Scientific and the professional communities working on local development are apparently in very good health: a regular flow of publications is coming out, meetings and public initiatives on topics under this label are well attended. There
are however, among professionals and students of local development, clear signs of discontent and frustration concerning both the performance of local systems (starting from industrial districts) and the results of institutional innovations (e.g. territorial pacts) that have recently characterized the Italian and European model of local governance. Economic performance and cooperative governance, once the strenghts of local government’s paradigm, are possibly becoming its weak points. Emerging responses take increasingly the form of neo-centralistic resort to the state, more rarely to Europe. Interesting innovations are however proposed, concerning both the economics of local systems (e.g. cluster policies) and their politics (e.g. new forms of concertation such as urban strategic planning). In order to evaluate both the coming crisis and its remedies, the author suggests more accuracy in the definition and use of concepts and analytical categories, and closer attention to the factors of organizational isomorphism.