Originally posted in Atlantic Cities blog (February 2013) as “Economy of Proximity”
When speaking of the Economy of Proximity, one refers to an activity which relies on the proximity between producers and consumers. But what specifically characterizes this proximity? The concept of proximity is usually associated with geographical distance and physical space. However, proximity is a more complex concept which refers to both the mathematical notion of space and the daily routines of the local inhabitants and the relationships between individuals in society. These multiple interpretations of the notion of proximity are also present in its application to a local area, and this diversity of content is highlighted by forms that identify ways in which this concept is set out.
Considering, for example, the relationship between producers and consumers, two types of proximity can be identified: geographic proximity (coupled with physical space) and organised proximity (social and relational.) Geographical proximity takes account of metric distance or time and the specificities of the local area to which it is applied. Organised proximity refers to the relational distance between two people in terms of the potential for coordination and can be defined as “the capacity for interaction which an organisation gives to its members.” (Rallet and Torre2004).Two people are said to be close when they have certain similarities, that is to say, they share a common representational system, which facilitates their ability to interact (Rallet and Torre 2004).
The term “Economy of Proximity” includes that which is produced locally, processed locally and consumed locally. Within this framework, production and the associated consumption must take place within a small area (ie. within a radius of several tens of kilometres).The term “local economy” refers to what is produced locally, but not necessarily consumed locally. So, an industrial process can be local but not represent the Economy of Proximity. For example, a canning plant that employs several hundred people in a local factory and sells canned goods throughout Europe is a player in the local economy but not in the Economy of Proximity. The local economy includes the Economy of Proximity but is not limited to it.
This definition was worked out by the ANATOLE project as an Argumentary for Local Representatives in favour of the Economy of Proximity.