Regional Cities From Perspective Of Local Places Cultural Studies Essay

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For an increasing number of people the daily life operates simultaneously at two scales - a superstructural scale (the Regional City) and a sub-structural scale (the local place). 'Local places' refer here, foremost, to smaller settlements and towns throughout a region, rather than subcentres and explicit parts of a metropolitan centre. A Regional City provides a framework that contributes to shape local places physically and socially, and, at the same time, the physical and social character of various local places build-up and constitute the Regional City. Hence, a Regional City is recognised as a product of interdependencies between the regional level and local places. However, the concept Regional City is not clearly defined and its characteristics are rather vague, especially due to difficulties to establish these interdependences; therefore it requires further theoretical interpretation. The aim of this paper is to contribute to a further understanding of the Regional City and its characteristics. The analysis of the Regional City is based on some assumptions, e.g. (i) its development is uneven due to tensions between social and regional interests, and, thus, local places within the regional city are asymmetrically reproduced and transformed; (ii) it is a social construction because it emerges from social practices, and, consequently it acknowledges a bottom up process in which the regional citizens play a key role; and (iii) it is individually perceived depending of how different activities are performed on both regional and local levels. These assumptions are discussed in the context of empirical observation from the Greater Stockholm Region (Mälardalen Region) in Sweden.

Introduction

The ongoing conceptual dissolution of urban and regional studies has challenged traditional understanding about cities' structure and how they relate to each other. Previously cities were conceived as complicated systems which were represented and explained in urban studies through two basic forms: the internal structure of cities (city is structured around central business districts) and the external relation of cities (organised as national urban systems) (Taylor & Lang, 2004). Nevertheless, these forms no longer correspond to the actual economic, political and societal development. Cities' structures and their relatioship shifted from complicated to complex systems.

Regional city is one of many labels that emerged to describe what has being going on in, between and over cities. Thus, this article is an attemp to set theoretical basis to support an interpretation of what the regional city is as well as to determine its pratical meaning. It is important to discuss how current economic, politic and technologic forces have been reshaping regions generating; thus, new spatialities. It also addresses the need to review the concept of scale which has been discussed given current changes, and, therefore, has influenced the understanding of territorialities such as place and space. This discussion aims at provide basis to analyse the regional city under an interactive (dialectical?? Too ambitious!!) framework between social and physical aspects. The 'glue' between both aspects is narrowed down to planning practices in different levels.

Technological innovations have allowed great flows of information, knowledge; money, etc. circulate across the world rapidly, contributing to intensify the ongoing, but previously slow, process of compression between time and space (Harvey, 1989). It has supported processes of economic decentralisation and globalisation enabling the emergence of new geographies where physical and political boundaries are no longer as important as before (Sassen, 1991; Castells, 1997). These shifts have contested usual concepts such as sovereignty, scale and territoriality (place and space??).

Regions used to be commonly understood as intermediate level between national and local scales. However, increasing mobility (physical and technological) and its resulting networks of flows affected the state-based logic placing regions as important 'unities' to compete in international markets (Paasi, 2002; references). It has lead to a complex network of state and non-state actors, which besides to share economic institutional governance also allow more direct interaction between global and local scales. Then regions can be seen as 'result of processes taking place at and across various scales' (Paasi, 2009).

It suggests that regions are arenas in which competing interests and discourses from different scales (international, national and local) meet, interact and influence each other. So, globalisation has generated 'proliferation of scales and scalar complexity rather than any simple replacement of national scales by a global scale of action' (Amin, 2002: 387). It raises questions about the essence (nature, being, constitution) of territoriality. Place and space usually are seen as separated and contradictory parts (in-here & out-there relations; intimate & intrusive; lived & abstract). However, this dichotomy should be defeated because both place and space coexist in the same territorial scalar dimension (local, regional, etc). Thus, both place and space are relational (Amin, 2002).

A topological and relational logic acknowledges 'a reading of spatiality in nonlinear, nonscalar terms, a readiness to accept geographies and temporalities as they are produced through practices and relations of different spatial stretch and duration' (Amin, 2002:389). It suggests that, size and hierarchy (level), which are properties of scale, are unable to depict the current state of art; the relational component is needed to understand complexity of interactions between different factors that reproduce and transform territorialities (places and spaces). It also suggests that territorialities are partially physical but, in fact, entirely relational because action is what actually configures territorialities in itself (Murdoch, 1998).

Places then might be seen as 'archives of personal spatial experience emerging from unique webs of situated life episodes. Place is thus not bound to any specific location but conceptualised from the perspective of personal and family/household histories and life stories. There is no necessary link between place and specific location (Paasi, 2002). This concepts partially fits in my analysis because it sets individuals as the main agents to configure territories, however, it doesn't consider in the same extend the collective arrangements of society (institutions) and the environment's structural characteristics. The theory of place as historically contingent process (Pred, 1984), which combines theory of structuration (Giddens, 1979, 1981) and time-geography (Pred 1981b), seems to be an interesting path to address this questions because it acknowledges 'institutional (planning and social collective forms of organisation) and individual (social) practice as well as the structural features (physical) with which those practices are associated' (Pred, 1984).

In spatial (morphological) terms the most representative example of rescaling regions is the establishment of the European Union which has its roots on international concerns in respect of global flows, trade and common political and economic development. Common market strategies aiming at counteract negative effects of globalisation and pledge competitiveness have impacted the European territory, which is conceived as 'the new dimension of European policy' (ESPD, 1999). Then, based on policentric morphological and political postulates, concepts such as cohesion, competitiveness and sustainability are translated to territorial polices, generating new spatialities such as the Functional Urban Areas (FUA's).

