Article Alert- The Sydney Metropolitan Strategy as a zoning technology: analyzing the spatial and temporal dimensions of obsolescence

A new open access article in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space looks at planned obsolesce at the scale of the city. It’s a tough read, full of references to high theory and concepts that readers might not be familiar with, but the extension of obsolescence to “how urban space is devalued within the landscape under market-centric regimes of urban governance” might be of interest to many of our readers.

We quotes Weber’s definition of obsolescence:

“capital’s restless search for profits requires constant renewal through galelike forces  that simultaneously make way for the new and devalue the old. What is left behind by  innovation is considered ‘obsolete’. Obsolescence implies something out of date—a  product, place, or concept displaced by modernization and progress.”

He then moves on to a more “Foucauldian analysis of urban obsolescence [that] demonstrates how […] each social actor participates in various discursive processes to produce certain urban and social outcomes” such as the devaluation of public housing. It’s also interesting for its use of private and public housing as part of wider discourses of obsolescence in social and material senses of the word.

Abstract. This paper provides two discrete contributions to urban and spatial theory. The first demonstrates that within discourse analysis conceptions of time and space have analytical utility for investigations into the framings of social and urban policy. The second moves analyses of urban obsolescence beyond Marxism to demonstrate that Foucauldian theory can provide revealing insights about the stewardship of discourses of urban obsolescence through texts and visual images created by different social actors. On the basis of these two contributions I demonstrate how the Sydney metropolitan planning authority has deployed specific spatial and temporal ‘zoning technologies’ to demarcate and evaluate sections of the city. The discourses of obsolescence that have emerged in Sydney are clearly informed by market-centric ideology and discursively constructed, not in the presence of an anemic state and a rational market, but as a technology of power that is deployed by the state and serves the interests of powerful market actors. I conclude that this discursive process is leading to the demise of Sydney’s public housing estates.

Rogers D, 2014, “The Sydney Metropolitan Strategy as a zoning technology: analyzing the spatial and temporal dimensions of obsolescence” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32(1) 108 – 127.