An Inclusive Development Perspective on the Geographies of Urban Governance

  • Joyeeta Gupta
  • Karin Pfeffer
  • Mirjam Ros-Tonen
  • Hebe Verrest


Urban governance in cities is shaped by, and shapes, global discourses. These discourses shape the discussion of how governance should be organized, what forms it takes, what kinds of governance instruments, methods and data are used and what urban governance practices may look like. Much of this is presented in gender- and place/space-neutral, objective language and complex scientific jargon, which obfuscates the highly political nature of the shifts in governance and associated governance theories, instruments, methods and practices. It is assumed that these dimensions can be scaled up and down and transferred to different contexts. Close examination reveals, however, that many of these are being used in the service of the most powerful, while the shift from government to (network) governance creates the illusion of empowering all. In practice, accountability, legitimacy, legality and equity are compromised as the most powerful actors influence the governance process. In the process, public goods and services are being privatized; infrastructure developments relocate the poor and serve the rich; market/economic instruments are replacing regulatory ones; big data and maps can be used manipulatively; and network governance and participatory processes may be more disempowering than empowering. This chapter argues for a deconstruction of discourses, theories, instruments, methods, technologies, practices and outcomes to ensure that these are used in the service of human well being and their ecosystems. This deconstruction should build on an understanding that place specificities are highly relevant and that urban governance is situated in a produced space. Moreover, cities and urban governance do not operate in a vacuum but are related to and intertwined with processes at other scalar levels.


Inclusive development Geographies of governance Governance theory Governance networks Smart city 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joyeeta Gupta
    • 1
  • Karin Pfeffer
    • 1
  • Mirjam Ros-Tonen
    • 1
  • Hebe Verrest
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development StudiesAmsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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