54th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional development & globalisation: Best practices", 26-29 August 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
At the beginning of the 21st century, the phenomena of shrinking cities spread widely over Europe. Cities shrank in peripheral, sparsely populated areas in Northern Europe, in Western European industrial agglomerations in economic decline, and in rural areas in Southern Europe suffering from emigration and a rapid decrease in birth rates. City shrinkage is the result of the on-going relocation of industry and metropolisation in a globalizing world. In the era of Post-Fordism, the transformation of local productive systems resulted in a polarisation of regional spaces and a growing imbalance among urban territories. The Post-Fordist economy in Europe has led to agglomerations of economic activity and urban growth while other regions have suffered a decline that reinforces prior trends toward an uneven economic and urban development. Today, European city planners have to deal with both the regulation of urban growth and the planning and management of urban decline. However, being a child of capitalistic logic and development, urban planning and its theories and guidelines are fundamentally linked to socio-spatial and economic growth. Using theories on uneven urban development and the case studies of Bitterfeld (Germany) and Detroit (USA), this paper illustrates that strategies following a "departure of the growth path" reach limits as, within the context of capitalism and its logic, these strategies are contradicting the nature of the politico-economic system. In the long run, even declining cities are forced to generate (economic) growth to further compete in the global economy. Strategies such as "regeneration", "re-imagining", "redevelopment", and "renewal" are ultimately an alibi to justify a "re-growing" of economic activity and performance in declining cities rather than increasing their population.