Regional Advantage by AnnaLee Saxenian
  • Title: Regional Advantage
  • Subtitle: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, With a New Preface by the Author
  • Author(s): AnnaLee Saxenian, American Council of Learned Societies
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Year: 1996-03
  • ISBN-10: 0674753402
  • ISBN-13: 9780674753402


In “Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128,” AnnaLee Saxenian delves into a comparative analysis of two prominent regions in the United States: Silicon Valley in California and Route 128 in Massachusetts. Saxenian explores how the different cultures and organizational structures in these regions have shaped their respective approaches to innovation and economic growth.

Silicon Valley and Route 128, both known for their concentration of high-tech industries, have followed contrasting paths in terms of development. Saxenian argues that Silicon Valley’s collaborative and open culture, characterized by information sharing and networking, has fueled its success in the technology sector. In contrast, Route 128’s hierarchical and secretive culture led to a decline in the region’s ability to adapt and innovate. Saxenian provides historical context, drawing on interviews and case studies to support her assertion that culture plays a crucial role in the success or failure of these regional economies. Through “Regional Advantage,” Saxenian offers valuable insights into the complex relationship between culture, competition, and economic growth in the high-tech industry.

Book Review

“Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128” by AnnaLee Saxenian is a comprehensive examination of the socio-cultural factors that shape regional economies and innovation. In this insightful book, Saxenian compares and contrasts two influential high-tech regions in the United States: Silicon Valley in California and Route 128 in Massachusetts. Through detailed analysis and compelling examples, Saxenian convincingly argues that cultural differences play a vital role in determining regional success or failure in the tech industry.

One of the book’s central arguments is that Silicon Valley’s success can be attributed to its collaborative, open, and information-sharing culture. Saxenian illustrates this by highlighting the formation of informal networks and social ties among individuals and companies in the Valley. These networks, Saxenian argues, facilitate the circulation of ideas, spark entrepreneurship, and foster innovation. The author supports her claims with interviews and case studies, such as the story of Bob Taylor, who exemplifies the spirit of collaboration in Silicon Valley. Despite being a researcher at Xerox PARC, a competitor to many Silicon Valley companies, Taylor willingly shared his knowledge and ideas, leading to groundbreaking innovations such as the graphical user interface.

Contrasting Silicon Valley with Route 128, Saxenian reveals how a more hierarchical and secretive culture hindered the latter’s ability to adapt and innovate. The author draws on the contrasting organizational cultures of these regions to demonstrate how different approaches to knowledge sharing and collaboration affect long-term economic growth. In Route 128, companies prioritized secrecy and guarded information, which limited the free flow of ideas and hindered knowledge spillovers. Saxenian supports her argument with examples such as the reluctance of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to collaborate with other companies, even when they faced significant challenges. This contrast is illustrated further through anecdotes about Silicon Valley’s more inclusive culture, where collaborative actions and cross-company cooperation were the norm.

Throughout the book, Saxenian provides a nuanced historical analysis, addressing the origins and evolution of these regions and the way their cultural dynamics have influenced their respective paths. She considers not only the role of individual companies but also the contribution of universities, government policies, and immigrant communities. Saxenian explains how the diversity and mobility of talent in Silicon Valley, fueled by immigration from around the world, have been instrumental in its success. By exploring the impact of Chinese and Indian immigrants in the region, the author presents a compelling case for how cultural diversity amplifies a region’s innovative capacity.

“Regional Advantage” offers a meticulous examination of the interplay between culture and economic growth within the high-tech industry. Saxenian effectively combines historical research, interviews, and case studies to support her arguments and provides readers with profound insights into the role of culture in regional innovation. Her clear and engaging writing style, coupled with the wealth of evidence she presents, makes this book an indispensable resource for anyone interested in understanding the factors that contribute to the success of regional economies in the modern era.

Word Count: 491

Target Audience

The book “Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128” by AnnaLee Saxenian is targeted at a diverse audience interested in regional economies, innovation, and the cultural factors that shape them. The book is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Entrepreneurs and Innovators Saxenian’s exploration of Silicon Valley and Route 128 provides valuable insights into the cultural dynamics that foster innovation and economic growth. Start-up founders and innovators can gain a deep understanding of the importance of collaboration, information sharing, and networking, which are essential for creating successful regional innovation clusters.

  • Policy Makers and Government Officials For those involved in shaping economic policies and strategies, “Regional Advantage” offers critical insights into the role of cultural factors in driving economic development. Saxenian’s findings can inform policy decisions related to fostering innovation, building regional networks, and attracting talent to promote economic growth.

  • Researchers and Academics Scholars and researchers interested in the dynamics of regional economies, culture, and innovation will find “Regional Advantage” to be a valuable resource. Saxenian draws on extensive data, interviews, and case studies to support her arguments, providing a rich foundation for further academic exploration and analysis.

  • Economic Development Professionals Professionals involved in regional economic development initiatives can gain valuable perspectives from Saxenian’s research. By understanding the influence of cultural factors on innovation and growth, they can devise strategies to enhance collaboration, foster regional networks, and leverage the strengths of their local ecosystems.

In conclusion, “Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128” is recommended reading as it offers a comprehensive analysis of the cultural dynamics shaping regional economies. It provides valuable insights for entrepreneurs, policy makers, scholars, and economic development professionals seeking to understand the critical role of culture in fostering innovation and competitiveness. Saxenian’s research and evidence-based arguments make this book an essential resource for anyone interested in regional economies and their long-term growth.