Public Wealth of Cities and Regions? Session 1

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (MDT)
Room: Napoleon C2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Organizers: Peter O'Brien
Chairs: Graham Thrower


Amidst continued fiscal crisis and austerity and efforts to stimulate growth, address major societal challenges and expand public service reform, national and local government actors are being compelled into considering how best to manage public assets. A series of variegated institutional arrangements of public ownership are emerging in different places and at different geographical scales, seeking to reform the use, management and ownership of public assets - particularly land, property and infrastructure. Against growing concerns about the 'under-utilisation' of public assets deemed 'surplus', an ongoing fiscal squeeze and exhortations to become more 'business-like' and 'commercial', sub-national and local governments are developing new forms of public ownership and agency in the search for new assets and sources of financial revenue and capital.

As yet, the socially and spatially uneven unfolding of these new concerns with public assets by national and local states has received limited attention. Definitional, conceptual and theoretical issues bedevil our understanding of public assets. The conventional economic frameworks of value and valuation are being troubled by social and environmental claims and dimensions. Yet, public assets are also being subject to financialisation and new financial instruments and practices.

Political-economic debate and deliberation about public assets and the role of the state are intensifying. With some interests bemoaning the "phony war" (Detter and Fölster 2015) between public ownership and privatization, calling for the improvement of "the quality of public asset governance" via "professional wealth managers working with a measure of political independence in national wealth funds" (2015: 1, 7), and calling for the creation of new institutional vehicles at arms-length from central national and city/regional governments in 'Urban' or 'Regional Wealth Funds'. While other interests are questioning public asset sell-offs due to their risk of net losses to the taxpayer and loss of future long term revenues, and arguing for the regional and local state as a legitimate and efficient owner and manager of public assets.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Heather Whiteside*, University of Waterloo, Austerity as Epiphenomenon? Public Assets Before & Beyond 2008 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Brett Christophers*, Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University, Enclosure Redux: Disappearing Public Land in Neoliberal Britain 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Andrew Cumbers*, University of Glasgow, Making Sense of Remunicipalisation: Theoretical Reflections and Political Possibilities of a Post-Neoliberal Order 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Peter O'Brien*, , Andy Pike*, Newcastle University, Andy Brown, University of Leeds, Richard Whittle, Manchester Metropolitan University, The Public Wealth of Cities and Regions? 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Andy Pike Newcastle University 20 9:20 AM

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