RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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312 Experimental Recipes for a Radical Municipalism (1): local state capacities and appetite for democracy
Affiliation Participatory Geographies Research Group
Urban Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Matthew Thompson (University of Liverpool, UK)
Bertie Russell (University of Sheffield, UK)
Chair(s) Bertie Russell (University of Sheffield, UK)
Timetable Friday 30 August 2019, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Huxley Building, Room 340
Session abstract In June 2017 Barcelona hosted ‘Fearless Cities’, the first gathering of an embryonic global movement dubbed ‘new’ or ‘radical municipalism’. From Rosario, Argentina to Jackson, Mississippi, these initiatives see activists developing strategic approaches to municipal institutions with the aim of transforming urban-economic governance in resistance to growing inequalities, democratic deficits and social injustice. This builds on a long and ideologically-diverse history of municipalism(s) – from pre-Westphalian city-states; through paternalistic ‘gas-and-water’ municipalism of nineteenth-century English local authorities and their turn, in the 1980s, to New Left municipal socialism; to Marxist, anarchist and feminist thinking on federalism (Kropotkin), libertarian municipalism (Bookchin), right to the city (Lefebvre) and commoning (Federici).

What is arguably ‘new’ – and ‘radical’ – about the present moment is the geographical breadth and speed of replication of comparable experiments worldwide; their shared vision to ‘feminize’ decision-making processes; the blurring of state/civil-society boundaries; the decentring-without-jettisoning of the state in theories of social change; an emerging politics of scale that challenges conventional hierarchical interpretations; and the radical democratization of urban economies through co-operatives, commons and re-municipalisation.

This session aims to inspire critical debate and discussion of movement-relevant research and action concerning radical municipalism – oriented towards activists, practitioners and policymakers as well as researchers. The session format begins with a roundtable discussion, with presentations limited to 10 minutes to allow more time for dialogue amongst all participants/collaborators in the room. Principal contributions must pose a genuine question/provocation – a real uncertainty that presents challenges both for the contributor and for municipalist movements – which will be shared and openly discussed. The aim is to galvanize new thought, action and collaborations, through exploratory questioning, rather than find definitive answers.
Linked Sessions Experimental Recipes for a Radical Municipalism (2): overcoming barriers to experimentation
Experimental Recipes for a Radical Municipalism (3): Scaling up urban commons
Experimental Recipes for a Radical Municipalism (4): New Municipalist Horizons
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
Between autonomy and authority? Radical municipalism in the Greater London Council, 1981-1986
Timothy Joubert (University of Leeds, UK)
The GLC’s Grants Committee gave millions of pounds away to social ‘enterprises’ (co-operatives, non-profit organisations, and for-profit enterprises with social goals). At the same time, its Greater London Enterprise Board invested heavily in strategic sectors of London’s economy – a form of urban Keynesianism, where investments were also attached to social conditions (like equal opportunities and worker representation on boards). It also made efforts to expand public transport and cut fares. This presentation explores the contradictions and entanglements between the three approaches of ‘get the money out of the building’, the experiment in ‘municipal state-capitalism’, and municipal services. The central question for discussion posed by this presentation is: how do we work through the contradictory project of mobilising the capacity of the local state for democratising, movement-building, and commoning (which necessarily involves some form of devolution and decomposition of power), while relying on the local state as the provider of services (potentially vital in the interim, prior to any commons transition and especially in contexts of a weak welfare state – but reliant on a more muscular local authority)? Could greater mobilisation aid a service-provision agenda by exerting popular pressure, and could expanding services and lowering prices aid popular mobilisation by easing the stresses on everyday life? The evidence from the GLC case suggests this formulation may be insufficient for building a popular democratic municipalism. But the ‘new’ municipalism potentially offers new prospects: international platforms and the feminisation of politics may present a way forward for municipalist movements negotiating this dilemma today.
Moving from paternalism to enabler: can participation exist without coercion?
Abigail Gilbert (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, UK)
Rhys Clyne (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, UK)
Geraud de Ville de Goyet (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, UK)
Unlike many European and American New Municipalist endeavours, characterised by civil society insurgency and reclaiming of the state, to date British performances – notably Preston – have been led from within local government. This raises the question; in the absence of civic action to take back control, what is the state’s role in generating a more active demos?

