‘Capital’ cities:marketisation, governance and the demise of planning

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This paper examines the question of governance as a product of contemporary capital accumulation. Rather than focusing on formal arguments around governance (efficiency, civil society, democracy), a more radical approach is adopted in terms of governance as a strategy and means for opening up new areas and means for the circulation of private capital. In this sense all cities are ‘capital’ cities: cities of hegemonic capitalism. Theoretical analysis is developed at three levels: the macro-level involving the economic landscape following the 2008 financial crisis and the move towards greater central government intervention in regional and local affairs; the meso-level concerning political resistance and the legitimacy crisis; and the micro level concerning local reform and the debilitation of local government and planning. These issues are illustrated from experience in the Birmingham/West Midlands region in the UK. The impacts of the Scottish independence referendum and the re-emergence of English regionalism and the UK government’s response to them are examined. It is shown how the restructuring of the regional and local planning system, formally aimed at greater local autonomy and community participation, is producing new fields of conflict and a weakening of public powers and democratic institutions, including planning as guarantor of the public interest. Governance, it is argued, is failing to provide the sense of cohesion and collective well-being for which it is designed. Against this, planning, both theory and practice, requires a new sense of political direction and social responsibility.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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