REMINDER, deadline for abstracts: Friday Feb 7th (


Call for Papers RGS-IBG Annual Conference September 1-4, 2020, London, U.K.



Rethinking institutions and institutional change in economic geography


Organizers: Huiwen Gong1, Johannes Glückler2, Robert Hassink1


1 Kiel University, Department of Geography, Kiel, Germany; email:

2 Heidelberg University, Institute of Geography, Heidelberg, Germany; email: <> 


Sponsored by the Economic Geography Research Group


Institutions are important socially constructed elements of the environment
of actors and their economic activities (Gertler, 2010, 2018; Martin, 2000).
Since they have a high degree of place-specificity, they are key in studying
any economic geographical phenomenon. However, despite the so-called
institutional turn in economic geography in the early 2000s (e.g. Martin,
2000; Amin, 2001), so far, little effort has been made in clarifying the
fundamental questions of institutions and institutional change (of both
formal and informal institutions). On a fundamental level, definitional
issues remain ambiguous in terms of institutional research in economic
geography. As Glückler and Lenz (2016: 256) rightly observe, “institutions
have hardly been unpacked from the black box of regional analysis”. On the
other hand, however, several research agendas for promising future research
on institutions have been suggested over the past decade (Gertler, 2010,
2018; Bathelt and Glückler, 2014; Gong and Hassink, 2019; Rodríguez-Pose,
2013; Martin and Sunley, 2015). These suggest research on individual agency,
institutional evolution, inter-scalar relations, comparative methodologies,
processes of institutional change and co-evolution of institutions with
industrial change, and the predictability of the path and direction of
institutional evolution. Moreover, recently suggestions have been made to
analyse institutional thickness in future empirical research (Zukauskaite et
al., 2017), and we see also potential for future research on institutional
voids in an economic geographical context (Mair and Marti, 2009). 


Against this backdrop, how can economic geography move beyond the consensus
of ‘institutions matter’ to further explore how and why they matter? The
overall aim of this session is, therefore, to rethink several critical
issues related to institutions and institutional change in economic
geography, as well as to present recent empirical work on institutions and
institutional change related to emerging topics, such as corruption, social
entrepreneurship, industrial path development, quality of government,
sustainability transition, de-growth etc. In particular, we welcome
submissions that deal with, but are not necessarily constrained to the
following topics:


*         What are institutions? How/why do institutions present themselves
distinctively in different regions? And how can we observe and measure them?

*         How do institutions change? How and why do regions differ in terms
of driving forces (exogenous vs. endogenous), speed (slow vs. rapid), key
actors (institutional entrepreneurs) and patterns (radical vs incremental)
with regard to institutional change?

*         What is the role of structure and agency in contributing to
institutional convergence and divergence at various spatial levels? What
kind of concepts are useful in articulating such structure-agency relations
in the process of institutional change (e.g., institutional flexibility,
adaptive capacity, strategic-relational approach)? 

*         How do we articulate institutional change from a multi-scalar
perspective?  What are the possible outcomes of inter-scalar institutional

*         How do institutions affect knowledge (re)production, innovation
and industrial path development, and ultimately lead to regional
disparities? What methodologies are promising for rigorously capturing such
impacts (qualitative vs. quantitative methods)?

*         To what extent does institutional thickness or thinness lead to
positive or negative effects on regional economic growth? How are
institutional voids filled in emerging and developing countries or in
emerging industries and do these ways of filling institutional void differ

*         How do institutional changes come about in many fields of the
current knowledge economy (e.g., platform economy, digitalization,
artificial intelligence) as well as the transformation to a more sustainable
society, and who contribute to such institutional changes (e.g., power,



Please send abstracts to  <> by Feb 7th 2020 (notification of abstract
acceptance: Feb 10th 2020)




Amin, A. (2001). Moving on: institutionalism in economic geography.
Environment and planning A, 33(7), 1237-1241.

Bathelt, H., & Glückler, J. (2014). Institutional change in economic
geography. Progress in Human Geography, 38(3), 340-363. 

Gertler, M. S. (2010). Rules of the game: The place of institutions in
regional economic change. Regional Studies, 44(1), 1-15.

Gertler, M. S. (2018). Institutions, geography, and economic life. In:
Clark, G. L., Feldman, M. P., Gertler, M. S., & Wójcik, D. (Eds.) The new
Oxford handbook of economic geography. Oxford University Press. 

Glückler, J., & Lenz, R. (2016). How institutions moderate the effectiveness
of regional policy: A framework and research agenda. Investigaciones
regionales: Journal of Regional Research, (36), 255-277.

Gong, H., & Hassink, R. (2019). Co-evolution in contemporary economic
geography: Towards a theoretical framework. Regional Studies, 53(9),

Martin, R. (2000). Institutional approaches in economic geography. In:
Sheppard E, Barnes T (eds) A Companion to Economic Geography. Vol. Oxford,
UK: Blackwell, pp. 77-94

Mair, J., & Marti, I. (2009). Entrepreneurship in and around institutional
voids: A case study from Bangladesh. Journal of Business Venturing, 24(5),

Martin, R., & Sunley, P. (2015). Towards a developmental turn in
evolutionary economic geography?. Regional Studies, 49(5), 712-732.

Rodríguez-Pose, A. (2013). Do institutions matter for regional development?.
Regional studies, 47(7), 1034-1047.

Zukauskaite, E., Trippl, M., & Plechero, M. (2017). Institutional thickness
revisited. Economic Geography, 93(4), 325-345.




Robert Hassink

Professor of Economic Geography

Dept. of Geography, Kiel University

Hermann-Rodewald-Str. 9

24098 Kiel, Germany

tel. 0049-431-880-2951

fax 0049-431-880-5290

e-mail:  <>



Visiting Professor in the School of Geography, Politics & Sociology (Centre
for Urban & Regional Development Studies (CURDS)), Newcastle University, UK



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