Functional Urban Areas frame the European space under a functional logic. Urban areas are clustered according to their competence to provide effective conditions to individuals, enterprises and communities to perform their activities. FUA's provide the European functional map that indicates the efficiency of the territory in terms of competitive and/or complementary advantages at the urban and regional level. It also recognizes global flows logic by allowing delimitation of functional areas over administrative boundaries. It is argued that it leads to a more rational and strategic planning and visioning (ESPON 1.1.1, 20xx). However it deals only with half of the problem. Even thought FUAs acknowledges dependence between global and regional scales it neglects the local perspective. It is top down process based on the geographical scalar logic and its determination is more quantitative than qualitative. Cities within region are considered as consumption and provision nodes but the social reproduction (institutional, political, cultural complexity) is disregarded.

It implies that individuals' ordinary lives are influenced by a number of competing regional frames, which reflect mainly economic interests guided by competitiveness. In this sense regional spatial policies could be seen as reaction to global market forces that is manifested in the regional landscape through improvements in infrastructures, especially accessibility (motorways, highways). A blind spot in this discussion is how the transformation on the regional level affects local places, in physical and social senses, e.g. regarding development of built structures and the social use of local environments and vice-versa.

The regional city emerges, then, as concept which aims at systematize and understand reciprocal production and reproduction between regional and local structures. For an increasing number of people the daily life operates simultaneously at two scales - a super-structural scale - the Regional City - and a sub-structural scale - the local place. 'Local places' refer here, to smaller settlements and towns throughout a region, rather than sub-centres and explicit parts of a metropolitan centre. A Regional City provides a framework that contributes to shape local places physically and socially, and, at the same time, the physical and social character of various local places build-up and constitute the Regional City. It is assumed that political decisions on national and regional levels expressed in regional planning goals and resulting in infrastructure investments, induce unintended and unknown effects on the local level.

Alterations of regional infrastructures can cause positive and/or negative impacts from the perspective of local places. It can strengthen the role of some places in the regional structure, but it can also threat the improvement in others, causing an unbalanced development in the region. The political aim to enhance 'functional regions', with larger job markets accessible to the population by means of better transport infrastructure, might have negative effects in some places whereas others will benefit from the development. One side effect of better transport facilities is that competition between different localities will increase, as a greater number of local places will come up for consideration when people and companies choose between possible locations. Another is that the amount of travelled kilometres per capita is likely to grow considerably. Thus, for example investments in new railways are not unambiguously good for a sustainable development.

Hence, the greatest motivation of this paper is address through the regional city's concept the planning

gap between institutions and individuals' daily life experiences. The analysis of the Regional City is based on some assumptions, e.g. (i) its development is uneven due to tensions between social and regional interests, and, thus, local places within the regional city are asymmetrically reproduced and transformed; (ii) it is a social construction because it emerges from social practices, and, consequently it acknowledges a bottom up process in which the regional citizens play a key role; and (iii) it is individually perceived depending of how different activities are performed on both regional and local levels.

Based on literature review these assumptions are explored and the first one is discussed in the context of empirical observation from the Greater Stockholm Region (Mälardalen Region) in Sweden.

Besides this introduction the paper is arranged in three more sections. Section 2 discusses the theory of place as historical contingent process and Agent Network Theory (ANT) as an alternative to build up the concpet 'regional city' in a perspective of urban and regional planning. Afterwards, Section 3 explores the three assumptions in which the 'regional city' concept is based on. An attempt to identify and explore the reasons why

in which the first assumption in the context of Mälardalen region . Finally Section 5 discusses the final results compared with the initial aims of the exercise.

Theoretical discussion

Regional development policies (3 questions)

Regional Planning Achiles heel: (i) equally and fair distribution of (ii) acknowledgement of bottom up processes (iii) Regions are individually perceived (???)

Equality and fair distribution: uneaven development.

Raco takes as background the British Planning System, especifically the sustainable communities plan, to discusses the role of the state in managing socioeconomic and environmental changes, taking into consideration aspects such as economic comptetitiveness, environmental limits, social justice, among others.

He claims that the agenda is in agreement with challenges in national, regional and local scale, but it has been constrained by the state's incapability in sustain its goals. The agenda comprises objectives such as territorial and social cohesion. Governments' undestanding of sustainable communities is strongly tied to economic competetiveness. In this sense spatial planning assume the role of '.... fixing imbalances and ordering space and place so that they become more functional, cohesive and competitive.' (Raco, p.218).

Planning co-production (state + stakeholders) has been influencing the state's boundaries and has lead to more participative and deliberative forms of involvment. In this context emerge two development philosophies that have been permeating spatial planning policy: new regionalism and spatial policy & social consumption.

The 'shared responsability' has lead to increasing competitiveness between regions which has polarizing instead of balancing the development, supporting growth in the most competitive regions. The new regionalism, in its turn, has lead to unsustainable social consumption in some regions due to, increasing prices (housing, infrastructure) and growing pressure on environmental resources. Then spatial policies provide infrastructures in order to mitigate these development pressures. Therefore, planning policies instead of being an instrument that enhance equality corroborate with the permanence of unequalities and capital accumulation. This dilemma raises discussion about the emerging trends such as governance, spatial planning policy and environmental change.

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