The ambiguity of new regionalism
The notion of ‘new regionalism’ is used widely in the discussion of metropolitan economic and spatial development in North America, Western Europe and Australia today. However, the term is an ambiguous and controversial one as it is used in different contexts and for several strands of analysis (Gleeson 2003; MacLeod 2001). This paper suggests to distinguish more clearly between the different 'new regionalisms', not only to avoid confusion within the planning literature, but also to distinguish the discussion from other ‘new regionalisms’, such as for example new regionalism in an international political economy context where regions are understood as supra-national regions (MacLeod 2001; Allison 2004, Kelly 2007). For this clearer distinction categories and new terms are developed in order to clarify the differences and context of each ‘regionalism’. This has been done through investigating journal articles on new regionalism and exploring the different uses of the term. Views on new regionalism can be seen as extremely heterogeneous. The only commonalities are that new regionalists focus on specific territories (‘regions’), that they understand regions as a subnational administrative unit and that spatial planning is a crucial element in their new regionalism. Apart from that three broad strands can be distinguished within the new regionalism literature related to spatial planning: literature with an economic focus, literature with a focus on redistribution and equity and literature with a focus on metropolitan governance. The literature with an economic focus can be divided into two further strands, one that is more concerned with the competitiveness of regions (MacLeod 2001; Norris 2001; Lovering 1999; Keating 1998) and one that is more concerned with regional clusters (Rainnie and Grant 2005; Scott and Storper 2003; Cooke and Morgan 1998; Amin 1999). However, these topics are naturally strongly interrelated and some studies may be concerned with both strands. The literature with a focus on metropolitan governance can also be divided into two different strands, one that is concerned with territorial relations and rescaling (Amin 2004; Brenner 2003; Keating 1998) and one that is concerned with the (institutional) organisation of metropolitan governance (Heinelt and Kübler 2005; Savitch and Vogel 2000). These different strands of analysis will be described in more detail in the following sections in order to distinguish more clearly between them. It is acknowledged that all of these strands are closely interconnected and that new regionalist studies may be looking at several of these strands at the same time. However, a clearer distinction between the different strands is still deemed as useful in order to clarify the central focus of those studies to the reader, but also to avoid confusion of what ‘new regionalism’ stands for.