Philipp Brandt, Josh Whitford
Fixing network failures? The contested case of the American Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Socio-Economic Review, 2017: 15, issue 2, pp. 331-357
ISSN: 1475-1461 (print); 1475-147X (online)

The article uses a case study of the American Manufacturing Extension Partnership to explore economic and industrial policy in the contemporary USA. Extensive quantitative and qualitative data are mobilized to show that: (a) the agency is pressured politically to limit its activities to ‘blunt’ remedies for identifiable ‘market failures’; even as (b) regional centers in fact often orient also, and sometimes instead, toward ‘coordination-oriented’ policies to mitigate ‘network failures’; and (c) these latter generate better results, on average, for client manufacturers. The findings challenge neo-institutional claims that economic policies are most effective only when complementary to the dominant institutional coordinating capacities embedded in the existing American political economy, or when they have the exceptional support of the American security establishment. They are, however, consistent with an alternative neo-Polanyian approach that explains when and how street-level policymakers dispersed across American federalism sometimes sidestep the ideological hegemony of ‘market fundamentalism’.