GaWC Research Bulletin 87

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This Research Bulletin has been published in Journal of Urban Affairs, 24 (4), (2002), 377-401.


Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


A World of Regionalisms? Towards a US-UK Urban and Regional Policy Framework Comparison

A.E.G. Jonas* and K.G. Ward**


In the last 30 years there have been a number of changes in the political and economic contexts in which urban and regional policy is delivered in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). In both countries understandings of the 'urban' (in urban policy) have crystallised around the notion of the competitive city-region. This shift has tended to be accompanied by the emergence of a policy discourse, in which city-regions are inserted into a wider space-economy characterized by intense global pressures and inter-regional competition. Yet despite this apparent international convergence of policy, national differences remain important in informing urban and regional policy debates and institutional frameworks in the USA and UK. In the UK, new urban policy discourse and strategy has focused on an urban-centered competitive regionalism, a process further conditioned by the devolution agenda of the Labour Government. In the US, the new urban policy takes material and discursive form as a suburban--oriented competitive regionalism, with institutional developments focused at the metropolitan and regional scales attempting to overcome governance and policy dilemmas associated with suburbanization and metropolitan political fragmentation. Despite the appearance of policy convergence around competitive regionalism, then, we draw on examples from the North West of England and Southern California to note the continuing significance of national and sub-national differences in actual existing institutional and political developments at the urban and regional scales. In light of these differences we argue that comparative analyses of new urban and regional policy frameworks need to recognize the role of the politics of space in shaping a 'world of regionalisms.'


History is replete with examples of the international exchange of social and economic policies. Such exchange between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) has sometimes been no more than a superficial transfer of policy ideas, while at other times the very logic of policy design has been dis-embedded from one national context and re-embedded in the other. In particular, the 1980s were witness to an importing into the UK of US-style partnership models of urban development, the logic of business being involved in urban politics and governance arrangements, and the treatment of urban places as marketable commodities (Jessop, 1998). More recently, a very superficial transfer from the US to the UK has taken place around welfare reform, even if the UK Labour Government continues to shy away from the hard workfare line adopted by Federal and State levels of government in the US (Peck, 1998, 2001). These developments have been framed by the post-ideological 'third way' acceptance of the logic of globalization, a belief in competitive advantages secured under market forces, and the retreat from central government control into more 'flexible' and localized institutional arrangements. In both countries, the urban policy debate has become absorbed into international neo-liberal policy narrative (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 2001), which in turn is re-shaping academic and policy representations of the role of cities and regions in the wider space economy (Brenner and Theodore, 2002).

The flow from the US into the UK of 'soft' urban policy frameworks reached something of a climax under the various Conservative governments of the 1980s. North American models of urban redevelopment, based on property-led public-private regeneration partnerships, were applied in British cities, most notably and controversially in the London Docklands area as well as in other major urban centers like Manchester and Leeds (Imrie and Thomas, 1999). Often paying no more than lip service to the underlying principles and surrounding contexts of US urban policy, successive UK Environment Ministers invoked the language of 'entrepreneurialism' and 'partnership' in order to mask their systematic restructuring of the British state. UK urban regeneration policy removed key functions from local government as part of a dual strategy to centralize regulatory and fiscal control and displace local responsibility to quasi-public institutions such as Training Enterprise Councils (TECs) and Urban Development Corporations (UDCs). One of the consequences of the superficial nature of this international policy transfer was that high-profile property-driven redevelopment projects and business-led regeneration partnerships proved politically unsustainable in the UK. While remnants of this model remain in place in British cities, more recent urban initiatives have tended to focus on community-led regeneration. In the meantime, the debate about the future of British cities is being transformed by new institutional developments at the regional scale associated with the Labour Government's devolution program and the increasing 'Europeanization' of urban and regional policy (Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, 2000; Leitner and Sheppard, 1999; Haughton, 1999). In this context, there is an appearance of convergence of urban and regional policy in the UK around the idea of competitive city-regions, a trend that works in parallel to an emerging US policy debate about linking the future of cities and suburbs to competitive regionalism.

Superficially at least then the institutional context which has emerged in the last few decades, and in which urban and regional policy is delivered in the US and UK, has converged. In this paper we focus on three inter-related dimensions to this convergence: the use of 'globalization' in the policy discourse as a reference to changes in the spatial context for 'urban policy', the growth in the notion of city-region 'governance' to capture the role of non-state organizations such as business and community groups in regulating regeneration across cities and regions, and the (re)emergence of the concept of the 'city-region' to reflect efforts to construct new spatial scales at which existing local, metropolitan and regional interests can be brought together. At the same time, we want to establish a framework for understanding key differences within and between the two national policy contexts so as to emphasize a politics of space in shaping urban and regional developments. In both countries, post-Second World War corporatist forms of territorial policy play key roles in macro-economic and social management, but more recently the emphasis on the 'urban' (US) and the 'regional' (UK) as particular spaces for national policy intervention has been downplayed. In the US, urban policy sought to redress territorial-redistributional problems in central cities and between local jurisdictions within metropolitan areas (Albrechts et al, 1989; Danielson, 1971; Florida and Jonas, 1991; Gaffikin and Warf, 1993; Newton, 1978; Roberts, 1989; Young and Kramer, 1978). In Britain, regional policy has in the past been the primary mechanism of territorial redistribution and the politics of central cities versus suburbs has not been as intense as it has been in the US.

The 1980s saw a move towards post-Keynesian forms of macro-economic regulation and the replacement of urban and regional policies by more interventionist styles of economic governance on both sides of the Atlantic (Swanstrom, 1996). These developments can be understood as part of wider attempts to establish new regulatory arrangements and rules and to introduce new state policies to create the institutional basis for a new phase of wealth creation in both countries. An important, yet so far neglected dimension of this new era of institutional development, has been the recent revival of an urban policy debate if not of policy itself, alongside the development of new institutional frameworks at the urban and regional scales. Associated with this has been in the UK and the US the re-focusing of understandings of territorial policy around a concept of competitive city-regionalism, alongside a tendency to frame these understandings in relation to globalization and governance (Rondinelli et al, 1998). In the context of this broad convergence of institutions and policies around the notion of the competitive city-region the new spatial policy discourse is grounded in, and combines with, two quite different national political-institutional contexts, so that the form of governance and institutional development within particular city-regions continues to incorporate a nationally-specific politics of space.

The aim of this paper is to establish a framework for examining the ways in which the new urban policy debate highlights important differences in the politics of space in the US and UK. In the UK, policy discourse and strategy has focused on an urban-centered competitive regionalism, a process further conditioned by the devolution agenda of the Labour Government. In the US, the new urban policy discourse takes material form as a suburban--oriented competitive regionalism, with institutional developments at the regional and metropolitan scales attempting to overcome governance and policy dilemmas associated with suburbanization and metropolitan political fragmentation. Despite an apparent international policy convergence around competitive regionalism, we draw on examples from the North West of England and Southern California to note the continuing significance of national differences in actual existing institutional and political developments at the urban and regional scales. In light of these differences we argue that comparative analyses of new spatial policy frameworks need to recognize a politics of space in shaping a 'world of regionalisms.'


