Landscapes of antagonism: local governance, neoliberalism and austerity

Newman, Janet (2013). Landscapes of antagonism: local governance, neoliberalism and austerity. Urban Studies, 51(15) pp. 3290–3305.



The current climate of cuts, austerity and state retrenchment has intensified a focus on neoliberalism as a meta-narrative that seemingly both describes and explains local governance transformations, especially in the global North. But such a narrative, this paper suggests, offers little scope for critical engagements with those same transformations: that is, it leaves little space for politics, for agency. Nor does it help us engage with contradictory trends and tendencies: for example the simultaneous concentration and dispersal of governmental power. This paper, then, attempts to look beyond the neoliberal narrative in three ways. First, it offers an engagement with what the editors suggest might be theoretical deficits in some uses of neoliberalism as an explanatory concept. Second, it draws on different strands of theory to illuminate the ambiguous and contradictory role of local governments in processes of neoliberalisation. Third, it addresses the ‘critical’ deficit by suggesting ways of conceptualising local government as a strategic actor in the ‘landscapes of antagonism’ generated by current cycles of economic, political and governance change

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