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Locality Debates in Retrospect. Phil Cooke Oxford Brookes University & Centre for Advanced Studies Cardiff University. Stairway to Heaven. Big debates in geography Environmental determinism Quantitative revolution Social justice, Marxism, restructuring Localities and locality

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Locality debates in retrospect

Locality Debates in Retrospect

Phil Cooke Oxford Brookes University & Centre for Advanced Studies Cardiff University

Stairway to heaven
Stairway to Heaven

  • Big debates in geography

    • Environmental determinism

    • Quantitative revolution

    • Social justice, Marxism, restructuring

    • Localities and locality

    • Postmodernism & consumption geography

    • New regionalism

    • London-centric socio-economic polarisation critique

  • Localities drew on 3 while influencing 4,5 & 6, but failed badly on 7

More research needed
More Research Needed

  • ESRC Changing Urban & Regional System 1984-1987

  • Highly politicised – SSRC changed to ESRC by Thatcher’s ‘Mad Monk’….Sir Keith Joseph…. gave Adam Smith to civil servants to read

  • UK cities & regions were being torn apart by ‘monetarism’

  • The academic ‘right’ (behaviourists & quants) failed to explain because they lacked theory, so the contrarian ‘left’ were handed the baton.

Space the final frontier
Space, the Final frontier

  • Harvey’s work was theoretical but said little about industrial restructuring

  • Castells’ work was, like Harvey’s, much more about urban ‘collective consumption’ than production

  • Massey’s was the only theoretical analysis of ‘spatial divisions of labour’ as they influenced industrial restructuring with local variety

Institutional thinness
Institutional Thinness

  • So threadbare was geography in theoretical terms, few geographers were included, only 7 (25%)

  • Sociologists 12 (43%), planners 7 (25%), economists 2 (7%)

  • Nevertheless, geographic ‘theory’ and critique was the main framework

  • E.g. G. Olsson’s critique of ‘spatial science’ & A. Sayer’s ‘critique of modelling’.

American dreams
American Dreams

  • URPE & Review of Radical Political Economics – founded in 1968 (!) – Bennett Harrison, Ann Markusen & Dick Walker

  • In UK, CSE & Capital & Class – founded 1970 – Doreen Massey & Andrew Sayer

  • CSE ‘Regionalism’ Group – Massey, Meegan, Cooke, K. Morgan, Ash Amin, A. Sayer, M. Dunford, D. Perrons, Ray Hudson, Jim Lewis, Robin Murray, John Urry

  • Greater London Council – R. Murray head of economic development, D. Massey adviser, M. Best; all employed in GLC economy team

Second industrial divide
Second Industrial Divide

  • Italian industrial districts

  • Brusco, Fergus Murray, Piore & Sabel, Cooke & da Rosa Pires

  • Localised economic development>GLC and radical cities in UK & US

  • North-South divide – Thatcher cuts to regional aid – many academic ‘locality’ politicos

  • RSA Inquiry into Regional Problems in the UK – PC evidence to House of Commons Committees

  • UDCs and EZs as ‘market’ ruled

Looking for clues
Looking for Clues

  • Theoretical perspective adopted (restructuring & SDLs) produced rich quantitative & qualitative comparative material linking local-global ‘drivers’

  • Localities as ‘laboratories’ with varied ‘social capital’ (local proactivity)

  • Rise of a ‘networking’ propensity – partnerships

  • Postmodern ‘local narratives’

Critics throwing stones
Critics throwing stones

  • Neil Smith – empirical turn….’evidence’ redundant

  • Fear that ‘data’ might ‘disprove’ hard won theory leadership

  • Harvey returns to UK but nobody threw bouquets

  • Spatial trap of ‘scale’ local = unimportant

  • Dick Walker saw the trap but others didn’t

  • Even postmodernism came to pass – later, Springsteen went back to folk music (also ‘R&B’) to rediscover roots (foundationalism)

The legacy lingers
The legacy lingers

  • New regionalism...localities methodology

  • Regional innovation systems

  • Clusters (after Third Italy)

  • ‘Cultural turn’ a reaction to localities + restructuring production emphasis

  • Postmodern geographies

  • The ‘scale’ question grinds on….and on…and on…..

  • Locality research now folded into ‘evolutionary economic geography’. A happy ending

A few eeg exemplars
A Few EEG Exemplars

  • Algarve: RIS3 Phase Conceptual Model of DUI/STI Regional Innovation System (2013)

RIS – STI versus DUI (& hybrids)

STI a ‘totalising’ narrative

DUI begins consciously to be practised

From Skåne to Algarve

From clusters to grand challenges
From Clusters to ‘Grand Challenges’

Regional Innovation: STI/DUI ‘Sounding Board’ Regime & ‘Transversality’ Paradigm (Skåne)

House prices england 2013
House Prices, England, 2013

  • Kensington & Chelsea – 28 times average earnings

  • Oxford – 9 times average earnings

  • Middlesbrough – 4 times average earnings

  • Average earnings - £26,500

Locality debates in retrospect

Healthcare Crisis

Economic Crisis

Ecological Crisis

Energy Crisis

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Just Arrived:

Reflections on the Global Crises

Contrast and pomo influence
Contrast and PoMo Influence

The Portland Building, Oregon (Michael Graves) & “Portlandia”, (Raymond Kaskey)

Charles jencks industrial regeneration
Charles Jencks: Industrial Regeneration

“Northlandia” or ‘Lady of the North.’

N.B. Compare the ‘horizontal’ with Burj Khalifa’s ‘vertical’ dimensioning

The main viewpoint on the head looks down over Northlandia's face and body

Hence fracking ok for desolate north east
Hence Fracking OK for ‘desolate’ north-east.........

Adjudges Lord Howell of ........Guildford

Bamburgh Castle is among the North East's famed beauty spots

Site specific art
Site-specific Art

  • Sculptors

  • Jacob Epstein

  • Henry Moore

  • Olafur Eliasson >>>>>>

  • Andy Goldsworthy

  • Anthony Caro

  • Richard Serra

  • Painters

  • Diego Rivera

  • Roy Lichtenstein

  • Sol Le Witt

  • Richard Haas

The High Line at 20th St., Manhattan, an aerial greenway. The vegetation was chosen to recognise the wild plants that had colonized the abandoned railway before it was repurposed.


  • Since early ‘romantics’ (Shelley, et al.), ‘arts & crafts’ & ‘garden cities’, contrarians inspired by creative critique of industrialism

  • ‘New financier state’ narrows space of ‘neocon’ critique e.g. local proactivity/social capital becomes ‘Big Society’; GCHQ & NSA ‘Prism’

  • Time for ‘new contrarians’ to mobilise global critique and (green) innovative action to recover ‘locality’ from the 4 crises/horsemen and their ‘Big Corporate’ perpetrators.