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Mind the Gap

Metropolitan Reforms, Reducing the New Space-Society Relationships or Contributing to the Crisis of Politics and Institutions?

Résumé de la contribution de Valeria Fedeli, Politecnico Di Milano, 29 juin 2017

The contribution aims at describing and discussing the persisting distance between processes of institutional reform reframing the state/territory relationship and the way in which the urban (and society) is re-organised in contemporary world (Brenner, 2014; Brenner, 2016). In particular, recent metropolitan reforms, ongoing in many European States (France, as well as Italy, but also UK) appear to be based upon a quite traditional logic of sovereignty, dating back to XXth century institutional design. Many of these reforms processes are engaging a large number of elected and non-elected officials in the revision of the geographies and structure of current territorial institutions, generating expectations even in the larger public discussion. Actually, some of these large efforts are producing results, which look far away from a consistent and innovative redefinition of the citizenship/sovereignty nexus in relation to the changing organisation of space-society relationship. Whereas urban studies keep on describing a world that would deserve a new institutional framework to be governed, in particular in connection with the effects of processes of regional urbanization and the emergence of new agency geographies, institutional reform seem to be generated out of other rationales and logics. This can be seen as a sort of constant in the history of institutional reforms: in other words, institutional design and planning /urban studies remain on their distant positions. Is this constant destined to play a political role? Can this persisting gap be one of the explanations of the crisis of the institutions and the crisis of politics? The Italian case will be the starting point of the contribution; on the 4th of December 2016, a constitutional referendum was due to approve, among others, a reform of the Senate into an indirectly elected chamber and the cancelation of Provinces –the second tier institution– in favour or Metropolitan cities. Analysing the unexpected failure of the referendum (but also in face of the current confusion of the national political situation), the paper will present the limited results of the two-year process of implementation of the law 56/2014 –finally introducing “metropolitan cities” in the Italian context. It will try to discuss to what extent the first symptoms of failure of these new territorial institutions could further contribute to the crisis of politics and institutions, rather than reduce the gap between institutional design and socio-spatial challenges, as originally foreseen by the national policy-makers.


Balducci A., Fedeli F., Curci F. (eds.), 2017a, Oltre la metropoli. L’urbanizzazione regionale in Italia, Guerini e Associati, Milano.
Balducci A., Fedeli V., Curci F. (eds.), 2017b, Post-Metropolitan Territories: Looking for a New Urbanity, Routledge, London-New York.
Brenner N., 2016, Stato, spazio, urbanizzazione, Guerini e Associati, Milano.
Fedeli, V., 2016, Metropolitan governance and metropolitan cities in Italy: outdated solutions for processes of urban regionalisation? DOI: 10.1007/s13147-016-0430-7. p. 1-10. In Raumforschung und Raumordnung.