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Detroit after bankruptcy: A case of degrowth machine politics


  • Seth Schindler


It is widely accepted that neoliberalism is intensified in times of crisis, and Jamie Peck has argued that ‘austerity urbanism’ has been implemented at the urban scale since the 2008 financial crisis. This article questions whether this narrative of neoliberal expansion is applicable in cities where crisis is so severe that economic growth seems highly unlikely. I focus on Detroit, whose recent declaration of bankruptcy signals the recognition among local officials and elites that the city’s decline cannot be reversed with out-of-the-box neoliberal policies. Instead, the city’s bankruptcy precipitated a breakdown of an interscalar growth coalition, and local actors have embraced a plan for Detroit’s future which diverges from ‘austerity urbanism’ favoured by extra-local investors in significant ways. Importantly, local actors have embraced a plan that seeks to improve the quality of life for the city’s residents in the context of irreversible degrowth. I refer to this as degrowth machine politics and I examine the extent to which its emergence may foster contingency and progressive urban politics.

Suggested Citation

  • Seth Schindler, 2016. "Detroit after bankruptcy: A case of degrowth machine politics," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 53(4), pages 818-836, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:53:y:2016:i:4:p:818-836

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    Cited by:

    1. Gibbs, David & O'Neill, Kirstie, 2017. "Future green economies and regional development: a research agenda," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 68392, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Dustin L. Herrmann & William D. Shuster & Audrey L. Mayer & Ahjond S. Garmestani, 2016. "Sustainability for Shrinking Cities," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(9), pages 1-9, September.
    3. Mikel AGIRRE-MASKARIANO, 2019. "Resisting Against Speculative Urban Regeneration In The Shrinking City Of Ferrol," Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management, Research Centre in Public Administration and Public Services, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 14(1), pages 5-29, February.
    4. Florian W. Bartholomae & Chang Woon Nam & Alina Schoenberg, 2017. "Urban Resurgence as a Consumer City: A Case Study for Weimar in Eastern Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 6610, CESifo.
    5. Agnieszka Stacherzak & Maria Hełdak, 2019. "Borough Development Dependent on Agricultural, Tourism, and Economy Levels," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(2), pages 1-16, January.
    6. Kummitha, Rama Krishna Reddy, 2018. "Entrepreneurial urbanism and technological panacea: Why Smart City planning needs to go beyond corporate visioning?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 330-339.


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