In many ways, the conjuncture English local government finds itself in today reflects the tensions of 1970s local authority governance described by Cockburn (1977): on the one hand an impetus to centralise, increasing hierarchy, as austerity drives increased corporate oversight of resources - financial and workforce, while on the other hand, community development initiatives (and today a growing discourse around devolution, and double devolution) see attempts to decentralise control and increase horizontality through greater democracy and participation, enrolling citizens in providing solutions to collective action problems. Cockburn explores whether these two trends pull in different directions, or are tough and tender aspects of a common principle – public management. She concludes that these trends were operationalised in concert, to gain consent for restructuring of local government – thus generating a tendency for citizens to be enrolled in governance in ways which ultimately fold into a logic of hierarchy and coercion. Penny (2017), revisiting these questions today makes similar conclusions about Camden’s cooperative council, which saw participatory network governance ‘folded into the logic of hierarchy and coercion through various governmental technologies of performance and agency (consent), and through tactics of administrative domination (coercion)’.

In this context, we will ask: in the absence of democratic citizen self-organisation, is it ever legitimate or necessary for the municipal state to enable increased participation; if so, how can this be achieved; is coercion ever necessary in transforming local circuits of participatory power; and what mechanisms are required to mainstream participatory practices rather than retain them within spaces of experimentation?
Drawing on the experience and practices of Barking and Dagenham: the locale in which the authors of this abstract are based, and site of an emergent model of Civic Socialism; we will seek to expand our own understanding of these issues while also bringing forth tales of local practical and award winning experiments in decisive participation; collaborative participation; and generative participation.
What are the obstacles to transforming the state? What role, if any, can collaboration between elected politicians and transformative social movements play in overcoming these obstacles?
Hilary Wainwright (Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands / Red Pepper, UK)
With the radical experiments of several major city governments in the UK in the 1980s (London, Sheffield, and in a more limited way Manchester) in Italy in the 1990s (Naples, Lazio Region, Ascoli Picena) and in Spain in the 2010s (Barcelona, Madrid etc.) there is sufficient experience of radical attempts to both change the state and through this facilitate change throughout society and the economy, to start investigating/theorising the lessons they offer for strategies for transforming the state at a national and continental level.

Are there any patterns in the obstacles – whether of an ‘external’ institutional kind, or in the mentality of key actors – faced across these different experiments? What explains them? How far are they integral to the nature of the state in capitalist democracies, related to the limited power of elected politicians in these democracies and how far are they consequences of particular historical, geo-political conjunctures?

Do the dimension of these local experiments that involve collaboration with social movements reveal sources of power and knowledge/capacity that these movements can mobilise which overcome the limits on the powers of social movements? And in what ways do these sources of power vary according to the nature of these movements and the social constituencies from which they emerge. For example what are the distinct sources of power and knowledge/capacity of the feminist movements, and compared with the radical trade union/shop stewards movement? And what is the relevance of these difference sources of transformative capacity for strategies for transforming the state?

Finally, what forms of collaboration best mobilise the combined but different sources of power of social movements with those of the elected government? And how far must political parties, the state and social movements change to achieve an effectively transformative collaboration?
New criteria for managing public services: implementation of social procurement in the Barcelona City Council
Yunailis Salazar (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain)
Criticism of some negative consequences of outsourcing public services was one of the central themes of the so-called "candidancies of change" who emerged as new political subjects in the context of the 15M protests and the 2007 financial crisis in Spain. Within the framework of its electoral programs, different alternatives to outsourcing have been proposed, such as the municipalization of services; spaces for public-community co-production of policies; and the strengthening of the public dimension of management. It is within this range of proposals that social public procurement is to be found.

The current municipal government of Barcelona led by the political party Barcelona en Comú included in its electoral programme for the 2015 elections the need to "condition municipal procurement to considerations of social and environmental justice". Based on the changes in the legal frameworks that allow the incorporation of social clauses, public administrations can use public procurement not only as the of procedures to be followed by an administration to manage public services, but also as a public instrument that complements policies that guarantee social and labour rights, and also creates new schemes of local economic development.

In this sense, outsourcing with social criteria is understood as an alternative to the negative consequences of the successive outsourcing and commercialisation processes of public services. At the same time, it is a new strategy to guarantee social and gender inclusion, promote social and solidarity economy initiatives, while generating changes on the relationship between the private sector and the City Council.
This paper aims to analyze the potentials and limits of social procurement as a social and economical innovative policy on the managing of public services in the local governments, considering the specific case of the Barcelona City Council.
WITHDRAWN - Labourlands: on the origins of radical municipalism
John Tomaney (University College London, UK)
Kevin Morgan (Cardiff University, UK)
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