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Experimenting with alternative economies: four emergent counter-narratives of urban economic development

July 11 2017

Cities are often seen as critical sites for societal change and sustainability transitions, but attempts to steer these transitions can create difficulties. How do such transitions relate to the role of cities as sites of economic production, consumption, exchange and innovation, shaped by neoliberalism? This paper reports on four nascent counter-narratives that challenge the neoliberal logic and open up a wider set of possibilities.

A narrative based on neoliberal market rationality has, in recent decades, played a significant role in shaping the governance, economies, built environment and infrastructure of cities. Neoliberalism is a powerful narrative that has shaped processes of urban economic development across the globe.

This paper reports on four nascent ‘new economic’ narratives which represent fundamentally different imaginaries of the urban economy. Experiments informed by these narratives challenge the dominant neoliberal logic in four key dimensions: What is the purpose of economic development? What are the preferred distributive mechanisms? Who governs the economy? What is the preferred form of economic organisation? The emergence of these experiments illustrates that cities are spaces where counter-narratives can emerge and circulate. Acknowledging the existence of these alternative visions opens up a wider set of possibilities for future urban transitions.

Longhurst, N., Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J., Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., Heilscher, S., Cipolla, C., Afonso, R., Kunze, I. and Elle, M. (2016)  

Experimenting with alternative economies: four emergent counter-narratives of urban economic development, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 22, 69-74

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