Both the US and the UK have long histories of sub-national institution building. Our emphasis is on the differences between the two countries in terms of the role of the politics of space in shaping territorial (urban and regional) policy. In the US, there is a rich and illuminating series of studies on the relationship between city and the suburbs, on the contested nature of locational politics and on issues of land use and planning legislation, which suggest that the 'urban' has occupied a prominent role in matters of territorial redistribution (Dear and Long, 1978; Dye et al, 1971; Harvey 1978; Williams and Eklund 1978). Newton (1969, 1978: 77-78) has argued that the fragmented nature of US urban and metropolitan politics distinguishes it from its equivalents in Europe. He argues that the poorly developed nature of US political systems, relatively low levels of political participation and the absence of a socialist alternative lie behind, but also stem from, the successes of US urban government in suppressing overt political conflict. As the suburbs grew during the early to mid twentieth century, and US cities increasingly became sites of widespread and deepening economic and social inequalities, so issues of exclusion and of what Danielson (1976) termed the emergence of 'the separated society' became the subject of heated political debate and of analysis. The unequal distributional effect of the political separation of the city and suburb was at the core of this work (Danielson 1971; 1976; Danielson et al, 1976; Downs, 1973). In this context, post-war US urban policy incorporated a powerful territorial politics centered upon the reorganization of metropolitan government. Whereas groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) focused on how reorganization could address problems of 'racial' and class segregation in the American metropolis, other national organizations such as the Committee for Economic Development (CED) tended to focus on the economic and infrastructural advantages of metropolitan political reform (CED, 1970). In the 1960s and 1970s, the availability of Federal monies for area-wide governance and administration encouraged public authorities in cities throughout the US to set up regional councils of government and metropolitan planning agencies, albeit such arrangements frequently had very limited formal powers at least in relation to their member 'sovereign' local jurisdictions.

While attention in the US has been on the metropolitan scale and its politics of redistribution, in the UK there has not been the same level of debate over the city and the suburbs, although distributional dispute underscored early sub-national development politics. Rather, post-Second World War UK regional policy-making has accompanied a fragmenting of the sub-national political sphere. Although land-use debates have their origins in the formation of the suburbs of London at the beginning of the twentieth century (Young and Kramer 1978: 232-233), it is only since the 1950s that the lines upon which these conflicts have been fought out have become sharpened. Regional policy intervention, as part of the efforts under the Keynesian Welfare State (KWS), addressed social inequalities through the redistribution of taxes (Martin, 1989). In addition, depressed area policies served to redress territorial-distributional problems associated with the uneven development of the UK economy. There were other national programs that were ostensibly 'urban' in form such as the allocation of funds for public housing and the construction of New Towns but by-in-large up to the 1980s a strong tradition grew of regional policy in the UK, aimed at stimulating regional economic growth through demand-side intervention. For the most part, sub-regional politics were fought out over these issues of distribution.

In both the US and the UK there has been a tradition of spatial policy around distributional concerns, but at the same time there has been a marked divergence in the ways in which such policy has been shaped by the politics of space. Where policy transfer occurred it was partial, involving information exchange between academics and practitioners of metropolitan and regional planning (see, e.g., Senior, 1966); it occurred in altogether different political contexts, in which for the most part innovations in economic and social policy originated from within nations. Most recently however policy transfer has gone transatlantic, as debates about territorial policy have seemingly undergone a remarkable metamorphosis in recent years. Three discursive elements of this change attract our current interest.

First, and unlike in previous eras, it is now almost axiomatic to situate urban and regional policy and politics in relation to a context of globalization (Horan, 1991). Cox (1991; 1993) associates this development in the literature (insofar as far is it refers to the politics of urban development) as the rise of the 'new urban politics.' A key change here has been the way in which city development policy and politics is to be understood in relation to the pressures created by inter-regional capital mobility and the new global economy. This has been contrasted to the emphasis of 'pre-globalization' urban theories including (in the US) community power analysis, the city-as-a-growth machine thesis (Molotch, 1976; 1999) and urban regime theory (Stone, 1993), or (in the UK) urban managerialism and analyses of the (urban) politics of collective consumption (Cochrane, 1999). As a result of this emphasis on policy and capital flows between nations there appears to be less emphasis now on framing urban policy and politics within a specifically national context. In the US, for instance, John Mollenkopf's The Contested City [1983] and Stephen Elkin's analysis of 'federal' urban regimes in City and Regime in the American Republic [1987] both make little reference to the global context, while more recent work tends to emphasise the global dimension to city or metropolitan politics (Cox 1997).

Second, in lieu of formal urban and regional policy-making and administration (i.e., urban government), there is growing emphasis on understanding and specifying new forms of urban and regional governance. Governance here refers to the multiplicity of state and non-state actors and arenas through which power in and between cities and regions is exercised and decisions are made affecting the trajectory of development and redistribution within, across, and between cities and their regions. This development has seen a rise in interest in exposing the hand of business and, to a lesser extent, community groups and non-profits in urban policy making and studying the emergence of more entrepreneurial styles of urban policy and decision-making (see, e.g., Bassett, 1986, 1999; Clarke and Gaile, 1998; Harvey, 1989a; 1989b; Hall and Hubbard, 1996; 1998; Jessop, 1998). It involves looking behind and beyond local (municipal, county or even metropolitan) government to those coalitions and networks of private actors and business interests that are seen to shape patterns of investment and development within and between local jurisdictions (Wood, 1996; 1999). At the same time, there is increasing attention given to processes and politics of 'urban' democratization and increasing opportunities for public participation in economic policy and decision-making at the urban and regional scales (Clarke and Gaile, 1998; Keil, 2000). Here, the sub-national policy arena has become a 'de-centered space' in which actors are to be understood not so much in terms of their relation to formal state-administrative structures within the city or metropolitan area, but rather also in terms of their relation to other actors, spaces, and, indeed, geographical scales (Magnusson, 1996, as cited in Keil, 2000). This in turn has prompted analysis on the ways in which influential 'urban' actors ranging from growth coalitions to individual city mayors often draw on resources and networks 'above' the urban scale to promote their urban places. In this respect, the 'urban' or 'regional' is understood to provide a 'scalar fix' to problems of governance and territorial redistribution arising from the uneven development of the space economy (see Jonas, 1994; Brenner, 1998).

Third, and perhaps most significantly, there is a growing cross-national convergence on replacing a notion of the 'city' as a distinctive territorial arena of government and the 'urban' and 'regional' as dicrete policy spaces with the idea of the 'city-region,' incorporating a more flexible, hierarchical and de-centered approach to the 'space' of urban and regional governance. This trend has been accompanied by a normative emphasis on regional institution building (Deas and Ward, 2000; MacLeod and Goodwin, 1999). Often associated with terms like 'multi-level governance' and 'joined-up policies', the perceived need for a reshuffling of state institutions within urban-regions is prescribed on the basis that a 'region' -- however defined (and by whom) -- provides the optimum size and spatial scale for a critical mass of organizations and economic actors to 'learn,' 'innovate' and 'compete' in the new economy (Cooke and Morgan, 1998).

