Austerity urbanism in practice. The ‘smart city’ agenda in Italy (2011-2013).  — ASN Events

Austerity urbanism in practice. The ‘smart city’ agenda in Italy (2011-2013).  (16255)

Andrea Pollio 1
  1. University of Western Sydney, Redfern, NSW, Australia

In the heyday of the financial crisis that involved United States first, and Europe immediately after, austerity urbanism became a dominant practice of State financial restructuring. According to Peck, it consists of a set of neoliberal practices that are meant to avoid an alleged State bankruptcy by retrenching public expenditure and downloading financial responsibilities to local governments (Peck, 2012).

In the specific case of Italy, which faced a political and economic distress between 2011 and 2013, austerity urbanism was declined through a series of measures that were tagged as ‘smart city policies’ (Vanolo, 2014). Drawing on these experiences, I argue that the smart city agenda is a form of austerity urbanism that does not fit a restrictive category of neoliberalism. Although a critique of neoliberal regressive politics is still poignant in the case of the smart city, other aspects need to be addressed in a different light. In this paper, I will try to show how diverse rationalities, not just neoliberal ones, converged in a mash-up of policies that were branded as ‘smart’. I will do that by focusing on the centrality that was attributed to the role of social innovation and ‘civic hackers’  (Townsend, 2013) by discourses and policies. This paper is based on my participation to a six-month private/public research about smart city discourse in Turin, as well as a two-month engagement with Milan smart city envisioning for Expo 2015.    

  1. Peck, J. (2012). Austerity urbanism: American cities under extreme economy. City, 16(6), 626-655.
  2. Townsend, A. M. (2013). Smart cities: Big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia. New York: WW Norton & Company.
  3. Vanolo, A. (2014). Smartmentality: The smart city as disciplinary strategy. Urban Studies, 51(5), 883-898.