Social Neoliberalism through Urban Planning: Bureaucratic Formations and Contradictions in Malmö since 1985

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


This thesis studies the complicated relationship between postwar social governance and neoliberalism. It looks at urban planning in particular because this is a key field of postwar social regulation as well as a strategic site of neoliberal reforms. The thesis examines urban planning paperwork from the Swedish city Malmö dating from the mid-1980s until 2015 with a particular focus on Folkets park, a green space in central Malmö. The main argument is that social regulation is neoliberalized, rather than ‘rolled-back’. This process cannot, the thesis argues, be reduced to a rapid burst of neoliberal political decrees in response to an exceptional moment of economic crisis. Instead, Malmö’s social neoliberalism was created by a slow process of re-articulation rife with tensions where the contingent outcome of continually erupting contradictions profoundly shaped the bureaucratic formation that emerged. Social technologies of rule were in Malmö meticulously repurposed for new ends and neoliberal technologies painstakingly grafted onto established bureaucratic routines over the course of three decades. Neoliberal urban planning was in Malmö not only shaped by residual social regulation, but also by how neoliberalism provoked new contradictions and inherited remnants of the postwar city’s urban spaces. This study of Malmö invites asking further questions about the continuing role of social modes of governing in neoliberal formations and suggests that neoliberal governance might be less vulnerable to a return of social regulation than some argue.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • Edgren, Lars, Supervisor
  • Baeten, Guy, Supervisor
Place of PublicationLund
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography


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