To some extent, this normative re-scaling of the sub-national policy space has been a nation state-directed process. Both in the UK and US it can be associated with the rise of 'competitive regionalism' as a particular way forward for territorial policy. This thinking has drawn in various forms upon understandings of the 'new economic geography' as presented by influential writers like Michael Porter (1990), Allen Scott (1988, 2000) and Paul Krugman (1991), as well as the notion of the rise of 'city-region' states to replace (or more accurately flank) the 'national' state as the crucible of economic and political power. This 'competitive regionalism' rests on the belief that the global economy as currently organized is built around distinctive metropolitan or regional economies; these may be comprised of clusters of related and inter-dependent economic activities or are simply significant agglomerations of populations and local administrative units. Each metropolitan area or city-region must find its global market niche and develop clusters of activities in which it can specialize and compete. Each cluster or agglomeration, in turn, is characterized by a distinctive institutional milieu in which networked forms of economic organization are presumed to connect the cluster or agglomeration to other networks and nodes in the global economy.

So it appears that competitive regionalism has real implications for spatial governance and policy in the UK and US. For example Rondinelli et al (1998: 95) argue:

To maintain their economic vitality and increase their international competitiveness . [metropolitan areas] must be able to create the institutions that foster local leadership and facilitate cooperation among business, government and educational organizations throughout the region. The increasing intra- and inter- metropolitan interaction that is necessary to restructure urban economies implies the need for new forms of governance that encompass an entire metropolitan area and reduce the segmentation and competition among communities.

Policy-makers in both countries seem eager to reposition urban and regional policy at the center-stage of national economic and social policy but the way this is happening inevitably incorporates important national differences in terms of the underlying politics of space. Although national differences in urban politics and policy have been identified in previous US-UK comparisons (Judd and Parkinson, 1991), it is not obvious to what extent these simply reflect 'national variations' in institutional and political structures or are more fundamental - even necessary - features of the development of cities and regions, which result from the insertion of territorial interests and political coalitions into the dynamic and unstable space-economy of capitalism (cf. Harvey, 1985). Such questions can perhaps be best considered by reference to actual examples of city-regional politics set within different national contexts. It is to this task we turn in the following sections through a comparison of recent institutional and political developments in two urbanized regions, one, the North West, in the UK and the other, Southern California in the US. We want to use these examples to make a more general point: despite the apparent convergence of urban and regional policy between the US and the UK there remain important differences in outcomes, which can be attributed to a distinctive politics of space operating in these two countries.


Although there appears to be a global logic underpinning the international transfer of new urban policy discourses constructed around competitive regionalism, the political and economic conditions driving forward this transfer are in fact nationally and regionally specific. Thus appearance of a policy convergence at one level -- the global scale -- masks what are in fact complex sets of institutional and policy developments operating at multiple scales, particularly at and through the level of the nation state. Let us consider in this respect the way competitive regionalism has entered the urban policy debate in the UK before addressing how urban and regional interests in the North West region have (re)organized in response to the evolving policy landscape in the UK .

For most of the post-Second World War era UK territorial policy was focused on using regional policy to allocate government grants and expenditures to depressed areas as a means of addressing inequalities arising from the uneven development of the national economy. UK regional policy was corporatist in its design and its delivery. During the 1960s labor unions and representatives of large organizations were involved in various regional development and planning boards that met to oversee economic intervention. National governments conceded some management of regional economies through the plethora of agencies, such as the Enterprise Boards, that oversaw the delivery of state aid. Although no formal political devolution co-existed with this heavily circumscribed economic decentralization, and hence as such the 'regional state' remained under-developed, during this era there was a sense that regional planning was an important component to the wider redistribution agenda. Only at the end of the 1980s, after almost a decade of Conservative governments, did regional policy as an effective macro-economic management tool cease to exist (Armstrong and Taylor, 1986; Martin, 1989). In its place the Conservatives created their own sub-national (predominantly local) institutions, which unlike their predecessors sought to stimulate economic growth rather than address social and economic inequalities. Distributional issues became marginal, replaced instead with talk of competitiveness and the need for regions and cities to become entrepreneurial, both in the nature of their policies, their design and their delivery. In the UK, a 'new localism' succeeded regional policy, replacing a strong redistributive role for the state with a policy emphasis on promoting competition between cities through the mechanism of competitive bidding for urban regeneration funds.

The UK-style competitive regionalism that has emerged in the last five years reflects a departure from this 'new localism' and its centrally orchestrated replacement with a 'new regionalism' (Deas and Ward, 2000; Lovering, 1995; MacLeod, 1999). While under previous regional policy frameworks grants were allocated on the basis of demonstrative need, under existing urban policies, local areas in the UK compete for regeneration and economic development funds distributed by central government and the EU (Table 1). Recent changes in the national 'urban' framework triggered by two successive elections of the Labour Party has amounted to less of a shift from the Conservative policies than might previously have been expected. As Table 1 outlines, in economic and social policy there has been few changes in the wider political rules that guide how and by whom urban policy is performed. Certainly there is as much continuity as discontinuity running through recent urban policy, despite the change in government in 1997 (Jones and Ward, 2002). That said there has been some realigning within the emerging regional institutional and political context. Successive Labour governments have introduced various zoned initiatives, which integrate different elements of social policy alongside the rolling-out of new regional institutions to regulate these new localized policy experiments.

In order to understand the recent 'regional turn' in urban policy it is necessary to return to the last Conservative government's creation of the Government Offices of the Regions (GORs) in 1994. Nine of these were created - Eastern; East Midlands; London; North East; North West (including Merseyside); South East; South West; Yorkshire and Humberside; West Midlands. Each one brought together regional branches of central government departments. Each GOR had only a small budget and its primary purpose was to oversee and manage locally central government programmes. Despite this limited economic devolution, the symbolic importance of the partial decentralization was not unsubstantial. It reintroduced the regional question back on to the mainstream political agenda, and sparked a series of UK studies (that looked often both to the US and to mainland Europe for possible models to import), each of which argued for the need for greater economic and political devolution (Regional Policy Commission, 1996).

Unlike past regional policy, which was premised on economic intervention as a corrective to the effects of uneven development, these studies argued that for the UK to maintain its national economic competitiveness the central state needed to orchestrate a shuffling of functions across levels (i.e., spatial scales) of the state. This hinged on it adopting a program of regional-institutional building, through both the conceding of functions downward (from the center) and the ceding of functions upward (from the local). In essence, this new approach rested on the rolling out of new regional institutions, with national and local institutions providing flanking support through adopting pro-competitiveness and pro-market policies.

Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) were introduced in 1999 (Table 2). Each one co-ordinates existing spatial and sector policies and has decision-making power in housing, inward investment, training, transport, and to a limited extent the environment. In terms of competition and capacity building, the rationale for RDAs was that they build on existing policies and extend partnerships to the regional scale. In terms of economics, RDAs are business-led by design - their boards contain a mix of public, private and community representatives -- and debates around their modus operandi have in some ways gone over the same political ground that was covered in the 1980s when Urban Development Corporations (UDCs) and Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) were established (Deas and Ward, 1999). Although while UDCs managed urban redevelopment TECs oversaw the delivery of local labour market policy, in both cases their creation marked a departure from existing arrangements, in that business representatives were formally, and as part of a national program, involved in the design and the delivery of policy.

The political rationale for the RDAs was that they met some of the 'local' demands for a degree of regional autonomy and for the devolution of some amount of political power. In reality, the powers and resources of RDAs are extremely limited and their coordinating role is hampered by the competing agendas of the central ministries responsible for different policies. Moreover, it remains unclear how the activities of RDAs are being coordinated at the national scale and integrated into supra-national policy frameworks, although it is more clear that it is in and through the central (national) state that co-ordination will take place (Jones and MacLeod, 1999).

