This paper explores dominant narratives of diversity planning in one of Europe’s most diverse and globally-oriented cities, London. It draws on an on-going cross-national, collaborative research project, named DIVERCITIES, that is exploring the ways in which diversity is conceptualised in urban policy frameworks and the implications these conceptualisations have for citizens and policy priorities. The presentation focuses on the London case and argues that diversity narratives are underpinned by radical ambiguities. On the one hand it is represented in pragmatic, consensual, and celebratory terms. A pro-diversity approach is justified as being both morally progressive and grounded in a hard-headed understanding of the needs of competitive, successful businesses and modern urban economies. Under prevailing conditions of contemporary global capitalism labour market-building and the attraction of ‘talented’ individuals represents an essential element in the city’s wider strategy for development. On the other hand, this celebration of diversity helps to deflect attention away from more difficult policy questions concerning the socio-economic impacts of global models of economic growth and the changes these bring to the city’s built environments. There is little discussion of class differences and how dominant models of capitalist growth are generating heightened inequality in (and beyond) the city. Moreover, diversity narratives have helped policy-makers to individualise and atomise explanations for the persistence or enhancement of inequality and discrimination. The paper explores and analyses these ambiguities and their implications for planning narratives and practices in London and beyond.
Mike Raco (BA, PhD) is Professor of Urban Governance and Development in the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. His background is in Planning, Geography, and Urban Studies. He has published widely on the topics of urban governance and regeneration, urban sustainability, social diversity, and the politics of urban and regional economic development. He is currently leading a team at UCL that is working on an EU-funded project named DIVERCITIES. Recent works include: The Future of Sustainable Cities: Critical Reflections (with John Flint, Policy Press, Bristol); State-led Privatisation and the Demise of the Democratic State: Welfare Reform and Localism in an Era of Regulatory Capitalism (Ashgate, Hants.); and Regenerating London: Governance, Sustainability and Community in a Global City (with Rob Imrie and Loretta Lees, Routledge, London). He formerly lectured at King’s College London and the Universities of Reading and Glasgow.
This is the sixty-sixth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Rémi de Bercegol at firstname.lastname@example.org, Partha Mukhopadhyay at email@example.com or Marie-Hélène Zerah at firstname.lastname@example.org
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