Stadspolitik i Malmö. Politikens meningsskapande och materialitet.
In international research there is a near consensus that the importance of cities is growing. As the policymakers of contemporary cities redirect their policy orientations away from the goal of redistribution towards achieving economic competitiveness, and as they introduce new structures of governance, they are becoming more and more committed to entrepreneurial city politics. However, both the international and Nordic research communities have shown little interest in studying whether these trends are viable in a Nordic context. Thus, through a case study of the city of Malmö, this doctoral dissertation explores the introduction of entrepreneurial city politics in a Swedish setting. Malmö is a former flagship for the Social Democratic ‘welfare city’ and a city that now is undergoing a process of politico-economic transformation. Theoretically, the author develops a framework for the analysis of policy-making in general and how cities turn towards urban entrepreneurialism in particular. ‘The Lancaster School of Cultural Political Economy’ is applied and redeveloped through interpretative policy analysis, urban regime theory and the politics of scale approach. Taken together, these traditions represent the basis for the conceptualization of politics within the dissertation. The author proposes an understanding of politics as practiced through an interplay of discursive and material processes and beyond the processes traditionally associated with a narrow ‘government-based’ conceptualization of politics. A framework is constructed to analyze how discourses, such as the discourse on the necessity of cities being entrepreneurial, are translated into political practice through three different moments. The moments of ‘selection’, ‘actors mobilizing discourse-coalitions’ and ‘institutionalization’ structure the empirical analysis of city politics in Malmö. The author demonstrates how key actors create, mediate and translate the discourse on urban entrepreneurialism to fit the actual (previously welfare oriented) context of local government. Powerful coalitions of various actors are mobilized around three different ‘micro-discourses’ that materialize into institutional, organizational and political practice. As a result of the analysis, the author reveals six different technologies of institutionalization which actors employ and which are essential for the practice of entrepreneurial city politics in Malmö. The overall aim of the dissertation is to contribute to the on-going re-conceptualization of politics in general and local politics in particular. Political scientists tend to treat local politics as equal to ‘sub-national municipal politics’, i.e. as politics defined in relation to the central state, mainly concerned with service delivery and occurring within the formal decision-making processes of local government. In contrast, the author argues that we need to rethink local politics and that such a task of re-conceptualization is especially urgent in a Nordic context, where the idea of ‘municipal politics’ has functioned as “an iron-grip on political imagination”. In the final section the theoretical framework developed within the dissertation is proposed as one way of rethinking local politics. The author also discusses why the presence of entrepreneurial city politics challenges the traditional organization and orientation of local politics in Sweden. Conclusions are drawn regarding our understanding of politics in general and some remarks on a future research agenda centered on the cultural political economy of contemporary city politics are given.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; governance; urban regime theory; Cultural Political Economy; growth policies; local government; entrepreneurial cities; city politics; Local politics; urban politics; politics of scale; Sweden; Malmö
Date of Publication:01/01/2009