In summary, UK territorial policy has evolved from a redistributive regional policy into a form of competitive regionalism in which cities and regions (and the interests that seek to represent these policy spaces) are encouraged to coalesce and to compete for resources and grants at the national and EU scales. This competitive regionalism 'from above' is likely to encourage new forms of territorial politics, both within and between regions, and in particular around large urban areas (see for example Deas and Ward, 2000; Jonas and Ward, 1999). This paper turns to the example of the North West of England, the city of Manchester and the case of inward investment to tease out some of the contradictions bound-up with this form of regionalism. This example is used to highlight how this model, as it was rolled out by central government, combined and interacted with an existing locally- and regionally-fragmented political system. The North West, alongside the North East of England, is perhaps one of the most politically contested English regions (Dicken et al, 1995; Jones and MacLeod, 2002), and the case of inward investment one of the most divisive issues facing political decision-makers. Nevertheless it is a region where a number of agencies - urban, metropolitan and regional - claim to represent its needs, where on-going fragmentation provides a sharp edge to urban and regional politics.


The North West -- Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside -- is the second largest region in the UK, and has a population greater than four EU Member States: Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg. The North West contains two large urban cities, Liverpool and Manchester, which have dominated the local and regional economic and political landscape. In particular, although Greater Manchester is made up of 10 boroughs (see Table 3), the city of Manchester -- only one of the ten -- has tended to dominate institutional politics. There is a lack of match between the geographical size of the city and its politico-institutional presence in the region. But this domination does not reflect economic prosperity. Manchester contains within its boundaries some of the most economically disadvantage areas in the UK (Giordano and Twomey, 2002). As a city it remains 'under-bounded': it has almost no suburban population, unlike the cities of Birmingham and Leeds. There is then no affluent suburb population to support financially the needs of the poorer residents of the inner city. In light of this series of tensions, an analysis of the politics of 'city' and 'region', in this example, Manchester and the North West, is illustrative.

In the case of Manchester, the effort invested in creating city-based alliances meant the city's political leadership was uneasy about the establishment of a North West RDA. Their views found expression, for example, through the city's symbolic decision in 1997 to withdraw support from a European Commission liaison office in Brussels. This was shared with other North West local authorities. Manchester then re-named its own office as 'North West of England House'! City policy-makers in Manchester developed alternative institutional axes to promote city and metropolitan-based strategies, while simultaneously being a hesitant (and often unwilling) participant in the regional-level coalition that developed in the North West in the lead-up to the creation of a RDA on 1st April 1999. An example of the politically contested (and constructed) nature of urban and regional scales is evident in the issues that surrounded the vexed issue of inward investment in the region (Deas and Ward, 2000).

Inward investment has become increasingly politicized in the UK generally and the North West region is no different. INWARD, the region's inward investment promotional body, has attempted to juggle the competing claims of constituent sub-areas that (along with central government support) provide through their subscriptions the bulk of its funding. The apparent emphasis of INWARD on green field sites beyond the boundaries of Manchester prompted the City's political leaders to ignore senior officers' admonitions to subscribe. There was a deep-rooted tension between, on the one hand, what was regarded as good for the region as a whole (i.e. investment in the more peripheral and less-developed parts of the region) and, on the other hand, what Manchester viewed as saw supporting its future economic prosperity. That was, focus wealth creation in the urban areas of the North West, and rely on transmission mechanisms to ensure that the outer areas benefit from this new investment.

In a political volte-face the leaderships of Salford and Trafford withdrew from INWARD. They joined with Manchester and transferred their support to a new agency that was to focus on the core of the Greater Manchester conurbation. The result was Manchester Investment and Development Agency Service (MIDAS), launched in 1997. Together with Manchester Training and Enterprise Council and a fourth local authority member, Tameside, its principal remit was to provide a database of sites, premises, infrastructure, labor force characteristics and 'cultural assets' with which to lure potential inward investors to the area. What is significant about MIDAS is that it illustrates the limited commitment -- and, at times, overt opposition -- at the city level to the region-building efforts of bodies such as the North West Regional Development Agency, and indirectly, central government. Such has been the allure of the principles of the 'new localism' to Manchester's policy-makers that the more recent emergence of regional-based institutions has generated palpable unease. The most dramatic expression of this phenomenon is the establishment of an inward investment promotional body in competition, initially, with a long-established regional body, INWARD, and later with a powerful regional body, the North West Regional Development Agency, which had political support from the central state. What we have currently is three institutions, whose geographical and political remits overlap, where the aims of each one are similar but the benefits accrue to different constituencies and where there is some tension over which one actually represents the region inside and outside of it.

The formation of MIDAS is emblematic of the desire for territorial coalition building at a scale different to that of the standard geographical region and around which each RDA was constructed. Manchester's political leadership appears to hold the view that the metropolitan level is a more appropriate level at which to organise cross-institutional pacts and partnerships. Urban managers have argued that the future geography of regeneration should be defined in terms of cities. It should not mirror artificial administrative regions, the legacy of Second World War emergency planning, retained simply to ease the administrative chore of collating government statistics, but which fail to reflect the functional reach of city-region economies. The strategy behind the formation of MIDAS is instructive. It reveals the degree to which Manchester's elite are profoundly uneasy with the region-building efforts that have laid the foundations for the North West's RDA, political reactions which at the very least questions the organic credentials of the 'imposed regionalism' in the UK. It reinforces the importance of retaining the support of the regional capital if new regional institutions, like RDAs, are to have (or are to be given) the necessary local legitimacy.

To summarize, in the UK the spatial re-scaling of urban policy and institutions has focused around the development of the RDAs as well as related moves to integrate urban-based institutions and programs into regional governance frameworks (Table 1). These in turn involve a shift from 'elite localism' to 'elite regionalism' -- as exemplified by the example of the political relationship between Manchester and the North West. While legitimized by wider devolving tendencies in the UK central state, competitive regionalism in the UK is not likely to produce urban institutions that are more accountable and accessible to a local citizenry. Bidding for urban programs such as the Single Regeneration Budget Challenge Fund (SRBCF) - where localities assemble multi-agency bids and compete against one another for a limited pot of resources -- will simply be tied into wider funding regimes, such as those offered by the European Union, creating a competitive climate of political uncertainty and local fiscal instability. Risks associated with competitive bidding and policy design will simply be re-scaled, embedded within an alternative (regional) narrative.


