Spatial Policy, Politics and Planning

As the title of our research group indicates, we are interested in the political and governmental practices of producing, maintaining and transforming geographical space. Rather than perceiving space as a passive backdrop of society we highlight the ways in which space is constituted and produced alongside economic and political activities and, therefore, in social practices. In the spirit of socio-spatial dialectics, we also scrutinize the myriad ways in which these produced spatial formations (administrative and other territories, city spaces, special economic zones etc.) and on-going political, economic and governmental actions inescapably shape one another.

Geopolitics of the knowledge-based economy

Geopolitics of the knowledge-based economy.
Sami Moisio, 2018. Routledge.

The above-mentioned theoretical standing already hints that our perspective on spatial planning is not technical or apolitical. We draw from recent developments in Human Geography and cognate fields and highlight that spatial planning practices are never “neutral” or technical expressions of rationality but rather bound to larger global political-economic developments and cultural shifts. Our aim is to examine and conceptualize historically contingent planning practices themselves, and to focus on the recent spatial constitution and transformation of states and cities in the age of entrepreneurialism, post-Fordist economic development or the purportedly knowledge-intensive form of capitalism in particular. In so doing we seek to disclose often-hidden “political” and “governmental” aspects of spatial planning activities. Moreover, we pay particular attention to the link between expert knowledge production, the constitution of economic and urban forms, and the spatial governance of political communities in/through spatial planning. Finally, we inquire into how processes of uneven geographical development and inequalities are produced and tackled in contemporary spatial planning and policy processes.

Central research themes

  • City-regionalism
  • Political geographic dynamics and formations of knowledge-intensive forms of capitalism
  • Political geographies of urbanization
  • State spatial transformation
  • European spatial planning
  • Strategic spatial planning
  • Planning theory in the context of knowledge policies and politics
Valtio, alue, politiikka

Valtio, alue, politiikka.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Sami Moisio, 2012. Vastapaino.

Members of the research group

Professor Sami Moisio, leader of the research group

Dr Pia Bäcklund, University lecturer

Dr Salla Jokela, post-doc researcher

Dr Christopher Lizotte, post-doc researcher

Dr Juho Luukkonen, post-doc researcher

MSc Ilppo Soininvaara, PhD candidate

Dr Mikko Weckroth, post-doc researcher

Example publications

  • Bäcklund P, Häikiö L, Leino H & Kanninen V (2017). Bypassing publicity and transparency for getting things done: between informal and formal planning practices in Finland. Planning Practice & Research (forthcoming, Online First Oct. 2017.)
  • Jokela, S. (2014). Tourism and identity politics in the Helsinki churchscape. Tourism Geographies, 16: 2, 252–269.
  • Jokela, S. & Linkola, H. (2013). ’State idea’ in the photographs of geography and tourism in Finland in the 1920s. National Identities, 15: 3, 257–275.
  • Lizotte C (submitted to a journal) Political geographies of laïcité: Security, secularism, and national education.
  • Luukkonen, Juho & Moisio, Sami (2016). On the socio-technical practices of the European Union territory. Environment and Planning A 48: 8, 1452–1472.
  • Luukkonen, Juho (2017) A practice theoretical perspective on the Europeanization of spatial planning. European Planning Studies 25: 2, 259–277.
  • Moisio, S. (2012). Valtio, alue, politiikka. Suomen tilasuhteiden sääntely toisesta maailmansodasta nykypäivään. Vastapaino, Tampere.
  • Moisio, S. (2018). Geopolitics of the knowledge-based economy. Routledge, London & New York.
  • Mäntysalo R & Bäcklund P (2017). Flexibly networked, yet institutionally grounded: The governance of planning. In Gunder, M. & Manadipour, A. & Watson, V (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory, pp. 237–249.

 

Projects of the research group

JustDe: Justification for agreement-based approaches in Nordic spatial planning: towards situational direct democracy? (Funded by Academy of Finland 2018-2020)

 

This research contributes to discussion concerning the ways in which new spatial planning governance networks and government practices are juxtaposed in the city-regional context. In this view, the city-region is seen as the primary set of discursively and materially conceived ‘acts of political regionalization,’ orchestrated by the state through ‘governmental technologies’. In strategic spatial planning, such ‘technologies’ have appeared e.g. in the form of contractual policies and accompanying agreement-based arrangements between state and local governments (public-public partnerships) at a situationally defined city-regional level. With the appearance of these ‘strategically’ redistributive planning practices that target localities unevenly and selectively, the democratic underpinnings of planning and public governance are seen to be under threat of erosion in an unprecedented manner. Even though the tensions between democracy and new strategic planning instruments have been widely discussed, there is an important gap in making visible how these practices are interpreted by different actors, and what kind of forms and directions these interpretations imply for the justification of societal decision making and the idea of the “political” in spatial planning. To what extent is the mainstreaming of informal spatial planning practices perceived as positive or negative development, and how are these viewpoints justified? This is an essential indicator in depicting the future directions in societal decision making: what kind of operational modes become acceptable in the public sector – and why? The empirical focus is on the relatively recent state initiatives in Finland, Sweden and Norway in which strategic agreements over city-regional spatial development and major infrastructure and innovation investments are in a pivotal role.

Project members

PI: Pia Bäcklund, University Lecturer

Key collaboration partners: Lukas Smas, University of Stocholm/Department of Geography, Daniel Galland, NMBU, Norway

Reference group: Raine Mäntysalo (Aalto University), Sami Moisio (University of Helsinki), Kristina Grange (Chalmers University), Simin Davoudi (Newcastle University) and Dominic Stead (TU Delft).

