From Places to Flows? Planning for the New ‘Regional World’ in Germany
Technical University of Dortmund
January 1, 2010
European Urban and Regional Studies, Forthcoming
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
Date posted: January 9, 2011 ; Last revised: June 27, 2013