URBAN GOVERNANCE, BUT AT WHAT SCALE?

Neil Brenner lectures at “Urban Age” conference in Delhi, India

Thanks to Ricky Burdett’s friendly invitation, Neil Brenner offered one of the keynote lectures at the Urban Age Conference on “Governing Urban Futures” held in Delhi, India.  Given our previous criticisms of the concept of the “urban age,” this was a much-appreciated opportunity for collegial dialogue in a fascinating setting.  Many interesting discussions and debates took place at the Delhi conference, which brought together a diverse group of scholars, planners, architects, policy makers, government officials and activists to explore the governance challenges associated with contemporary urbanization.

In this lecture, Brenner calls into question prominent contemporary triumphalist discourses regarding the local, the city and the urban.  Under conditions of global neoliberalization and austerity-led devolution, he argues, the appeal to “urban” governance to confront the planet’s major social, economic and environmental problems is actually a “weapon of the weak” rather than an expression of new institutional capacities or viable modes of democratic empowerment.  In contrast to localist discourses of urban governance, Brenner argues for a multiscalar approach to the governance of urbanization in which democratically accountable public institutions play an active role in channeling investments, equalizing infrastructure, redistributing social assets, alleviating risk/vulnerability and mediating uneven development across places, territories and scales.  

11/14/2014