Lay summary

The originality of the project is to assess the transformation of regime politics within central and peripheral communes of two polycentric metropolises, in a comparative perspective.

Besides the development of a polycentric metropolitan form, the two areas of Zurich and Geneva are concerned by similar issues of urban sprawl, suburbanization, functional and social differentiation and gentrification. The two metropolitan areas and their communes are all involved in new agglomeration projects and are all impacted by the new federal policy on agglomeration. This will allow to compare the weight of our common independent variables on urban regimes within the two areas.

More precisely, five possible independent variables will be combined to explain the emerging of long-term governing arrangements and their types: (1) the influence of upper levels of government (cantonal, federal or even european) through incentives for urban growtb and economic development, (2) financial resources and the level of local tax resources, (3) the pace of economic growth and the nature of economic restructuring (weight of local capital, dynamics of real-estate and construction industries), (4) the capacity to develop urban renewal or densification projects, and (5) the weight of middle-class voters and inhabitants movements.

The objective of this project is to compare regime politics at the level of various municipal contexts within the two polycentric metropolitan areas of Zurich and Geneva. The central aim is to assess and explain the impact of two set of independent variables – institutional and socioeconomic scale shifts – on the structure of urban power and on the type of local governing arrangements.

This project is based on the urban regime theory developed by Stone (1989) during the 1990’s which links urban political economy and pluralism in order to study urban power. Urban regime theory considers that classical studies on urban power overly focused on identification of the elite or multiple governing elites and neglected the question of the aims of these elites. The point of Clarence Stone is to underline that local governments are elected but not omnipotent and must develop a capacity of social production to take and implement decisions. To act, elected officials have to build "informal arrangements by which public bodies and private interests function together in order to be able to make and carry out governing decisions”, which are called urban regimes.

The tertiarization and gentrification process as well as the new institutional context of multi-level governance invite to reopen the black box of urban power in Switzerland which haven’t been studied for more than thirty years. The aim of this project is to assess to what extent the competition to attract new service firms, the gentrification process and the new federal and cantonal urban policies impact the governing arrangements between governmental and non-governmental actors within metropolitan areas in Switzerland, by comparing core cities and suburban communes politics within the metropolitan areas of Zurich and Geneva.

Swiss urban regions have known major changes in their economic and sociodemographic organization since the 1980’s. The service sector, historically well developed with bank and finance industries, grew in absolute and relative value, with the progressive deindustrialization and the development of advanced services. From the 1970’s to 1990’s, metropolitanization modified the economic urban geography with a strong development of edge cities. Central cities faced an increasing pressure of their housing markets. The gentrification process is impacting the demography of city centers. In parallel the development of the new federal policy on agglomerations strengthened both competition and cooperation between municipalities to attract funds for infrastructure development.