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A cultural political economy of a Global City Region:
the Competitiveness-Integration Order in the Pearl River Delta

Monday 24th May

6 pm, Graham Wallas Room, A550 Old Building, LSE



Ngai-Ling Sum, Dept. of Politics and International Relations; Cultural Political Economy Research Centre, Lancaster University


Nancy Holman, Dept. of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics


Hyun Shin, Dept. of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics

The production of hegemonic policy discourses: ‘competitiveness’ as a knowledge brand and its (re-)contextualizations 


This paper adopts a cultural political economy (CPE) approach to examine the role of knowledge brands (e.g., Porter's competitive advantage diamond; Lundvall's national innovation system approach) in mediating regional planning and economic restructuring. In the case of the Pearl River Delta (PRD), these brands have been recontextualized and hybridized on the discursive level that informs various spatial

imaginaries (e.g., Greater PRD, Regional Powerhouse, Pan PRD, Mega Metropolitan Area). With the onset of the current crisis since mid-2007, the project of making of this global city region was reinforced by calls to 'strengthen regional cooperation to build the momentum for growth', to upgrade infrastructure as well as release a major plan --  the Outline of the Plan for the Reform and Development of the Pearl River

Delta 2008-2020. Focusing on the Outline as a technology of power, this paper examines, in a neo-Foucauldian sense, the pastoral and governmental power that  helps to constitute the competitiveness-integration order in the region. A CPE approach would also argue that this neo-Foucauldian focus on the micro-technologies of power should be complemented by an understanding of the macro-structural and agential selectivities involved in socio-economic change. The second part of the paper concentrates on the Outline's call for cooperation among 'service industries' in the region. Such "servicization" of the region is far from being 'win-win' once one considers the embedded materiality of the region. Drawing from this case, the paper concludes with a CPE interpretation of planning and economic restructuring in general.

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