Rescuing Aunt Sally: Taking institutional theory seriously in urban politics

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The sub-discipline of 'urban politics' has been constructed in opposition to a traditional version of 'institutional theory' - an approach that collapsed the political processes affecting urban communities with the workings of elected local government. Attention has shifted towards the broader influences on local decision-making and to the growing fragmentation of urban government and the rise of 'partnerships'. The article argues that recent developments, far from signifying the last gasp of 'institutionalism', call for a reformulated theory of the (diverse) institutional constraints within which urban political processes operate. Drawing on insights from the 'new institutionalism', the article discusses processes of institutional change and differentiation; the underlying shift from strong to weak forms of institutional constraint; and the challenges involved in redesigning local political institutions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1953-1971
Number of pages19
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2001