Reimagining the Local State: theoretical and empirical transitions in local government

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Organizers: Emma Ormerod
Chairs: Emma Ormerod


Title: Reimagining the Local State: theoretical and empirical transitions in local government

Organisers: Emma Ormerod (Durham University), Joe Penny (University College London) and Joe Beswick (University of Leeds)

Recent decades have seen widely reported, systemic shifts in the role, nature and object of local and city governments, across multiple places. At the same time, the theoretical apparatus deployed to understand local government and control have also evolved, centring both on the entrepreneurial turn, and a shift from government to governance. Instead, this session seeks to explore and understand contemporary changes to local and city government and governance by revisiting the helpfulness of the concept of the Local State in understanding recent transformations in the governing of many services such as housing, planning, economic development, education etc. Can various updated versions of this concept shed light on the shifting position of local government in contemporary capitalism?

Recalling Marxist formulations of the Local State some forty years ago by Cynthia Cockburn (1977) and others (Saunders 1982; Duncan and Goodwin, 1982; The London Edinburgh Weekend Return group, 1979), this session asks what the concept can (or can not) offer to our contemporary understanding of city and local governing? Has something been lost in the fall in use of the concept, which coincided with the shift in analytic focus from government to governance (Harvey, 1989; Goodwin and Painter 1996)? Whilst the concept has retained some relevance for scholars in examining municipal entrepreneurialism under neoliberalism, it has often not been foregrounded. Yet the use of partnership working and the inclusion of business in governance has been considered as part of a restructuring, or mushrooming of local state institutions in many places (Leitner, 1990; Peck, 1995; Cochrane, 1993; Peck and Tickell 2002). At a time of so-called late entrepreneurialism in parts of the world (Peck, 2017), with a proliferation of various forms of partnerships, often under simultaneous conditions of austerity localism (Featherstone et al 2011), we question what is happening to local governments and how helpful is the Local State? We seek papers that make theoretically and/or empirically driven contributions to some of the following questions (but may not be limited to them):
· What do previous analyses of the Local State offer our contemporary attempts to understand local government and the role it plays in post-GFC modes of reproduction, accumulation, dispossession and displacement?
· What, if anything, does the Local State offer to our understanding of contemporary shifts identified in local government, such as austerity localism, financialization, late-entrepreneurialism and post-democracy/politics?
· How well does the concept of the Local State travel beyond the Trans-Atlantic? Does the Local State allow us to think generatively across places?
· Are there lessons to be learned from a Local State analysis for those seeking to promote more socially, ecologically and economically just urban futures?

Cockburn, C. (1977) The Local State: Management of Cities and People London: Pluto Press
Cochrane, A. (1993) Whatever Happened to Local Government? Buckingham: Open University Press
Duncan, S.S. and Goodwin, M. (1982) ‘The local state: functionalism, autonomy and class relations in Cockburn and Saunders’ Political Geography Quarterly 1(2) pp. 77-96
Featherstone, D., Ince, A., Mackinnin, D., Strauss, K., and Cumbers, A. (2011) ‘Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37 pp. 177-182
Harvey, D. (1989) ‘From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation of Urban Governance in Late Capitalism’ Geografiska Annaler, 71(B) pp. 3-17
Goodwin, M. and Painter, J. (1996) ‘Local Governance, the Crises of Fordism and the Changing Geographies of Regulation’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 1(4) pp. 635-648
Leitner, H. (1990) ‘Cities in Pursuit of Economic Growth: The local State as Entrepreneur’, Political Geography Quarterly 9(2) pp. 147-170
Peck, J. (1995) ‘Moving and shaking: business elites, state localism and urban privatism’, Progress in Human Geography 19(1) pp. 16-46
Peck, J. (2017) ‘Transatlantic City, Part 2: Late Entrepreneurialism’, Urban Studies 54(2) pp. 327-363
Peck. J. and Tickell, A. (2002) ‘Neoliberalizig Space’, Antipode 34(31) pp.380-404
Saunders, P. (1982) ‘Why Study Central-Local Relations? ‘Local Government Studies March/April pp. 55-66
The London Edinburgh Weekend Return Group (1979) In & Against The State. London: Pluto Press


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Mike Raco, University College London, Tatiana Moreira De Souza*, University College London, Urban Development, Small Business Communities, and the Entrepreneurialisation of English Local Government 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Philip Howell*, University of Cambridge, The slow death of Victorian liberal governmentality? Municipal government and the rule of freedom in the era of neoliberalism in Britain 20 8:20 AM
Presenter David Beel*, Staffordshire University, Martin Jones, Staffordshire University, Ian Rees Jones, Cardiff University, Agents and obstacles in city-region building: austerity, the local state and civil society. 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Emma Ormerod*, Durham University, Modestly and Immodestly Governing: Multiple Publics and The Veil of the Local State 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Joe Penny University College London 20 9:20 AM

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