Urban Government and Governance

Thanks to decentralisation processes, city governments have acquired greater political influence and policy-making capacity, undermining the pre-eminence of the nation-state (Le Galès, 2002; Kazepov, 2005, 2010). Therefore, cities – in Europe and beyond – have carved out a niche of autonomy that allows them to develop tailor-made policies and regulative solutions to the complex and problems affecting their localities. Recently, local political élites have sought to open their decision-making process by engaging residents in the co-production of services (Borraz and Le Galès, 2010). Nonetheless, when top-down solutions fail to meet residents’ demands, contentious relationships between political elites and residents may arise. Recent urban movements in many European cities – as elsewhere – have united activists around right-to-city claims, demanding their right to live in decent conditions and a fairer access to basic services (Uitermark et al., 2012). These requests, rooted in anti-global, ecologist and feminist discourses, are challenging institutional logics and practices, offering alternatives from the ground-up. By conceptualising cities as political actors, we will examine the “limits and discontinuities [or continuities] of government and governance” (Borraz and Le Galès, 2010: 138, 145), which characterise the trajectories of city governments in Europe and beyond. We will thus identify and evaluate the “instrumentation of public action” deployed by urban policy-makers (Lascoumes and Le Galès, 2004: 12), their embeddedness in multilevel structures, as well as the ongoing and latent political conflicts in the urban space between the power-holders and the powerless. As a result, our research efforts in the realm of urban government and governance will pivot around two main questions: How do municipal governments cope with contemporary multidimensional urban challenges? How do public, private and civil society actors interact in cities? What role have other tiers of government in defining cities´ strategies? Are European cities different from other cities?