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Oligopoly, regional development and the political economy of separatism, with a case study of the United Kingdom and Scotland



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Rajic, Ivan 


The present thesis aims to increase our understanding of the causes of separatism. The inspiration for this topic comes from the fact that separatist conflicts can become extremely destructive, and thus a better understanding of why they emerge may help us prevent much human suffering by pointing to ways in which separatism can be avoided.

More specifically, the thesis aims to explain the link between separatism and regional development disparities. The argument presented is that inter-regional economic conflicts (such as about inter-regional fiscal redistribution) easily emerge between regions at different levels of development, and that under certain conditions, particularly prolonged recessions and austerity, such conflicts can become an important driver of separatist aspirations. This can happen in both poorer and richer regions. The thesis further argues that this entire process can only be fully understood if we analyse society through a class prism.

Given that regional development disparities often lie at the root of inter-regional economic conflicts, one of the ways of avoiding such conflicts – and thus also separatism – would be to equalize regional development levels. In order to do so, however, we first need to understand why regional disparities emerge and persist. Focusing on capitalist countries, the thesis argues that the disparities emerge as a natural consequence of the operation of oligopolistic markets, which are the dominant market form in capitalism. Regional development policies are explored at length, and it is argued that they are generally insufficient to overcome the tendency of markets to produce regional disparities.

All the topics in the thesis are explored at the general level and for a larger number of countries, but the main in-depth case study is of regional disparities in the United Kingdom and how they relate to Scottish separatism.




Chang, Ha-Joon


economic development, regional development, separatism, political economy, class, oligopoly, united kingdom, scotland, big firms, regional development policies, industrial decline, theory of the firm, nationalism, economic conflicts, identity


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Gates Cambridge Scholarship