Spatial selectivity of the state? The regulationist enigma and local struggles over economic governance

M.R. Jones

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259 Citations (SciVal)


In this paper I assess the value of regulation theory for studying transformations in governance at the local level, focusing on the issue of local economic development. Adopting a third-generation approach, regulation theory is recognised as having varied success at theorising local governance. More advanced third-generation approaches offer some useful concepts that require integration through mid-level concepts. This is to be contrasted to approaches which `read off' local transformation from broader macroeconomic change. Both approaches are, however, trapped in the regulationist enigma, defined in the paper as the difficulty of employing regulation theory to theorise local transformations in local governance. In order to solve the enigma, I utilise concepts from Jessop's strategic-relational state theory. This approach stresses, amongst other things, the political nature of state intervention. Jessop's approach is, however, not sufficiently sensitive to space and I introduce the notion of spatial selectivity to understand adequately the dynamics of local change. Spatial selectivity implies that the state has a tendency to privilege certain places through accumulation strategies, state projects, and hegemonic projects. The process of geographical privileging, which is implied by the notion of spatial selectivity, takes on both material and ideological forms. This tentative concept is explored through a reworking of theoretical approaches to Thatcherism. I conclude by highlighting issues that spatial selectivity needs to address, namely uneven development and structure - strategy - agency dialectics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-864
Number of pages34
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1997


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