Conceptualizing change in the Portuguese footwear industry: regional voices and cognitive spaces of agency
Nunes, R. (2011) Conceptualizing change in the Portuguese footwear industry: regional voices and cognitive spaces of agency. PhD thesis, University College London.
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Expanding national services sectors and global competition aggravate current and perceived future market pressures on traditional manufacturing industries. These perceptions of change have provoked a growing intensification of geo-political discourses on technological innovation and ‘learning’, and calls for competency in design among other professional skills. However, these political discourses on innovation and learning have paralleled public concerns with the apparent ‘growth pains’ from factory closures and subsequent increases in unemployment, and its debilitating social and economic implications for local and regional development. In this respect the following investigation sets out to conceptualize change through the complementary and differing perceptions of industry and regional actors’ experiences or narratives, linking these perceptions to their structure-determined spheres of agent-environment interactivity. It aims to determine whether agents’ differing perceptions of industry transformation can have a role in the legitimization of their interests in, and in sustaining their organizational influence over the process of industry-regional transformation. It argues that industry and regional agent perceptions are among the cognitive aspects of agent-environment interactivity that permeate agency. It stresses agents’ ability to reason and manipulate their work environments to preserve their self-regulating interests in, and task representative influence over the multi-jurisdictional space of industry-regional transformation. The contributions of this investigation suggest that agents’ varied perceptions of industry and regional change inform or compete for influence over the redirection of regional, industry and business strategies. This claim offers a greater appreciation for the reflexive and complex institutional dimensions of industry planning and development, and the political responsibility to socially just forms of regional development. It positions the outcomes of this investigation at the nexus of intensifying geo-political discourses on the efficiency and equity of territorial development in Europe.