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Exception as the Rule: High-End Developments in Neoliberal Beirut

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This paper presents the first findings of ongoing research documenting the changing modalities of governing and organizing the built environment in the past two decades in Lebanon, a phase widely associated with the advent of neoliberalism in the country. Taking building permits as the entry point for an investigation of these modalities, our research shows that in line with trends documented elsewhere, the neoliberal turn has materialized in public interventions deployed at several levels in order to facilitate the circulation of capital to this sector and foster more intensive construction practices. These include changing regulations, delegating planning to private actors, and changing the institutional environment in ways that accommodate the needs of capital. We further argue that additional flexibility is provided to capital through the informalization of public decision-making with regard to planning decisions, meaning more decisions taken by mutual agreement, on an ad hoc basis, at multiple levels of the public hierarchies. Our findings are based on a thorough investigation of the public regulations issued over the past two decades as well as interviews with public sector officials, with developers, and with real estate experts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: American University of Beirut.

Publication date: July 4, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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