The Rise (and Fall?) of Post-Industrial Malmö : Investigations of city-crisis dialectics

Sammanfattning: This thesis aims to investigate the dialectics between urban planning and policy on the one hand and economic change and crises in the city of Malmö on the other, with a focus on both the city in general and the specific district of Western Harbour. Malmö provides a (highly) fascinating place to investigate relations between urban and economic change. The city embraced the industrial path longer than many other Western cities, only to crash into a severe crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the mid-1990s the city embraced a “post-industrial” strategy, and from this point onward urban changes became resolute and drastic. Less than a decade later the image of the city had fundamentally changed. But the international economy that served as foundation for the post-industrial city proved to be crisis-prone, and the 2008 crisis especially called this urban-economic arrangement into question. This thesis answers two broad research questions: how did Malmö respond to (the “industrial” as well as the “current” economic) crises? What characterises Malmö´s transformation from an industrial to a post-industrial city and which strategies have been mobilised? Based on semi-structured interviews, written material and secondary sources (in particular municipal planning and policy documents), four theoretical papers seek to investigate these issues. I argue that Malmö met the current crisis by actively continuing to develop the “post-industrial” city that had evolved starting in the mid-1990s. The dissertation then draws parallels with the city response to the “industrial” crisis, and finds interesting similarities. Malmö, then and now, met the crisis by “building more of the same”. The dissertation also investigates the metamorphosis the city has gone through, and argues that class is a crucial component that must be understood in this process: not only in terms of distribution of money and wealth, but also in term of the production of the city. One strategy that has become important for Malmö has been to highlight “green” and “environmental” parts of the urban development to get out of the “industrial crisis”. The thesis conceptualises this in terms of a “green fix”. Theoretically the paper builds on four (related) fields of inquiry: i) urban theory, ii) dialectics, iii) crisis theory, and iv) planning and state theory. The latter two have undergone more thorough investigation, while I argue that discussions on (Marxists’) crisis theories within human geography would benefit from a broadening of the current perspective, and that urban planning should be conceptualised as a “condensation of social relations”.

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