Urban regimes, experiments and institutional innovation

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How do urban regimes evolve and what role do trade unions play in these processes? Space for this sort of analysis has begun to open up in the field of industrial relations and employment systems as greater recognition has emerged of the internal differentiation within various forms of capitalism (Almond 2011). Whilst core national institutional features may place constraints on institutional experimentation at the local level the way in which local patterns of employment interact with and shape the geographical distribution of job opportunities leads to regions and cities with very distinctive social and economic histories and paths of development. As recent research is uncovering, the result is that the ability of actors to engage locally with institutional experimentation and shape policy outcomes at the local and regional level is likely to vary both within and across capitalisms.

In this paper, we take the particular location of Bristol in the UK as our example. We build a generalizable analytical framework to understand the role of what we describe as ‘urban regimes’. Based on this we show how over a fifty-year period from the 1970s to the late 2010s, the nature of the actors in the local area, and their scale and influence on the politics of the city has changed. We identify three main phases in the development of Bristol in which the role of trade unions gradually changes – the Fordist/Labourist urban regime up to the 1970s; from the late 1970s through to the New Labour victory in 1997, an emergent neo-liberal urban regime characterized by a changing industrial and employment structure and a struggle between the local council and the Tory central government over implementing neo-liberal policies; and finally, as the negative consequences of this became clearer to local actors, the emergence locally within a national framework of neo-liberalism and austerity of a networked governance structure where collaboration between public and private organizations gradually developed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2018
EventUnions at Work in Regions and Sectors - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 23 Oct 201824 Oct 2018


WorkshopUnions at Work in Regions and Sectors


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