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The contemporary struggle for social inclusion in cities is infused with a range of seemingly common-sense terms such as ‘participation’, ‘area partnership’, ‘downscaling’, even ‘inclusion’ itself. This policy discourse, or, more appropriately, given its self-reverential tone, urban regeneration litany, is accompanied by a more spatially aware and contextualised urban policy apparently legitimised in terms of its retreat from inappropriate ‘top-down’ strategies. When no longer at arm's length – in other words, when decentralised – claims are made that ‘downscaled’ localised policy induces ‘relevance’ and therefore ‘efficiency’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘accountability’ at the local scale (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001; Department of Social Security, 1999). The changing forms and functions of the national state, on the one hand, involves a re-scaling of state functions and strategies upwards to a supranational level. However, this chapter focuses upon the implications of ‘downscaling’ – that is, the shift in functions downwards – for governance and local policy interventions which purport to enhance spaces of inclusion in our cities.
The urban imprint of socio-economic and political restructuring under advanced capitalism is therefore particularly noticeable in the efforts of national and local governments to reconfigure policy and offload functions in certain areas of policy design to state or non-state coalitions. Systems of local government apparently give way to wider processes of local governance beyond, but importantly not necessarily dis-embedded from, existing methods of working (Imrie and Raco, 1999; Ward, 2000), involving partnerships comprising ‘complex sets of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors’ (Stoker and King, 1996: 1). These ‘complex sets’ involved in governance also include the community sector, in which there was a resurgence of interest in the UK in the 1980s, and particularly the 1990s (Atkinson and Cope, 1997). Since 1997, successive Labour government mapping of the landscape of socially cohesive ‘stakeholder’ capitalism increasingly reifies the role of active citizenship and places ‘community’ participation at the centre of local regeneration initiatives. Participation is closely associated with social exclusion because the latter is often represented as a condition or process resulting from a lack of participation (Musterd and Ostendorf, 1998; De Haas, 1998; Madanipour et al., 1998). Social inclusion through participation is now a policy objective entrenched within the urban regeneration litany.
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