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From places to flows? Planning for the new 'regional world' in Germany

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-01-12, 14:15 authored by John HarrisonJohn Harrison, Anna Growe
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 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 is leading some scholars to suggest the formation in this century of a brave new ‘regional world’. With economic, social and political activity increasingly orchestrated through regional spaces that cross‐cut the territorial map which prevailed through much of the twentieth century, 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 new regional spaces appearing alongside, rather than replacing, existing forms of state scalar organisation. In particular, we observe 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, speculates on the degree to which they form progressive and effective spatial policies, and asks what lessons can be learnt about contemporary state spatiality more generally.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


HARRISON, J. and GROWE, A., 2014. From places to flows? Planning for the new 'regional world' in Germany. European Urban and Regional Studies, 21(1), pp. 21– 41.


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This article was published in the journal, European Urban and Regional Studies [© The Author(s)]. It is a revised version of a conference paper prepared for The Regional Studies Association One Day Winter Conference: Contested Regions: Territorial Politics and Policy. 25th November 2011, London.




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