Although the British experience with urban policy superficially draws upon a US model, particularly the adoption of entrepreneurial styles of urban governance, the search for a regional 'institutional fix', and the framing and evaluation of redevelopment according to neo-liberal rules (see for example Hambleton, 1995), the policy debate in the US incorporates a very different politics of space. Unlike a regional emphasis in the UK, urban policy emerged as the dominant spatial policy in the post-war US. It became associated with a strong policy narrative framed around the problem of metropolitan political fragmentation understood as widening territorial disparities in income and levels of public service provision associated with the proliferation of local government and administrative units across metropolitan areas. Federal urban policy itself comprised an important component of national territorial planning and policy arising from the economic and urban fiscal crises of the Great Depression. In the post-war period, the Federal urban renewal program, housing policy, and anti-poverty initiatives such as Great Society served as the spatial correlative of a limited Keynesian Welfare State (KWS), redistributing resources to the central cities even as national economic policy favored suburban and Sunbelt city development (Florida and Jonas, 1991). As the suburbs grew in the 1950s and 1960s, in part through the formation of counties, municipalities, townships and school districts, so metropolitan fragmentation increased. As Newton (1978: 84) argues:

The significance of [this] fragmentation is increased enormously by the fact that local government boundaries tend to coincide with important socio-economic cleavages in the population. This is no accident of course, since the economic logic of metropolitan fragmentation entails the wealthier municipalities, using every means at their disposal, to maintain their tax base while minimizing demands on their public services.

During this era, as Federal urban programs sought to address deepening territorial inequalities, the metropolis became ever more fragmented, and as importantly, divided along economic, 'racial' and social lines - the emergence of what Danielson (1976) referred to as the 'differentiated metropolis'.

The metropolitan geography of fiscal and social disparity gave rise to a variety of national policy and political responses in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, the Advisory Committee for Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) and the Committee for Economic Development (CED) actively sought to promote the concept of fiscally and administratively strong forms of metropolitan government throughout the US (ACIR, 1967; CED, 1970). The concept was motivated by the perceived need to resolve area-wide problems of redistribution, public administration, and economic development but was set against the principle of 'home rule', the 'sovereignty' of local political units, and the protection of private property and voting rights. The persistence of fiscal disparities between central cities and suburbs, and problems of administrative duplication, were seen as especially problematic from the standpoint of liberal reformers who promoted metropolitan integration or regional planning. Although these proposals were often genuinely motivated by concerns about territorial redistribution as taken up by groups such as the NAACP and the Urban League, it is important not to forget the role of interests in economic development in promoting what has been described as 'corporate regionalism' (Feshbach and Shipnuk, 1973). The centralized land use planning and administrative frameworks proposed by reformers were advantageous from the perspective of realizing economies of scale in the production and consumption of housing and manufactured goods, mainly in the suburbs. In this respect, metropolitan reform has long been a policy goal of growth coalitions organized more or less at the metropolitan scale, the historical presence of which is a contextual feature of the politics of space that has little or no counterpart in the UK.

The coupling of redistributional issues with the problem of metropolitan political fragmentation lent to postwar urban policy in the US a strong 'urban' or 'metropolitan' territorial dimension, whereas in the UK the politics of space constructed the problem as primarily that of the 'region' (save in instances where the 'metropolitan' became a focus of a conflict been Conservative central government and Labour-controlled local authorities around redistributive economic and social policies). Things though have changed. US urban policy is now in a 'post-Federal' era characterized by increasing State discretion in terms of the allocation of Federal funding, coupled with wholesale de-Federalization in previously 'urban' programs such as urban renewal (and its successor redevelopment), welfare-to-work, and education. While real Federal spending on urban programs has not declined as precipitously as has been claimed, overall local government in the US is far more dependent upon local revenue sources and institutional capacities. Clarke and Gaile (1998: 48), for example, describe the Clinton/Gore urban policy as a 'hybrid' that has followed the 'path of least resistance' carved out by the Reagan and Bush administrations. Specifically, it combined a mixture of newer entrepreneurial incentives with traditional targeted spending and area-based strategies (e.g. Empowerment Zones), and a growing reliance on State and local fiscal and administrative capacities.

As importantly and quite apart from actual policies, the urban policy narrative under Clinton/Gore underwent a transformation. Although this was a multifaceted transition, here we focus on one dimension: the emergence in the 1990s of a policy discourse centered on the idea of competitive regionalism. An early proponent of competitive regionalism within the Clinton Administration was former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Henry Cisneros, onetime Mayor of San Antonio, a Sunbelt city, which had used its annexation powers to prevent the suburbanization of population and tax base. Drawing on his mayoral experience, Cisneros articulated his views on competitive regionalism in a series of position essays on urban policy published during his tenure at HUD. In one of these papers, he drew a distinction between 'things' and 'people' regionalism (Cisneros, 1995). By 'things regionalism' he meant overcoming the problem of the political fragmentation caused by the proliferation of municipal governments and special purpose districts through regional planning. 'People regionalism,' by comparison, focused on the relationship between macro-economic conditions and local political participation. Here, the argument was that regional governance (in its various forms) should not simply contribute to economic growth but it should also involve socially marginalized groups in local economic decision-making. In this respect, the debate about competitive regionalism marked a radical departure from the earlier 'corporate regionalism' model advocated by liberal reformers.

There are several important contextual differences between the way in which competitive regionalism is understood and applied in the US and UK, and these underscore the insights to be gleaned from a geographically attuned reading of new spatial policy developments on both sides of the Atlantic. First, the new 'urban' policy in the US is premised on the notion that the political fragmentation of local government and administration in metropolitan areas remains an obstacle to be overcome, but that this should be achieved via greater inter-jurisdictional co-operation and co-ordination, amongst other institutional possibilities (Jonas, 1994). As Salins (1993) pointed out, a sort of 'Faustian bargain' emerged in the post-war era in which the Federal government had in effect through the taxpayer subsidized central cities where the majority of the poor and disadvantaged lived in exchange for not interfering in the sovereign affairs of suburban area local governments, where jobs and wealth were concentrated. The emergence of competitive regionalism appears to mark the abandonment of this 'Faustian bargain' at least as regards territorial policy. Suburbs and their residents must now share in the economic and governance problems of central cities as well as of the larger metropolitan area or region in which they are located, albeit there is no expectation that this will occur through formal structures of metropolitan government or regional planning. Rather, officials representing cities, suburbs, counties, and other local governments in partnership with the business and community sectors should be encouraged to form partnerships, define their own regions, and compete on a 'level playing field' using policies that break the link between local fiscal resources, land use, and levels of service provision (cf. Salins, 1993). This constitutes a pulling-back from the scenarios some urban commentators were envisaging some twenty years ago, where suburban authorities would obtain ever-greater economic and political autonomy (Danielson, 1971), and which find favor among some analysts even now (Pascal, 1987).

Secondly, competitive regionalism recognizes that many of the problems identified by reformers in the 1960s and 1970s have not disappeared but the ways of addressing these are different. For all of its novelty, the debate about competitive regionalism cannot ignore the reality that America's cities and regions remain deeply divided and segregated by income, 'race', ethnicity, and other criteria and that this geography of inequality is associated with local political jurisdictions even if the underlying causes can be found in the wider space economy. Nevertheless, competitive regionalism offers a different policy framework for addressing the geography of economic development and inequality as it pertains to cities and regions (see Table 4).

If corporate regionalism spoke to a strong national economy, competitive regionalism articulates a 'new relationship' or 'partnership' between the Federal government, States, and cities and suburbs for coping with the global economy. In addition, if in the past business and community interests, academics and policy-makers were content to see metropolitan reform as a policy end in itself, State, county, city and suburban actors are now encouraged to view their economic and social fortunes as increasingly interdependent on each other, those in other city-regions, and the global economy.

