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Neil Argent, University of New England.

Topic: Entrepreneurialism, scale and the resilience of rural places: an evolutionary perspective

Keywords: resilience, evolutionary change, rural place, entrepreneurialism, geographical scale


The growing scholarly interest in the application of social-ecological systems thinking to broad sustainability issues has yielded up the equally popular notion of resilience. Although not always well-defined, resilience is commonly seen as a desirable characteristic of firms, institutions, communities and the like, and is increasingly seen as providing a valuable lens for rural social scientific research endeavour. Understanding the factors that contribute to or detract from resilience at the regional and local scales is, by and large, an empirical matter. Drawing on a larger project which is investigating the long-run social, economic and demographic trajectories of Australian rural communities from a combined evolutionary economic geography and staples theory perspective, this paper explores the role of entrepreneurial agents and institutional innovation in the building and maintenance of resilient if staples-dependent rural economies. Using a case study of Kangaroo Island (South Australia), I explore the parts played local farmer/entrepreneurs and extra-local institutions in re-creating markets for the Island’s comparative advantage: wool, meat and grain. In doing so, this process of ‘market making’ has allowed Island farmers to re-define their economic and social path (and place) dependence, providing the Island with some form of resilience to the major ‘shocks’ that frequently accompany natural resource dependence and reliance on export markets.

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