Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 33 items for

  • Author or Editor: Jonathan S. Davies x
Clear All Modify Search

This article develops a distinct perspective on the continuities and contrasts between Thatcherite Conservatism and New Labour, interpreted through active citizenship policy. Revisiting Thatcherism, it argues that the roots of the New Labour approach to active citizenship can be traced to the late-Thatcher period. It explores six facets of New Labour's agenda, arguing in each case that there were affinities with Conservatism. These affinities further highlight continuities in the ‘social dimension’ of an ongoing hegemonic project, whose objective is to overcome the ‘weak citizenship’ characteristic of neoliberalism by mobilising citizen assent. Judged against this benchmark, the project may have had only limited success.

Restricted access
Governing Cities in the Crisis of Neoliberal Globalism

Leading governance theorist Jonathan S. Davies develops a rich comparative analysis of austerity governance and resistance in eight cities, to establish a conjunctural perspective on the rolling crises of neoliberal globalism.

Drawing on a major international study of eight cities, Davies employs Gramscian regime analysis to consider the consolidation, weakening and transformation of urban governance regimes through the age of austerity. He explores how urban governance shapes variations in austere neoliberalism, tackling themes including collaboration, dominance, resistance and counter-hegemony.

The book is a significant addition to thinking about how the era of austerity politics influences urban governance today, and the potential for alternative urban futures.

Restricted access

After this study commenced in 2015, Crouch’s (2011) conjunctural question concerning ‘the strange non-death of neoliberalism’, was answered, to a point, by overlapping waves of re-politicisation and reaction. The consideration of urban political (dis)orders problematises three momentous shifts concentrated in, but not limited to, Europe, North and South America: the rise of neo-reactionary forces, with an overtly neo-fascist right, the collapse of austerity-complicit social democratic parties in Europe, and the uneven, tentative, intermittent rise of a heterodox anti-austerity left including prominent anti-capitalist currents. Further episodes of re-normalisation in the previously dominant hegemonic project of neoliberal globalism – what Tariq Ali (2018) dubbed the ‘extreme centre’ – could occur, though even with the election of Joe Biden to the US Presidency, this seemed unlikely at the time of writing. On the contrary, global events continually add weight to May’s (2017) suggestion that political time is speeding up, and intervals between acute episodes of instability are diminishing. These eruptions are signs of a Gramscian interregnum, signalling the iterative breakdown of old regimes of hegemony-domination. This uneven process of disordering is contested by passive revolutionary forces to the right and far more tentative and transient forces to the radical left. However, as the discussion of Greater Dandenong in Chapter 5 illustrates, political contagion was not universal. It remains to be seen whether escalating conflicts and geo-political tensions, now exacerbated by COVID-19, will turn repeated political-economic and environmental crises into a poly-crisis of more general and globalised proportions.

Restricted access

The cities of Montréal, Nantes, Dandenong and Barcelona diverge in several ways from patterns of consolidation in austere neoliberalism discussed in Chapter 4. This chapter first discusses Montréal and Nantes, as two cases of established urban regimes dealing with policy failure and coming under strain from internal contradictions. The second part of the chapter explores Greater Dandenong and Barcelona, cities with very different political orientations and traditions, but where constructive regime building activities were occurring, respectively at a distance from and against austere neoliberalism.

Chapters 2 and 3 contextualised the discussion of regime politics in Montréal, explaining the policy of rigueur at the provincial level, measures to centralise political and administrative control and the economic development dilemmas facing the city in recent decades. The government of Québec is a regime agenda setter, in the dual sense of controlling key public service budgets and, through austerity measures, downloading problems to other actors in the statutory and third sectors (Hamel and Autin, 2017). Hamel and Keil (2020) emphasise that rigueur was not only about cuts, but a state restructuring project amounting to a revanchist attack on the collaborative, democratic and deliberative traditions of the city.

Between 2013 and 2017, the city of Montréal was governed by an electoral coalition, Équipe Denis Coderre, which took a pragmatic stance towards Couillard’s agenda.

