Governance in Nottingham and Stuttgart: a comparative case study of power, inequality and sustainability

Keding, Hannah (2020) Governance in Nottingham and Stuttgart: a comparative case study of power, inequality and sustainability. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Various environmental, economic and social practices in democratic capitalist countries like Germany and the UK cannot be sustained long-term without undermining their own foundations. Understanding what may facilitate more sustainable ways of living together is therefore paramount. The case study at hand makes an original contribution to this aim by comparing urban governance in Nottingham (UK) and Stuttgart (Germany) as two exemplars of capitalist variation – with different consequences for how capitalism’s unsustainabilities play out.

While both cities are situated in similar capitalist systems, their configurations and relating values, conventions and power relations diverge markedly. I explore how these aspects of social order interact – i.e., are co-produced (Jasanoff, 2004a) – with local policies and their knowledge claims. This is done by interpretively examining how policy approaches, their negotiation and political and economic interdependencies in the two cities relate to sustainability – defined as social and intergenerational justice –, in terms of meanings and in terms of being unsustainable. Weberian ideal types of urban governance regimes outline initial expectations: those of a traditional Weberian bureaucracy in Stuttgart and those of New Public Management in Nottingham, where neoliberalisation has further progressed. The cases are further conceptualised as embedded in conservative-corporatist or liberal welfare state types (Esping-Andersen, 1990) and in coordinated or liberal market economies (Hall & Soskice, 2001). To understand local policies and their relation with social order, the research draws on 78 interviews with key informants in Nottingham and Stuttgart, on 83 policy documents and on desktop research.

Policies, their negotiation, the roles of civil society and of the local economy differ significantly between the two governance regimes. Divergence can partly be explained by distinct ways of co-producing policies and social order. Policy approaches in Nottingham are more behavioural, individual-focused and measurable, while they are more developmental and collective in Stuttgart. These differences co-emerge with higher inequalities in Nottingham than Stuttgart; and with distinct policy-relevant knowledges, i.e. a more ‘collectivist’ civic epistemology in Stuttgart vs. a more ‘individualising’ civic epistemology in Nottingham.

Considering how policies aiming for social and intergenerational justice are devised, local power dynamics diverge. Whereas such policies in Nottingham often originate from its city council, dominated since 1991 by the progressive and electorally successful Labour Party, Stuttgart’s diverse municipal council with 11 groups has in some significant instances been driven by civil society. The varying power positions of civil society interact with differently pronounced inequalities between the public and policy developers in both cities: in terms of realising basic social and economic rights, access to economic and educational resources, experiential worlds, hierarchies and understandings of citizenship. Besides, higher interregional inequalities and a stronger ideological polarisation between central and local government in Nottingham contribute to – less sustainable – friction losses between governance levels and to the city’s structural disadvantage. Conversely, less spatial inequality, more local autonomy and more cooperative relations between governance levels in Stuttgart – relating to proportional representation instead of majority voting systems – appear more conducive to socio-economic sustainability.

Finally, Stuttgart’s economy seems more locally embedded than Nottingham’s. This concerns communication and cooperation with the public sector, mutual obligations and levels of trust. Thereby, the high economic weight of Stuttgart’s car industry cluster and corporatist links with policy-makers appear to counter more environmentally progressive policies. On the contrary in Nottingham, some significant measures are implemented despite business opposition. Also, the city is a pioneer in environmentally sustainable policies – though its high deprivation may be an enabling factor herein.

Altogether, the comparative case study points out different routes, their implications, struggles and turnarounds in relation to neoliberalisation and rising inequalities in two governance regimes approximating ‘centre’ (Stuttgart) and ‘periphery’ (Nottingham) as poles of contemporary capitalism. It thereby provides insights into how varying factors play out in relation to power, inequalitity and sustainability and offers according routes for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Grundmann, Reiner
Cauvain, Jenni
Nathanail, Paul
Keywords: Local governance, local government, welfare state regimes, market economy types, sustainability, intergenerational justice, social justice, power, inequality, comparative case study, Nottingham/UK, Stuttgart/Germany
Subjects: J Political science > JC Political theory
J Political science > JS Local government. Municipal government
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute for Science and Society
UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 63643
Depositing User: Keding, Hannah
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2020 11:07
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2020 11:07

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