As Keil (2000: 759) has argued, the politics of metropolitan political reorganization in the US can no longer be seen as representing struggles between opposing one-dimensional views of urban governance:

.what appear to be limited struggles over local jurisdiction and administration of service delivery, are struggles over the urban dimensions of a globalized world, at least in part. Amalgamation and succession become fighting metaphors of change in the war of position in which urban actors find themselves in the age of the global city.

In practical terms, what this means is that, within the otherwise international policy discourse of competitive regionalism, there is scope to investigate the ways in which new policy spaces are being created within and across city-regions in the US. Where, for example, local areas have faced severe problems arising from economic restructuring and social exclusion -- problems that increasingly have migrated to the inner suburbs -- a patchwork quilt of the more 'traditional' spatially-targeted urban policies remains. In these areas, the politics of space might involve moves towards the introduction of a more redistributional model of regional governance. For example, while advocating the economic argument for competitive regionalism, the Clinton/Gore policy also played the 'social' and 'environmental' cards, emphasizing the ongoing value of zoned and region-wide policies for economic development, social exclusion, and environmental action, such as enterprise zones, community empowerment zones, and regional habitat conservation plans. Increasingly, however, we might expect these spatial policies to be targeted not simply at the most deprived inner urban areas but also at suburbs, because these are now 'seen' as constituent parts of the city-region and hence local groups in those areas might mobilize on the basis of their 'region' to 'capture' the distributional benefits of such policies and institutional structures. As the 'new' spatial politics of competitive regionalism combines with the 'old' (corporate regionalism) the actual geography of regionalism in the US is likely to develop unevenly within the US, producing different (region and State-specific) forms of 'regional politics' (Savitch and Vogel, 1996a) (see Table 5).

With this in mind we turn to Southern California. Like our choice of the North West to illustrate the forces at work in the UK, our aim is to not to select an example that in some way 'represents' the metropolitan and city-suburban fissures so characteristic of the contemporary US. Rather in choosing Southern California and mirroring our choice of the North West of England, we draw upon examples that have a high-profile place in the wider geographical and political imaginations and that perhaps point to an extreme combination of cultural, economic, political and social factors. Above all, we want to show how urban and regional policy convergence at the global level has engendered the divergence of the territorial politics of governance reorganization at the national and sub-national levels.


In recent years, the City of Los Angeles and its wider region in Southern California (population c. 16 million, and see Table 6) has become one of the fastest growing and most socially and ethnically diverse city-regions in the US (Davis, 1990; Keil, 2000; Scott and Soja, 1996). At the same time, the city-region has periodically been subject to bouts of de-industrialization, urban restructuring, and civil unrest, which have focused public and academic attention on a perceived lack of governance capacities at the 'regional' level Precisely what the geographical scale and scope of the 'region' in this context is a debatable matter, but one thing is clear is that it is not necessarily seen to be centered on Los Angeles. And while there is a history of inter-jurisdictional co-operation at the regional and county scales in Southern California (Miller, 1981), the debate about the scope, scale and capacity of governance has recently extended to include areas located well beyond the urban-region core of Los Angeles, including the surrounding counties of Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino (for example see Bollens, 1997; Jonas, 1997; Teaford, 1997). As with Los Angeles itself, the governance of these counties can be characterized as highly fragmented, being comprised of a spatial mosaic of governments and administrative units including municipalities, special purpose districts, land use planning and redevelopment agencies, public-private partnerships, and regulatory authorities, as well as some edge city-type developments that no obvious territorial administration.

Recent studies of governance reorganization in Southern California have confirmed that evidence of formal regional or metropolitan government is scant (Saltzstein, 1996; Bollens, 1997). On the one hand, this is due in part to the high level of political fragmentation across the region associated with entrenched geographies of segregation by race, class, and local political jurisdictions. On the other hand, there has been a de facto regionalization of services and land use planning through county government and special purpose districts (e.g. the Metropolitan Water District, Air Quality Management District, and the Southern California Association of Governments), which is traceable to the Progressive Era, a time when reformers sought to redirect political power and fiscal authority from State to local level government. However, these function-specific agencies have very limited formal political powers and fiscal capacities. Since the Progressive Era, the presence of strong local fiscal and administrative interests across the region frustrates moves towards greater inter-jurisdictional co-operation and co-ordination, and accordingly intra-regional territorial competition and conflict remain defining features of local politics.

Adding to the complexity of governance reorganization in Southern California, recent years have seen moves on the part of upper- and middle-class homeowners in certain parts of Los Angeles to secede from the central city (Purcell, 2001). Although these secessionist tendencies are often underpinned by powerful motives for exclusion constructed around class and 'race' (Keil, 2000), they serve to illustrate how the new regionalism debate has changed the spatial politics of governance reorganization. In a detailed study of a secession movement in the San Fernando Valley, Purcell (2001) argues the movement should not be understood in narrow local interest-group terms, i.e. simply from the perspective of local interests in collective consumption. Instead, arguments for greater 'local control' take place within, and are in turn shaped by, the wider spatial politics of urban growth as it reinforces patterns of uneven development across the region. Whereas in the past the Los Angeles growth coalition actively promoted more centralized planning and administration across the region, growth interests have been reluctant to state publicly their position on secession for fear of politicizing the debate about regional governance and inter-jurisdictional inequality, leading to a public backlash.

In this context, and by way of comparison, there have been recent moves in the outer reaches of the city-region to form new 'regional' partnerships and establish 'regional' institutions but these are occurring in a manner that tends to reinforce inter-jurisdictional disparities. Such moves represent opportunities for 'suburban' territorial interests and coalitions to take advantage of the uneven development of the metropolitan economy and perhaps use new institutional frameworks to 'capture' some of the positive externalities associated with suburbanization and the decentralization of investment.

A case-in-point is the metropolitan area of western San Bernardino and Riverside counties (an area known locally as the Inland Empire), immediately to the east of Los Angeles and Orange counties. In the 1990s, there were moves within the two-county area (comprised of nearly 3 million residents) to respond to Federal and State incentives to create regional partnerships and promote investment opportunities. The local jurisdictions of western Riverside and San Bernardino counties established one such regional partnership in 1992. This move was led by a cross-political party congressional coalition from the region. The Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP) is comprised of a partnership of local cities, business and community groups, and economic development practitioners. Its founding purpose was to co-ordinate inward investment activity and to plan for economic recovery in the wake of the economic downturn of the early 1990s associated with defense restructuring and a property market slump, which hit the Inland Empire particularly hard due to region's dependence on the citrus and steel industries, military employment, and a large commuting population reliant on jobs in Los Angeles (Jonas, 1997). However, there was also a sense in which the IEEP was set up to take advantage of the flight of business and residents out of Los Angeles in the wake of the civil unrest of 1992 and hence to raise the external profile of the Inland Empire from a marketing and inward investment perspective.

Despite tensions between member jurisdictions, the IEEP has begun to formulate an economic development strategy for the Inland Empire and has most recently been identified as a 'model' new regional partnership by the California Center for Regional Leadership. The IEEP is involved in promoting the economic development of the Inland Empire around transportation logistics and related specialized activities, providing a one-stop shop for potential investors who want to locate and invest in the twenty or so local jurisdictions of this sub-region. Evaluated strictly in terms of inward investment the partnership has had mixed success. From information derived from interviews with local economic development practitioners in the mid-1990s, less than 10 per cent of inward investment leads in the region appears to pass through the IEEP, suggesting that the partnership has more of a symbolic than material role. Member (and non-member) jurisdictions in the Inland Empire remain in competition with each other for economic activities and rely on local fiscal and institutional mechanisms such as redevelopment to do this.

