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From Places to Flows? Planning for the New ‘Regional World’ in Germany

European Urban and Regional Studies, Forthcoming

Posted: 9 Jan 2011 Last revised: 27 Jun 2013

John Harrison

Loughborough University

Anna Growe

Technical University of Dortmund

Date Written: January 1, 2010


Recent decades have been dominated by discourses describing a resurgence of regions. Yet despite its prominence the region remains a largely Delphian concept. In the period of new regionalist orthodoxy, for example, while it was recognised that regions take various forms, the normative claim that we were living in a ‘regional world’ became narrowly focused on regions as subnational political units. Nevertheless, the emergence of city-regions, cross border regions, and European Metropolitan Regions suggests the formation in this century of a brave new ‘regional world’. With economic, social and political activity increasingly orchestrated across and beyond bounded regional spaces, the literature is adorned with accounts advancing the theoretical and policy rationale for relational approaches to regions and regionalism. Yet far less has been written on the struggle to construct these spaces politically, thereby neglecting questions of territory and territorial politics. With this in mind, our paper draws on the experience of Germany to consider the political struggle to overcome the contradictions, overlaps, and competing tendencies which result from these new regional spaces appearing alongside, rather than replacing, existing forms of state scalar organisation. In particular, we discover and analyse how the Federal State is using the ambiguity of the regional concept to present territorial and relational approaches as complementary alternatives. The paper concludes by relating these findings to ongoing debates on how we as ‘regional’ researchers should approach the analysis of regions and regionalism and speculates on the degree to which they form progressive and effective spatial policies.

Keywords: Regions, networks, territory, planning, European Metropolitan Regions, Germany

JEL Classification: O18, R10, R58

Suggested Citation

Harrison, John and Growe, Anna, From Places to Flows? Planning for the New ‘Regional World’ in Germany (January 1, 2010). European Urban and Regional Studies, Forthcoming . Available at SSRN:

John Harrison (Contact Author)

Loughborough University ( email )

Ashby Road
Loughborough, LE11 3TU
Great Britain

Anna Growe

Technical University of Dortmund ( email )

Emil-Figge-Straße 50
Dortmund, 44221

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