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find it useful as a direct causal factor. Undoubtedly, a city’s history and traditions influence the design of institutions and the behavior of political leaders. The difference between civic culture on one hand and institutions or behaviors on the other is that institutions and behaviors can be observed and measured. The role for civic culture is as antecedent, as background and context, not as quantifiable concept.

Even more troublesome in the Reese and Rosenfeld (2001) formulation of local civic culture is the word unique. In several places in the article, they refer to the “unique character” of a commu- nity, the “unique civic culture,” the “unique political and economic history.” If used in its true meaning—being the only one of its kind—then the Reese and Rosenfeld prescription has effec- tively quashed large N studies of local economic development. If civic culture is the explanatory variable and if each city’s civic culture is unique, then case study methodology is the only viable approach. Building a literature in local economic development would become an insurmountable task. Understanding economic development policy in Kansas cities, for example, becomes a 627- part story because each of the cities in Kansas has its own unique civic culture. A methodological morass awaits.

The fact that local economic development policy research to date has not eliminated uncertainty is no cause for alarm (see, e.g, King, Keohane, & Verba, 1994, on the positive role of uncertainty in social science research). After all, the local economic development milieu is dynamic and com- plex. What is cause for alarm is the notion that certainty rests in the unique civic culture of a community.


Buss, T. F. (2001). The effect of state tax incentives on economic growth and firm location decisions: An overview of the lit-

erature. Economic Development Quarterly, 15, 90-105. Clarke, S. E., & Gaile, G. L. (1998). The work of cities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Pagano, M. A., & Bowman, A. O’M. (1995). Cityscapes and capital: The politics of urban development. Baltimore: Johns

Hopkins University Press. Reese, L., & Rosenfeld, R. (2001). Yes, but

. . . : Questioning the conventional wisdom about economic development. Eco-

nomic Development Quarterly, 15, 299-312.


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