One of the principle reasons for the persistence of inter-jurisdictional competition across the region is the high degree of fiscal local dependence of local municipalities. In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which greatly restricted the property tax-raising capacity of local municipalities and encouraged a search for new revenue sources. Since then, tax-increment funding of redevelopment has become a widely used mechanism for increasing local revenue, especially for younger (more recently incorporated) municipalities in the Inland Empire. Given that redevelopment can be a major generator of taxes to supplement general revenues, there is intense competition between local cities to complete commercial and industrial redevelopment projects. This process often works against the achievement of redistributional policies such as 'affordable' housing development. In the Inland Empire, such competition has led to a rise in instances of local cities suing neighboring municipalities over their redevelopment projects and calls for revenue sharing among local jurisdictions (Althubaity and Jonas, 1998). Litigation has resulted in delays to redevelopment projects, contributing to escalating levels of municipal debt. In order to avoid further inter-jurisdictional conflict, some local municipalities have recently entered into co-operative arrangements with each other around economic development, but this has tended to happen outside the 'regional' framework provided by the IEEP. Such arrangements include so-called 'no-litigation' pacts in which cities agree to suspend legal proceedings against each other's redevelopment projects, inter-jurisdictional approaches to affordable housing provision, and, most recently, co-operation around transportation, land use, and conservation planning.

The trend towards regional co-ordination of land use, transportation and habitat conservation planning in the outer suburbs of Southern California reflects the ways in which Federally-subisidized suburban sprawl conflicts with measures to preserve open space and habitat. Suburban housing and transportation development has threatened the habitat of rare and endangered fauna and flora listed for protection under the 1973 federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) have been developed under the federal ESA by local jurisdictions across the city-region in order to circumvent conflict between developers, landowners, farmers, environmentalists, and conservationists (Feldman and Jonas, 2000). Large-scale developers, landowners and public utilities have supported for the most part regional approaches to habitat conservation planning, demonstrating a 'corporate' approach to governance. In some sub-regions, such as western Riverside County integrated these 'regional' land use, habitat and transportation plans claim to be models of 'smart growth'. Yet the drivers of these integrated plans are the existing county governments rather than new regional agencies.

In summary, urban policy in Southern California can be associated with new institutional developments more or less at the regional scale and in different parts of the city-region. However, competitive regionalism has in turn engendered a new politics of space (or sets of spaces) within the city-region in which local interests have sought to mobilize around their concept of the 'region'. Organizations such as the IEEP, which were set up to increase the level of intra-regional co-ordination around economic development, are now positioned to compete with other self-defined 'regions' in Southern California. Moreover, the form of regionalism apparent in a sprawling urban region like Southern California is bound to be different to what might be identified in other US regions, especially in places where urban growth has not engendered such pronounced local jurisdictional geographies of difference and inequality. It is certainly very different to the UK example we have discussed, reinforcing the point that for all the apparent international policy convergence on the region there are real differences in the politics of space within the two countries. In short, we are seeing evidence of an emerging 'world of regionalisms' rather than a globally uniform model of competitive regionalism.


This paper rejects claims from both sides of the Atlantic that national territorial policy either is in demise or is converging around a uniform understanding of globalization, urban governance, and the city-region. Although national government expenditures on 'real' urban programs in the US may have declined since the expansionist years of the Great Society and, in the UK, the regional policy peak was reached in the 1950s and 1960s, 'urban' and 'regional' policies have not so much disappeared as undergone a metamorphosis. This change has a number of implications for theoretically informed analyses of territorial policy and politics, which of late have become preoccupied with the rhetoric of globalization, urban governance, and the city-region, but often at the expense of sensitivity to critical national and sub-national differences in urban and regional policy. On closer inspection, what 'regional' institution building has occurred in city-regions like Southern California in recent years incorporates aspects of both 'older' corporate and 'newer' competitive models. Moreover, these models bear little comparison to institutional developments in city-regions in the UK, such as the North-West. Such differences in sub-national institutions and territorial politics persist despite the increasing integration of these city-regions into global economic networks and international urban and regional policy discourses. In conclusion, we lay out three propositions that emerge out of our analysis in this paper and that we believe should frame future UK-US urban and regional policy comparisons.

First, both in the US and the UK the urban policy debate needs to be interpreted alongside analyses that emphasize the other changes underway in the roles played by different levels of government. Whereas 'cities' and 'regions' (and spaces in these) once offered coherent spatial arenas for national policy interventions, the contemporary 'city-region' is understood in less formulaic terms to be a semi-coherent amalgam of actors, institutions and capacities that are seen to require incentives for greater co-ordination in order to compete globally. The example of the North West of England supports that work that has argued for discursive and representational issues to be taken seriously in the analysis of 'regional' politics (Deas and Ward, 2000; Jones and MacLeod, 1999). The example of Southern California encourages one to think about the ways in which the new competitive regionalism provides new opportunities for the mobilization of local growth interests.

Second, understanding the different logics underpinning national urban and regional policy paradigms encourages us to question the extent to which international policy convergence has occurred. Much analysis of apparent convergence in how individual nations perform urban and regional redevelopment is couched in terms of arguments that globalization is 'hollowing out' the state, eliminating national differences, and activating similar models of urban and regional entrepreneurial neo-liberalism in different contexts. Yet in these attempts to theorize the apparent global rise and international transfer of urban entrepreneurialism and regional economic and political institution building, we would argue that there remains a need to take seriously the role of the nation state and sub-national institutional and political differences. Though the national level might appear to be a receding 'natural economic zone' (Jessop and Peck, 2001; MacLeod, 1999), as a political zone it remains central to the orchestration and re-scaling of state functions in urban areas and regions. The emergent model of competitive regionalism in the UK has been influenced as much by New Labour's devolution agenda as by an interest in activating US-style urban entrepreneurialism or, more recently in the style of a European 'social capital' model, creating more socially inclusive urban institutions (Swanstrom, 1996). Competitive regionalism in the US, by the same token, must be understood in relation to changing Federal-State-local relations and historical approaches to the problem of political fragmentation in metropolitan areas.

Third, international urban and regional policy transfers notwithstanding, competitive regionalism continues to develop unevenly within specific national contexts. There are a variety of 'new regionalisms'. The logic underpinning one model might differ considerably from that of another. Even where there appears to be some similarity across logics, design difference, wider political contexts and the multi-scalar 'embedding' of different interests often leads policy to skew away from what simple 'policy transfer' analysis might predict. It is worth noting that across the US there are variants on what might be seen as a single national 'model' of competitive regionalism, and that some 'local' models incorporate design and planning principles reminiscent of an earlier 'corporate regionalism'. In other words, it is possible for territorial-redistributional issues to re-enter the urban policy debate through the new regionalism, but perhaps in a way that differs from the past emphasis on central city-suburban differences. These 'local hybrids' that address questions of exclusion, equity, and social justice in a regional context have been often championed in the national policy debate, even if they are all framed in a converging policy context. To understand the different logics that underpin these models, then, one needs to look to their original development contexts, to conditions within these city-regions rather than simply to the national or global context. Whereas particular emphasis is often given to 'national success stories' based on 'local policy' experiments that are seen to have worked within city-regions like Southern California, the generalization of these models to other contexts may prove impossible. What is often at issue is the very definition of the city-region: Where are its boundaries? What interest groups are implicated in different models of regional governance? Who drives the process of regional institutional reorganization? At what spatial scale(s) are the interest groups driving reorganization mobilized?


