Abstract: Communities of Interest: Cooperation and Trust in Three Industrial Communities: Providence, Birmingham, and the Black Country

Francesca Carnevali and Andrew Popp


De-industrialisation, a shrinking welfare state and, for economic historians, the questioning of the Chandlerian paradigm have emphasized the importance of social networks capable of generating cooperation and trust. Economists and sociologists have converged as they seek to understand the connections among social capital, networks, and economic growth. Cooperation, aligned with a focus on concepts of "community," is seen as generating positive externalities (such as trust) and reduced transaction costs. However, conceptualizations of "community" often allow for a limited range of interpretations: that community is dependent on high levels of internal homogeneity and that in most of the literature "community" is often methodologically prior to related, dependent factors. This paper reconstructs the history of three business communities in order to explore the relationship between entrepreneurs and community contexts. Our cases will explore situations in which community is not simply based in homogeneity and prior to business activity but is instead created through entrepreneurial actions. Our cases show a more complex relationship between community and entrepreneurship than is commonly assumed. They also demonstrate how specific communities are "layered" within wider communities, emphasizing the centrality of contingent contexts to outcomes.