chapter
8 Pages

Introduction

ByMichael E. Leary

One complication faced in any discussion of reconceptualizations of urban regeneration is that there is no certainty as to when it first emerged. If the term came into widespread use in the 1980s, there is no doubt that the policy and practice of large-scale state-led intervention in areas of cities suffering from concentrations of problems have a long history going back at least to the mid-nineteenth century. What is clear is that sometime between the 1980s and 1990s in a variety of jurisdictions, traditional wholesale clearance of working class areas through programmes of demolition and redevelopment, often called: urban renewal, slum clearance, city reconstruction or comprehensive redevelopment, merged into what we now recognize as urban regeneration. This Part asks some fundamental questions, not least about how and in what ways the concept of urban regeneration tends to change through time and has different meanings or connotations in different national and local contexts. It allows the further interrogation of issues raised in the opening Part of the book, exploring in greater depth how each national context and set of contingent particularities has specific implications for urban regeneration policy, programmes and projects. One of the aims of this Part is to demonstrate how locally based regeneration continually adapts and manoeuvres within the structural constraints and opportunities presented by globalized neo-liberalism discussed in the opening Part of the book. While the analytical focus is on reconceptualization, it should be appreciated that over the decades regeneration is also characterized by continuity and the endurance of certain concepts and assumptions, for example the area-based initiative (ABI) approach and the pathological metaphor discourse as a way of understanding urban problems (Matthews 2010). The resulting tensions between the need for the stability and continuity and the seemingly irresistible urge for politicians to keep trying new regeneration experiments is a key theme of this Part.