Making up policy through comparison

Authors: Kevin Ward*, University of Manchester
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Political Geography
Keywords: comparison, policy mobilities, land value capture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Washington 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper reflects on recent critiques of comparison, understood as the measurement of similarity and difference between different spatial (urban) units. Acknowledging and building upon the rich history of the research into policy, from across anthropology, human geography, planning, political science and sociology, this contribution makes the case for a theoretical manoeuvre. Rather than being the mode of comparison, as in much of urban studies, it instead makes the case for comparison to be the object of our analysis. That is, to take seriously, the performativity and the politics of comparison as practiced by the makers of policy in all their various guises. From below in the sense of being open to the diversity and the multiplicity of either fragments or whole cities against which other cities, or fragments of them, compare themselves. This involves uncovering the processes and practices in and through which certain cities or fragments thereof, are brought forward as places against which other cities should compare themselves. From through in the sense of being open to the diversity and the multiplicity of ways – the actually practices - in and through which comparison occurs involving a variety of sites and spaces. This means uncovering the comparative architecture comprising the circulations, connections, networks and webs which shape how cities are imagined and planned, financed and governed and the diversity of urban contexts – current, past, and in the future - upon which those making urban policy draw.

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