Neoliberalism as an ideology, actually existing neoliberalism and the city: the case of Bratislava

Neoliberalizmus ako ideológia, reálny neoliberalizmus a mesto: prípad Bratislava

Neoliberalism represents a key word for thinking about the dynamics of capitalism since the 70´s and can be used as an analytical tool that allows linking discussions of global economic changes to transformations at local scales. The key tenets of neoliberal ideology are discussed in the present study, including the fundamental reconceptualization of the position and the role of the state, as well as general aspects of actual executions of ideologically inspired and legitimized institutional and regulatory restructuring (neoliberalization). Important political-economic and socio-spatial implications of this transformation include "rescaling" of the geographies of governance. The empirical part of the study analyses the changing role and capacity of the Bratislava government. The fundamental fiscal problem of the local government is caused by limited possibilities of obtaining revenues. Needed resources are then in practice acquired by substantial privatization of publicly owned real estate. Apart from the obvious long-term unsustainability of the fiscal structure, depending on inheritance sell-out, an important adverse comes with reducing strategic capacities in the urban development. In the environment of underdeveloped planning and building regulation institutions, this leads to a shift to an "opportunity-led planning" which represents a change in planning practice away from the original goal of comprehensive control and management of urban development to (often opaque) procedures allowing a partial implementation of development initiatives. The result is a specific form of „entrepreneurial city", based on a symbiotic relationship between real estate capital and the local political elite, leaving other stakeholders only poorly empowered.