“The City is Dead, Long Live the Net”: Harnessing European Interurban Networks for a Neoliberal Agenda
A network discourse has emerged during the last two decades, representing networks as self–organizing, collaborative, nonhierarchical, flexible, and topological. Progressive scholars initially embraced networks as an alternative to markets and hierarchies; neoliberal thinkers and policymakers have reinterpreted them in order to serve a neoliberal agenda of enhanced economic competitiveness, a leaner and more efficient state, and a more flexible governance. The European Commission and the German state have initiated and financially supported interurban network programs, broadly framed within this neoliberal network discourse, despite their long traditions of regulated capitalism. Really existing interurban networks depart, however, from these discourses. Embedded within pre–existing processes of uneven development and hierarchical state structures, and exhibiting internal power hierarchies, really existing networks are created, regulated, and evaluated by state institutions, and often exclude institutions and members of civil society, making them effective channels for disseminating a neoliberal agenda. At the same time, they create new political spaces for cities to challenge existing state structures and relations and are of unequal potential benefit to participating cities, both of which may catalyze resistance to neoliberalization.
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