ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY / November 2001
have built-in limitations and may, if unchecked, contain the seeds of their own destruction (Stone, 1998, pp. 10-12). What are the alternative foundations on which civic cooperation can be built? At this stage, we know too little about the answer to that question. A refined and carefully bounded concept of civic culture might contribute to that answer. But if wisdom is to advance very far, we need more than a catchall notion of habitus and civic culture. And we need a conception of civic culture that is hospitable to human agency as a force for change, not a conception that can explain only continuity or that assumes culture causes policy without considering how change occurs.
A final caution is worth considering. Though there are advantages to looking at a single policy area, as Reese and Rosenfeld (2001) have done, it would also be helpful to know how economic development fits into a locality’s overall set of priorities and relates to other areas of policy and pol- itics (see, e.g., Ramsay, 1996). For political economy reasons, business development has a founda- tion for claiming a central position in a community’s agenda but moves to promote business development occupy only a narrow band of policy space. If researchers look only at variations in approach to economic development policy, then the economic imperative from which pursuit of business investment emanates doesn’t show up very clearly—and neither does how economic development is balanced against other considerations. In a sense, we would be looking only at vari- ation within a policy category, not at mixes of policy that extend across categories. It is important to think about our frame of reference in looking at variation. If attention focuses only on factors influ- encing variations in development policy—not on the fact that there is such a policy—then we should be cautious about downplaying the economy. The structural force of the political economy has not been fully examined.
In undertaking our studies, there are trade-offs we must always make, but without a wider research lens than economic development policy conventionally understood, scholars are not well positioned to weigh the force of capitalism as an economic structure, see its full impact, and appre- ciate the challenge in modifying its workings. The particulars of the locality loom large, and espe- cially if policy is viewed only at one slice in time, these situational and cultural particulars may seem to be prime causes. A wider slice of time and a broader consideration of the community agenda might bring a different set of questions to the forefront and perhaps even suggest a greater, even if constrained, role for human agency.
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