Restricted access

In April 2009 soon-to-be British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that ‘the age of irresponsibility’ was ‘giving way to the age of austerity’.2 In his final budget as UK Labour Chancellor in 2010, Alistair Darling warned that repairing the damage to public finances done by the global economic crisis (GEC) would require ‘deeper and tougher’ cuts than even the Thatcher years (cited in Elliott, 2010). With these soundbites, austerity became the official bipartisan doctrine of the British political establishment, embraced by forces from the centre-left to the Tory right. The national austerity consensus was not seriously challenged in mainstream British politics until the election of democratic socialist, Jeremy Corbyn, to the leadership of the UK Labour Party in 2015. As it was in Britain, so it was across Europe and North America. ‘Age of austerity’ doctrines became ingrained in the politics of conservatives, liberals and social democratic pragmatists alike. More than a decade after the GEC, cities were still plagued with austerity, even as it lost traction in mainstream political discourse (Jordan, 2019).3 Its continuing legacies included municipal retrenchment, the evisceration of public welfare, coercive state rescaling and restructuring and pervasive neoliberal groupthink with its complement in corporate handouts and competitive urban growth strategies: the latter often from the realms of fantasy (Dean, 2014).

It is well-established that austerity targeted the worst-off (Meegan et al, 2014; Hastings et al, 2017), while elements of the middle class were also sucked into economic precarity (Blanco et al, 2020; Gaynor, 2020).

Restricted access

It is difficult to write with confidence about the political implications of COVID-19, only a few months into the Anglo-European phase of what could be a very prolonged and multi-faceted crisis, even if the immediate public health crises are resolved relatively quickly. As the preface explains, I decided against retrofitting the text, and for this reason terms populating the pre-COVID manuscript such as ‘socio-spatial distancing’ and ‘contagious’ have been left as they were, despite taking on very different and potentially upsetting meanings in the pandemic.

To echo the conclusions reached in Chapter 8, it does seem that for the time being the overtly austere and globalist faces of neoliberalism are in abeyance; now even more so (Standring and Davies, 2020). Corporate bailouts, crony contracts and other forms of ‘socialism for the rich’ show that powerful neoliberal forces persist, but as of Autumn 2020 austerity has given way to massive state spending and subsidies to workers that would not long ago have been deemed irresponsible, generative of moral turpitude, or even impossible. The ideologies of capitalist ‘globalisation’ are in tatters, while the virus poses no less of a challenge to left internationalism and the defence of global mobility rights. The signs, moreover, are that COVID-19 is unleashing economic and social crises that could dwarf those of the GEC. Struggles over the narration, management and resolution of those crises have the potential to be immense, prolonged and brutal, but also transformative. Those who see recession/depression as an opportunity to radicalise austere neoliberalism, particularly in its neo-reactionary and passive-revolutionary forms, remain well-positioned within the Euro-American states system.

Restricted access

Chapter 1 develops the framework through which urban political (dis)orders are explored in subsequent chapters. It begins by engaging debates about critical vantage-point: diagnosing the workings of capitalist power through critical political economy, privileging disruptive potentialities in acts of resistance, or considering power-resistance relationally. It advances a Gramscian approach to urban regime analysis, through which it pivots between perspectives, and explores the encounter between power and resistance in struggles over the normalisation, disruption and transformation of austere neoliberalism (Las Heras, 2019). The discussion is further framed by neo-Gramscian conjunctural analysis (Hall et al, 1978), which derives from Marxist thinking about the history and periodisation of capitalist development and phases of struggle. Conjunctural analysis was brought to renewed prominence in the urban field by Peck’s two-part essay positing an incipient phase of late entrepreneurialism (2017a, 2017b), which is allied to the broader thesis of an interregnum in the hegemony of neoliberal globalism (Stahl, 2019). The problem arising from this framing is how the dynamics of crisis, neoliberalisation, austerity and resistance play out in cities and constitute urban political (dis)orders, and what these in turn reveal about conjunctural continuity and change. The remaining chapters employ this perspective to explore empirical research in the eight cities.

The concept of urban political (dis)orders is positioned as a contribution to recent debates about the most fruitful way to approach critique and transformation. Means and ends blur, but two broad perspectives can be discerned, each drawing on a multiplicity of theoretical traditions.

