(January 2010) Governing metropolitan transformations: cooperation, conflict and legitimacy in large-scale development projects

Governing metropolitan transformations: cooperation, conflict and legitimacy in large-scale development projects image
How to ensure cooperation in large scale developments? Large scale projects are thorny issues. They are localized interventions which however overtake governmental, jurisdictional and political boundaries. They often involve more than one municipality; the synergy between national, local and regional governments is both a goal and a pre-condition for their success; they can survive just if private investors are committed in the long term and ultimately they need broad popular support to be completed. Hence, their nature is firstly political than spatial.

The research aims at discovering the patterns of cooperation emerging in governing three large development projects: three cases will be selected in Amsterdam, Paris and Milan. The paper will outline the main structure of the cross-case comparison and describe the institutional approach adopted. Cooperation analysis is conducted by an actor-centered perspective, taking as unit of analysis the specific role plaid by three categories of actors: public governments - considered in their inter-governmental dimension-, private parties and civic stakeholders. An ultimate goal of the research is the assessment of patterns of governance according the concept of legitimacy: the degree to which conflicts are settled and controlled through procedures that integrate, rather than suffocate, divergent interests.

The conceptual step-stones of regime theory (coalition building e.g.) are used in order to map consolidated patterns of power emerging in the three cases. This theoretical framework is deemed to be effective to the extent that it privileges a focus on power structures as coalitions of actors, it rejects a purely economic and pluralist approach and it enables a research focused on both formal and informal interactions between actors.

The international comparison builds upon the analysis of institutional configurations in the three countries. Aware of the reductive potential of the selection, three main institutional variables are selected as determining the patterns of cooperation around the three projects. Those institutional factors are: intergovernmental financial arrangements (which governmental levels pay for what), local political institutions (how local governments are settled and which are their agendas) and local democracy practices (i.e. the specific nature of local democracy). The legitimacy issue is addressed by looking at how specific patterns of cooperation adapt or exploit those institutional configurations in order to avoid bottleneck, stalemates and, more generally, to solve conflicts.