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‘Managing Urban Air Quality’: Language and Rational Choice in Metropolitan Governance


  • Y Rydin

    (Department of Geography, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, England)


The author examines the contributions of linguistic analysis and rational choice analysis to understanding the urban policy process, with the aid of the issue of air-quality management and a specific case study of metropolitan London. She argues that these theories can complement each other in providing empirically grounded analyses at the urban level. By means of the rational choice approach, she considers the choice situation facing local and central government in dealing with urban air pollution. However, forestalling some central criticisms made of the rational choice approach, she also considers the way in which the problem of urban air quality is constructed and the rhetorical structure of the policy solutions that can be discussed. It is shown how the constrained-choice situation of key policy actors meshes with the construction of the problem as one of urban air-quality management and the preferred policy solution of enhanced monitoring. This is characterised as diversionary and symbolic policy action which devolves much policy responsibility to the level of the individual—a potentially contradictory strategy for government.

Suggested Citation

  • Y Rydin, 1998. "‘Managing Urban Air Quality’: Language and Rational Choice in Metropolitan Governance," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 30(8), pages 1429-1443, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envira:v:30:y:1998:i:8:p:1429-1443
    DOI: 10.1068/a301429

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keith M. Dowding, 1991. "Rational Choice And Political Power," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 149.
    2. Barry Hindess, 1989. "Political Choice and Social Structure," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 223.
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