Restricted access

This final chapter reflects on the question of governability, from the standpoint of the mooted interregnum in the hegemony of neoliberal globalism. It first recapitulates the positioning of each city in relation to austere neoliberalism and the urban political (dis)orderings disclosed by the research. The remainder of the chapter discusses five political-economic characteristics of the post-GEC conjuncture, interwoven unevenly through the eight case studies: pervasive economic rationalism(s) (Chapter 2), weakening hegemony (Chapters 4 and 5), the retreat to dominance (Chapters 3, 4 and 5), weak counter-hegemony and politicisation through radically contagious struggles (Chapters 6 and 7). The first three characteristics contribute to explaining the fate of ‘the collaborative moment’ in the age of austerity, and to reviewing the concept of late entrepreneurialism. The fourth and fifth characteristics, weak counter-hegemony and contagious politicisations, capture both powerful resistance dynamics and impediments to more decisive transformations. Weak counter-hegemony suggests that anti-austerity, anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist forces continue to encounter barriers and limitations prevalent in the 20 years since the Battle of Seattle (Bornstein, 2009), while politicisation dynamics, arising from and further weakening hegemony, are signified by combustibility and tendencies towards generalisation and internationalisation through nodal struggles against austerity.

It will not surprise readers familiar with the processual, variegated, hybridised and contested character of (de)neoliberalisation to learn that austerity is governed, resisted, averted, rejected and deflected in a multitude of ways that only reinforce the importance of urban research into multi-scalar governing configurations.

Restricted access

Theodore (2020: 2) argued that since the GEC, ‘austerity has become the primary means for the further neoliberalisation of inherited arrangements’: neoliberalisation upon earlier waves of neoliberalism. Chapter 2 delves into this proposition. It begins by exploring the impact of the GEC, and its aftermath, in the eight countries and cities studied. It proceeds to examine the interplay of key terms introduced in Chapter 1: crisis, austerity and neoliberalisation. The chapter allocates the cities to three groups: those in which austerity is recognised as a central concept or challenge and a warrant for neoliberalisation (Athens, Dublin and Leicester), those in which it is concealed or re-signified within an otherwise vigorous neoliberalisation agenda (Baltimore and Montréal), and those positioning themselves critically, at a distance or outside it (Barcelona, Dandenong and Nantes). The chapter concludes by discussing theoretical implications of convergence and divergence in the cross-cutting relationships between crisis, austerity and neoliberalisation.

Table 2.1 characterises the eight cities in relation to population, economic performance and political control in the 2015–18 period. As explained in the Introductory chapter, the statistics are imprecise and drawn from a range of sources, some more up to date than others. Athens is the capital of Greece, and the epicentre of European austerity. Baltimore is at the southern end of the mega-region stretching several hundred miles from Boston to Washington, DC in the USA. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and, in terms of size and stature, Spain’s second city.

Restricted access

Chapter 6 explored resistance from the perspective of its capacity to deplete the governability of austere neoliberalism, construct solidarities, incubate alternative political economies in local state and civil society, and channel particularistic grievances into a more generalised anti-neoliberal or anti-capitalist politics. From a Gramscian regime theoretical perspective, it focused on what organising resources forces opposing austere neoliberalism were able to mobilise, whether they act directly on the (local) state apparatus or capacitate and empower rebellious forces within civil society. This chapter returns to the problem of containment, de-mobilisation and fragmentation, dimensions of urban governance that mitigate against both antagonistic and constructive forms of resistance. This endeavour casts light on a number of issues: first, the means by which urban regimes contain and enclose resistance, and insulate themselves from potential impacts; second, the chilling and divisive effects of social partnership traditions; third, structural and institutional limitations on regime transition through new municipalism; and finally, the recuperative power of neoliberalising and reactionary forces, consolidated respectively through Syriza in Greece (Chapter 2) and Britain’s Conservatives in the struggle over Brexit.

The relative normalisation of austerity in Leicester was notable for having occurred in the context of a sustained national government offensive since 2010, leading to a deeply regressive restructuring of the local state (Chapters 3 and 4), and real-terms spending reductions potentially greater than those in any other city (Chapter 2). Even so, the experience of crisis and austerity was less sudden and dramatic than in Athens, Barcelona or Dublin.

Restricted access