IAS/WUN Research Workshop: Reconfiguring the local public realm - day 1 NEW VENUE

22 September 2011, 11.55 PM - 22 September 2011, 11.55 PM

Thu 22 Sep 2011, 9:00 - 17:30, Room 7G1, 7 Priory Road


Professor Gary Bridge, Professor of Urban Studies, School for Policy Studies
Professor Alex Marsh, Professor of Public Policy, School for Policy Studies
Dr David Sweeting, Lecturer in Urban Studies, School for Policy Studies

This workshop focuses on the ways in which the social, institutional, and political aspects of the ‘local public realm’ are changing as a result of different but interconnected trends.

The workshop brings together international scholars from a range of social science disciplines.

The aim is to examine:

  • the nature of the social and institutional changes driving the reconfiguration of the local public realm;
  • the ways that local political authorities are responding to these changes;
  • the implications of change for affected communities;
  • the effectiveness of such responses in maintaining or enhancing representation, scrutiny and accountability.

The boundaries between civil society, the state and private sectors – especially at the local and urban level - have become increasingly contestable, with governance replacing government as a means of co-ordinating collective action.

The resulting structures and processes pose new questions for democracy, representation and accountability. Political parties struggle to find a grip in this new landscape, and there is emphasis on direct citizen involvement in public policy-making. The contemporary, contested fiscal crisis of the State has given a new impetus to the restructuring of public provision. Initial accounts suggested that the reconfiguration of governance represents a decentring of power and demanded a less state-centric analysis.

However, orienting the analysis of organisational fragmentation and new participatory mechanisms toward power and control can lead to a reframing in terms of new forms of incorporation: a wider range of actors is implicated in governance processes animated and orchestrated by the state.At the same time, cities and communities themselves are changing. Globalisation has intensified concerns with city competitiveness, differentiation and boosterism.

Greater geographic mobility makes cities sites for migration, while rural areas wrestle with the problems of retaining younger residents in the face of limited opportunities and high living costs. Many communities are gentrifying. We argue that the result of these processes is a new and different local public realm worthy of exploration.

This workshop will draw on contributions based in political science, human geography, sociology, planning, and management studies in order to advance a more nuanced understanding of these developments. It brings together participants from Australia, Europe, South Africa and the US, and is supported by Bristol's Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), Bristol's World Universities Network (WUN) Research Development Fund and the journal Policy & Politics.

For more information on this workshop please contact Dr David Sweeting (David.Sweeting@bris.ac.uk).