The place-based approach to local and regional development is a potentially significant emergent paradigm, which is finding favour across different supranational institutions, national-legal contexts, regional jurisdictions, as well as numerous other socio-spatial formations. With some strong affiliations to European policy discourse, place-based narratives have also permeated, mutated and circulated around other places and policy spaces throughout the globe. Consequently, it has been the subject of academic, policy and even popular debate. It is therefore timely to (re)appraise the thinking and practice of place-based approaches. This editorial introduces and outlines the body of empirical and conceptual work in the 19 contributions from across the world in this special issue of Local Economy. The articles, individually and collectively, indicate some of the potentialities of contextually distinct place-based approaches, although different (supposedly) place-based variants do not escape critique. This provokes a stark warning that the policy appeal of place-based thinking and place-based narratives could inadvertently nullify its emancipatory feature: that context of place matters.