JustDe: Justification for agreement-based approaches in Nordic spatial planning: towards situational direct democracy?

Funded by Academy of Finland 2018-2022

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.

Read more from the JustDe project website

Project members

PI: Pia Bäcklund, University lecturer

Tomas Hanell, Post-doctoral researcher

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)

Dominic Stead (TU Delft)