Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research

No 2023/14: Agency and Structure in Regional Development: In Search of a Social Science Research Programme

Markus Grillitsch () and Markku Sotarauta ()
Additional contact information
Markus Grillitsch: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden
Markku Sotarauta: Tampere University, Postal: Finland

Abstract: As a concept, agency stretches from philosophical and meta-theoretical elaborations to studies documenting largely idiosyncratic happenings in a particular empirical context, which could be dismissed as anecdotal. In between, and source for the recent revival of scholarly interest, lies the promise to explain transformation processes, multiplex governance, and varieties in wellbeing and development pathways, which are needed in a world overshadowed by crises. Have studies on agency and structure lived up to the promise? Only partly, we argue, and suggest that we need to develop a common ontological commitment as well as adequate mid-range theories and methods coherent with such a commitment. We suggest critical realism as backbone of such a common ontological commitment and discuss potential ways forward for a social science research programme with emancipatory potential, this is to say to contribute to our capabilities to make a difference in the world.

Keywords: Agency and structure; regional development; path development; critical realism; social science methodology

JEL-codes: R00; R10; R50

Language: English

20 pages, December 11, 2023

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