gained scientific repute and status, whereby the cluster notion in turn gained social acceptance and societal ascendance as an economic development strategy.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherRoskilde Universitet
Number of pages263
ISBN (Print)978-87-7349-800-2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2012

Cite this

Jagtfelt, T. (2012). Disentangling Porterian Clusters: or Philosophies of Similarity. Roskilde Universitet.