Change agency in (old) industrial regions : Shaping new futures

Sammanfattning: The aim of the dissertation is to develop a better understanding of the role of local agency in the transformation of old industrial regions. Theoretically the dissertation builds on concepts which are important in the debate on regional development in old industrial regions such as path dependency, negative lock-ins, the role of institutions, and new path development, while exploring and unpacking the role of agency. Old industrial regions are studied using a dynamic and process-oriented approach. Together with detailed, longitudinal case studies, it enhances our understanding of when, why and by whom agency is used in new path development. This challenges the assumption that old industrial regions are static, without any large variations, and that their fate is pre-determined. Empirically, the dissertation investigates agency expressions and regional development in three traditional Swedish industrial regions (Borås, Kiruna, and Olofström) which have suffered from decline and structural crisis. Different types of development and industries are under scrutiny, and the dissertation offers valuable methodological insights into the study of agency. Old industrial regions are structurally constrained and locked-in. Nevertheless, the dissertation finds that new path development is possible in heavily constrained regions. Furthermore, it finds that local actors use their agency in every part of industrial development, and use both local and non-local resources. The dissertation distinguishes between change agency and reproductive agency, which work in tandem. Change agency is important for developing new products, perceiving new futures, and bringing local actors together and, thus, is mainly used in initial stages of path development, whereas reproductive agency is used to stabilise later phases. Change agency can initiate institutional changes, which can pave the way for further change agency. Furthermore, the dissertation nuances our understanding of reproductive agency by showing that, reproductive behaviour can also be the result of a lack of perceived agency or the enforcement of a continued power asymmetry. When no agency is perceived, change agency becomes impossible.