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Continuity and Contingency in the Spatial Evolution of Industries: The Case of Petrochemicals

Keith Chapman
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Vol. 17, No. 1 (1992), pp. 47-64
DOI: 10.2307/622636
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/622636
Page Count: 18
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Continuity and Contingency in the Spatial Evolution of Industries: The Case of Petrochemicals
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Abstract

Various attempts have been made to identify similarities in the long term spatial evolution of industries. Systematic changes in both the technology of production and in the dynamics of market development have been incorporated in life cycle models. Others have criticised the determinism of such models, emphasizing their tendency to over-generalize from limited empirical evidence and to neglect the impact of contingent conditions in shaping observed patterns of development. These positions are explored with reference to the spatial evolution of the petrochemical industry at national and international scales. Many of the changes in its distribution reflect the operation of evolutionary processes consistent with the life cycle analogy, especially those relating to the development of markets. Other influences, such as the oil price shocks, have been essentially unpredictable, creating discontinuities which have disrupted the life cycle of the industry. On balance, the life cycle analogy is useful in identifying the internal dynamics of industry evolution based upon technical and economic variables, but many external factors, often political in character, cannot be accommodated within this framework.

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