Understanding the relationship between neoliberalism and the negotiation of urban development imperatives within public private partnerships in Durban.
Houghton, Jennifer Alice.
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As neoliberalism has risen into ascendancy, cities have shifted their development approach, often in ways that produce problematic and heavily critiqued outcomes (Bond, 2005a; Leitner et al, 2007). In many instances, cities have taken on a development agenda characterised by the prioritisation of economic growth and improving the quality of life in cities (Pieterse, 2008). Thus, cities, often with limited resources and skills, face the challenge of negotiating between these imperatives. In this context, public private partnerships (PPPs) have emerged as a development mechanism through which local, redistributive, and global, economic, urban imperatives can be negotiated. Building on the theorisation of neoliberalism and urban development in the contemporary city, this thesis draws on the concepts of the ‘ordinary city’ (Amin and Graham, 1996; Robinson, 2002; 2006) and ‘entanglement’ (Sharp et al, 2000; Nuttall, 2009). The adoption of this theoretical approach facilitates an understanding of the relationship between neoliberalism and the negotiation of competing urban development imperatives in public private partnerships. This understanding is relational and freed from the constraints of developmentalist or global cities approaches, which have come to dominate theorisations of urban development. The empirical research concentrates on two public private partnerships in Durban, South Africa, namely; the Durban Growth Coalition and the eThekwini Municipality-Moreland Developments Joint Venture. These partnerships have produced significant interventions in the urban landscape since their inception in 1999 and 2002, respectively. In addition, the empirical investigation includes the Riverhorse Valley Business Estate and the Bridge City mixed use development. These projects have been implemented through the eThekwini Municipality-Moreland Developments Joint Venture. The empirical study predominantly relies on a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders involved in these partnerships, their projects, and within the broader urban development arena of Durban. Documentary evidence and observation has further contributed to the empirical material examined in the research. The research findings reveal how actors in Durban enmesh and co-constitute the competing priorities of economic growth and post apartheid redress through a range of discourses. This discursive inter-relating of the imperatives produces their entanglement. In turn, this entanglement produces an ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ (Brenner and Theodore, 2002a). The form of this local version of neoliberalism is shown to be strongly shaped by the contingent conditions in Durban and the broader context of transition in South Africa. Furthermore, the examination of the two PPP projects brings to light the nuanced character of the ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ and how variably it is materialised within urban development. Through these findings, the thesis gives evidence of the active agency of places in the production of neoliberalism, and thereby challenges the assumption that cities, especially in the developing world, are simply passively responding to the global impulse of neoliberalism (Hart, 2002). As such, it responds to the need for new insight into how neoliberalism is produced at the local level, and addresses concerns for the lack of agency ascribed to cities in theorisations of neoliberalism (Larner, 2000, 2003; Brenner and Theodore, 2002a; Castree, 2005; 2006; Hart, 2002; 2006). Finally, conceptualisations of the binary relationship between the global and the local, and between competing urban development imperatives, are challenged (Hart, 2002).