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School of Geography

Context and Aim of the Network

Tower in Leeds

As we face the worst financial and economic crisis in the last seventy years its devastating social and economic consequences are increasingly visible at the city-regional scale. The 1970s crisis was one of the main moments for neoliberal experiments at the national and global scale (Harvey, 2005; Peck, 2009) but now these neoliberal discourses are under scrutiny with regard to their capacity to deliver environmentally and socially sustainable development (Brenner et al, 2009) and once again the urban scale is emerging as a site for governance responses (Harvey, 2009; Marcuse, 2009; OECD, 2009).

The proponents of this network share with Brenner et al, 2010 that the current crisis presents an ideal analytical laboratory to explore four interrelated questions that feed into crucial current debates at the moment across geography, urban studies, political science, economy and planning studies:

  • Are the responses to the crisis at the urban level starting to configure a different kind of neoliberalism or indeed a post-neoliberal urban regime?
  • Are these responses taking a different and uneven shape across different geographical context or can we talk about a specific “European city” approach (Kazepov, 2004)?
  • How is the crisis impacting in the ongoing uneven rescaling of the state?
  • What theoretical and methodological tools are appropriate to capture the structural moments of capitalism, its institutional variations or alternatives across European city-regions, its discursive mediations and political agencies?

Following from these, the general aim of this project is to constitute a new network to investigate the economic recession as a source of new governmental rationalities and associated socio-spatial change at the city-regional scale across Europe.

The impacts of the crisis and therefore the network itself will go beyond the current particular time frame, modifying the way in which we theoretically and methodologically approach the study of capitalist urbanization processes. Theoretically, the current crisis gives leverage to those arguments that question the all-encompassing and unilateral nature of neoliberalism and methodologically it calls for a much more nuanced, situated and comparative approach. This network will contribute to these debates by building a post-disciplinary theoretical toolbox based around Cultural Political Economy perspective, that which emphasizes the important of selection, variation and retention of discourses and discursive practices in the coupling of regulation and governance (Jessop and Sum, 2006). We will see the “urban” as a “laboratory of conduct” (Osborne and Rose, 1999), exploring the social processes informing new urban imaginaries and scrutinising policy innovations that question previous dominant governance forms and practices (Barnett, 2001; Ponzini and Rossi, 2010; Rossi, 2009).

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