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We would like to thank Graham Haughton, Aidan While and David Gibbs for comments on an earlier version of this paper. The critical comments of the reviewers were also very helpful. The usual disclaimers apply.



* Dr. Andrew E.G. Jonas, Department of Geography, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX,United Kingdom, E-mail:

** Dr. Kevin Ward, School of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom, E-mail:

Table 1: Regeneration 'framework' under Blairism


Local regeneration politics

Local regeneration policies


ideological base

Continued organising based on market welfarism but with isolated examples of greater intervention

Reassertion of local government-centralism in conjunction with democratic renewal agenda

e.g. Central-local partnership


Reinforcement of partnership combined with an emphasis on what the locality is able to achieve

Introduction back into policy vocabulary of local deprivation and the benefits of integrating strategies across Council departments and other agencies

e.g. SRBCF Rounds 4 and 5, New Deal for Communities


Continued emphasis on supply-side intervention with the creation of integrated 'zones' as local policy experiments

Rethink on the scale of economic intervention, though concern still with attraction of outside investment rather t000han stimulation of local demand

e.g. Employment Zones, Education Zones and Health Action Zones,


Multi-agency involvement given, combined with a drive to make local government decision-making more transparent

Change in central-local relations and networks, with the appointment of city mayors and RDA chairs

e.g. RDAs, City Mayors


Emphasis on the internal structure of local government and formal links between local and regional agencies

Partial resistance of local government and other local agencies to change to be introduced through RDAs

e.g. Best Value

Source: Ward (2000)

Table 2: English region-building: the Regional Development Agency (RDA) 'model'

Wider context


National political context at inception

1999: Recently elected Labour government committed to the introduction of constitutional change in Scotland and Wales. Pre-1997 election commitment to regional development and regional democracy softened and scaled-down. RDAs largely peripheral to New Deal welfare-to-work reforms. Blairite national vision of inclusive coalition of political interests mirrored at the local level by the desire to continue and amplify earlier government's emphasis on cross-sector partnership.

Local political context at inception

1999: Local areas already have in place a series of overlapping partnerships, containing representatives from all sectors and charged with delivering a range of services. The 'partnership habit' firmly established. Growing emphasis on the need to wed policies to promote competitiveness with those to address social exclusion.

Policy logic

To co-ordinate existing regional and sub-regional initiatives and institutions. Regional economic strategy formulated to guide the work of a series of implementing bodies: Business Links for business development; Training and Enterprise Councils for skills development; Department of Trade and Industry for Regional Selective Assistance to industry; Government Offices of the regions for European Union Structural Funds; and existing inward investment promotional bodies in some regions where RDAs do not opt to assume direct provision of such services themselves.


Estimated £750 million for nine RDAs annually (Dyson et al, 1998: 11).

Geographical scale

Defined by regional administrative boundaries. Long-standing disquiet about the artificiality of standard regions neutered by the decision not to consult over RDA boundaries.

Governance arrangements

A chair and board appointed by the Secretary of State and deemed to be part of the private sector. Longer term possibility of formal accountability to indirectly elected Regional Chambers, and possibly to directly elected assemblies. Formal accountability to Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and Regions, but informal accountability to (and statutory requirement to consult) Regional Chambers. RDAs can be required to take account of Regional Chamber views in formulating their corporate plans and regional economic strategies.

Position in broader restructuring

RDAs reflect the replacement of an agenda centred on the local - 'new localism' - with one aimed at the region - 'new regionalism' - as local partnerships are faced with an extra tier of governance arrangements that may alter the local (or sub-regional) configuration of power or influence.

Source: Deas and Ward (2000)

Table 3: Manchester in its metropolitan and regional context  

Greater Manchester

North West












Greater Manchester















Table 4: Corporate and competitive regionalism in the US compared  


Corporate regionalism

Competitive regionalism


ideological base

Liberal reformist view favoring Federal intervention in metropolitan areas to address the urban fiscal crisis, reduce inter-jurisdictional fiscal and social disparities, break down mechanisms of suburban political exclusion, and promote efficiency and equity in public service provision

Neo-liberal view to restore/reassert the role of State and local governments in the Federal system, to promote the economic development of metropolitan areas in competition with other areas, to encourage citizen participation in local decision making, and to facilitate local policy experimentation around economic, social and environmental goals


Construction of the urban crisis as a crisis of the central city; promotion of the "metropolitan" as a territorial scale of problem resolution

Discursive rendering of cities and city-regions as competitive nodes in the global economy; emphasis on linking entrepreneurialism to regional co-ordination and co-operation


Serving the interests of monopoly capital; emphasis on economies of scale and rationalization of land use planning, service structures and public administration through metropolitan and regional frameworks

Serving the interests of global capital and local economic clusters; emphasis on economies of scope and the advantages of economic specialization; up-playing the significance of the city-region as a competitive territorial unit in the global economy


Metropolitan government seen as a vehicle for achieving fiscal and social equity and supporting national economic growth; metropolitan growth coalitions activated

Emphasis on regional entrepreneurial governance and political leadership, stronger regional co-operation is encouraged, strategic role for State governments in enabling regional public-private partnerships


Emphasis on metropolitan consolidation; creation of regional councils of government; Federalfunds available for regional government

Emphasis on voluntary and semi-formal agreements between counties, cities, special districts, and other local governments; incentives provided for regional co-operation; emphasis on use of State and local rather than Federal resources


Table 5: Selected examples of city-regional governance and politics in the United States


Characteristics of regional governance and politics

New York

Lack of regional co-operation, increasing conflict and competition between local jurisdictions around economic development

Los Angeles/Southern California

Limited regional co-operation around environmental and land use planning, avoidance of metropolitan government, intense inter-jurisdictional competition for tax revenue


Public-private co-operation around regional economic development, avoidance of metropolitan government, land use conflicts involving neighborhood groups

Washington, D.C.

Multi-purpose regional body, regional co-operation in delivering public services, voluntary arrangements avoiding regional conflict

Columbus, Ohio

Avoidance of metropolitan government, restrictive central city-suburban service contracts, inter-jurisdictional conflicts around public education and central-city growth policies

Miami/Dade County

Two-tiered metropolitan government, regional service provision limited to the county, conflicts over electoral representation at the county level

Portland, Oregon

Metropolitan government with strong fiscal capacity and ability to deliver public services, formalized arrangement for sharing power and planning metropolitan growth

Sources: Information for New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Miami and Portland adapted from Savitch and Vogel (1996b: 15); information for Boston based on Horan and Jonas (1998) and for Columbus, Ohio, based on Jonas (1991).

Table 6: Los Angeles and its city-region



Central city and/or county seat

Los Angeles


Los Angeles






San Bernardino


San Bernardino

Inland Empire (24 cities in western Riverside and San Bernardino counties)




Edited and posted on the web on 12th June 2002

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in Journal of Urban Affairs, 24 (4), (2002), 377-401