‘Not Relevant to the System’:The Crisis in the Backyards
MATTHIAS BERNT and DIETER RINK
This essay provides insights into the crisis unfolding in the ‘backyards’of globalization,that is, in regions that are largely abandoned in terms of capital and are characterized by de-industrialization and depopulation. We take Eastern Germany as an example toexamine how the crisis manifests itself in this context. We look at the turmoil around the failed sale of the Opel car company, the acquisition of pre-fab housing estates by globalinvestors and risky ﬁnancial transactions by municipal companies to show how crucialdecisions about the fate of urban regions have become widely disembedded from localdemocratic structures. We argue that regions that are ‘not relevant to the system’are not only particularly hard hit by the current crisis, but are also at considerable disadvantagewhen attempting to mobilize power to achieve solutions that are adequate to solve their problems.
How does the current ﬁnancial crisis affect urban development? Whatever the answermight be, it is obvious that this question cannot be answered in a ‘one-size-ﬁts-all’manner. Moreover, an appropriate answer implies the clariﬁcation of what the term‘crisis’ refers to in this instance, and how the relationship between economic and urbandevelopment might be conceptualized.First, it is important to distinguish the everyday use of the term ‘crisis’as a synonymfor decline, crash, doom or failure from the concept of ‘crisis’that implies the dialecticalmoment at which the inherent contradictions of a system break free and cause thetransformation of the existing totality into a new one. This moment has found particularattention during the ongoing global ﬁnancial crisis. In the wake of current turmoil, manycommentators seem to pin their hopes on the impending end of neoliberalism, in somecases even of capitalism, and augur the dawn of a renewed ‘New Deal’ of stateinterventionism. While it is still too early to ascertain whether these predictions maycome true, we ﬁnd that too often arguments overemphasize the moment of disruption,which is implied in the meaning of ‘crisis’. The dialectical meaning of the Hegelian term
(which concurrently means abolishment, preservation and raising to a higherlevel) is not very clear. By contrast, we understand a crisis as the moment at whichinstitutionalized forms of regulation fail, yet at the same time are preserved and replacedin a way that builds on what already exists.Acrisis thus reveals the central contradictionsof the form that is in crisis and also opens the way to new forms of regulation — but itdoes so on the basis of existing forces. As a consequence, new forms that need to bedeveloped as a solution to the crisis are not predetermined. Rather, they are an outcomeof political struggles, ‘
’ (Lipietz, 1985), in which certain alternatives winthrough against others. A number of crisis solutions are thus conceivable, ranging froma disruption of existing forms to their intensiﬁcation (see Brenner
International Journal of Urban and Regional ResearchDOI:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2010.00985.x
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