 

RELATE, Academy of Finland, Centre of Excellence, research group on changing state spaces 2014-2020

 

The contemporary condition may be understood as being structured partly around “hub and flow imaginaries” and related “exceptional” spatial formations that are its constituents. In our reading, the contemporary processes associated with hubs and flows and the set of other “relational spaces” of post-Fordist urbanization do not signal a de-territorial geoeconomic condition in which the territorial state is hollowed out. Rather, these imaginaries reveal the back-and-forth nature of the contemporary state’s territoriality. At the present conjuncture, the state constantly seeks to re-territorialize, nationalize and “fix in place” the relational spaces of contemporary capitalism. But at the same time, governments seek to de-territorialize and internationalize the state through increasingly spatially selective strategies in order to be connected to all sorts of “global networks” of money, talent, innovations and ideas. Our work in this project seeks to disclose the ways in which states are spatially transformed within such a process, and how the “urbanization of the nation state” (Moisio 2018) takes place through social practices ranging from spatial planning to urban consultancy.

In this project, we interrogate the spatial transformation of states, cities and supranational political entities. We are interested in the ways in which states and cities are currently being transnationalized, and how this transformation takes place through inherited “national” welfare state structures. Empirically, we focus in particular on statist social practices of spatial planning, regional development, education and the so-called knowledge-based economy.

We are currently putting together a major research handbook titled Handbook on the changing geographies of the state: New spaces of geopolitics with Edward Elgar Publishing (under contract, expected publication in 2020).

Project members

Professor Sami Moisio, PI

Dr Salla Jokela, post-doc researcher

Dr Christopher Lizotte, post-doc researcher

Dr Juho Luukkonen, post-doc researcher

MSc Ilppo Soininvaara, PhD candidate

Example publications

  • Luukkonen, Juho (2015) Planning in Europe for ‘EU’rope: Spatial planning as a political technology of territory. Planning Theory 14(2), 174–194.

  • Luukkonen, J. & Sirviö, H. (2017) Kaupunkiregionalismi ja epäpolitisoinnin politiikka: talousmaantieteellinen imaginaari aluepoliittisten käytäntöjen vastaansanomattomana viitekohteena. Politiikka 59: 2, 114–132.
  • Moisio, S. (2018). Urbanizing the nation-state: Notes on the geopolitical growth of cities and city-regions. Urban Geography. doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2018.1454685
  • Jonas, A.E.G. & Moisio, S. (2018). City regionalism as geopolitical processes: a new framework for analysis. Progress in Human Geography 42: 3, 350–370.
  • Moisio, S. & Jonas, A.E.G. (2018). City-regions and city-regionalism. In Paasi, A. Harrison, J. & Jones, M. (eds.) Handbook on the Geographies of Regions and Territories. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham. pp. 285–297.

 

IMAJINE – Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe

 

The core aim of IMAJINE is to formulate new integrative policy mechanisms to enable European, national and regional government agencies to more effectively address territorial inequalities within the European Union, and to imagine a future for European regions in which the distribution of resources is consistent with principles of social and spatial justice. Territorial cohesion is a guiding principle for EU policy, alongside social cohesion and economic cohesion, yet in recent years territorial inequalities within the EU have widened as the post-2008 economic crisis and adoption of austerity policies have had an uneven geographical impact. There is, accordingly, a pressing need to re-appraise the appropriateness and efficacy of existing policy instruments for tackling territorial inequalities, and to consider and develop alternative mechanisms. In order to achieve this aim, IMAJINE will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach that combines qualitative and quantitative data and macro-scale analysis and case study research, involving economists, geographers, political scientists, psychologists and sociologists. The University of Helsinki is leading the WP 1 (Conceptual and Policy Review) of the IMAJINE project. In this WP our research team uses interviews and document analysis to outline the development and conceptualisation of ‘Spatial Justice’ and ‘Territorial Inequality’ in academic literature, EU policy, and among regional policy makers.

Project members

Professor Sami Moisio, PI

Dr Mikko Weckroth, post-doc researcher

Example publications

  • Jones, R., Moisio, S. Weckroth, M. Woods, M. (2018) [in press]) Re-conceptualising Territorial Cohesion Through the Prism of Spatial Justice: Critical Perspectives on Academic and Policy Discourses in Lang, T (eds.) Local and Regional Development in Times of Polarisation. Re-thinking spatial policies in Europe, Palgrave McMillan.

  • Weckroth, M. T. K., & Kemppainen, T. T. (2016). Human capital, cultural values and economic performance in European regions. Regional Studies, Regional Science 3: 1, 239–257.

 

The multifaceted relationship between municipalities and universities, 2016-2017

 

This project was funded by Kunnallisalan Kehittämissäätiö. In this project we examined the complex relationship between municipalities and universities in the contemporary political-economic setting. More specifically, we focused on this relationship in three Finnish cities (Vaasa, Jyväskylä and Oulu). The central idea of the project was to provide new scholarly insights on the local role of universities in a political context which highlights the importance of internationalization of both education and research.

Example publication

  • Moisio, S., Kohvakka, M. & Norola, M. (2018). Kaupungin ja yliopiston vuorovaikutus Suomessa. Hallinnon Tutkimus 37: 1, 22–36. (in Finnish)