Continuity and Change : Essays on path-dependence in economic geography and good food
Abstract: How can it be, that in our rapidly changing world certain things remain recognisably the same for such a long time? This dissertation is concerned with the economic geography of path-dependence and seeks to explain selected everyday examples of continuity and change. How can French restaurants and chefs be successful for decades despite changes in taste? Why are cars powered by fossil fuels still around while there are many novel and cleaner alternatives? What explains the re-invention of local food products in spite of the influx of many new products from around the world? These are the question this dissertation tries to explain as spatial expressions of ‘path-dependence’.The first paper tries to understand how expert opinion in the restaurant industry is able to define success in the long run, whereas the second paper progressively focusses down to the level of chefs and asks whether talent, popularity of experience matters more for individual chefs. Combined, these papers address the interrelation between the labels of continuity defined by experts on the one hand versus the changing behaviour of chefs trying to become superstars on the other. The third paper aims to unpack an example of labelling categories by exploring the interrelatedness of technological designs in the car-industry. The fourth and final paper also ventures into labelling as it seeks to answer the question why labels of Geographical Indications are unevenly distributed across Europe?Each paper uses quantitative methods based on everyday data, such as the Michelin guide, biographies, patent data and applications for food labels. The statistical analyses reveal that the success of restaurants is mainly built on localized continuities and proximity, while the individual success of French chefs is primarily built on developing popularity over time. The patent portfolios of car manufacturers show that conventional and hybrid technologies are more central to vehicle design, suggesting there clean alternatives are not really on the agenda. Likewise, the uneven distribution of food labels over Europe is also characterised by a strong dependence on success in the past and continuing support of national governments.The overall conclusion this dissertation draws is that spatial interaction is more important than locational characteristics. Those interactions can often span only a limited distance, meaning that gradual changes are favoured over radical changes. Path-dependence is shown to have many spatial references that are often embedded in localized contexts to such a degree that a more generic theory of path-dependence seems a long way ahead.
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