The ambiguous infrastructural ideal: the urbanisation of water and power in the golden age of utility networksReportar como inadecuado

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1 LATTS - Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés 2 Réseaux, Institutions, Territoires RIT LATTS - Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés

Abstract : Current debates around networks and urban fragmentation focus on the ownership of the service to explain processes of socio-technical differentiation in cities splintering. In this perspective, integrated public ownership and management historically allowed for service universalization and the emergence of a -modern infrastructural ideal-, whereas recent trends towards privatization and unbundling are seen to foster fragmentation. In this paper, we argue, through an historical appraisal of the rolling out of water and power networks in very different contexts, that ownership is just one of the factors in urban network service provision and management, and that the local socio-political context must be taken into account to understand how and why networks are universalized or not and what socio-spatial effects they produce. Beyond ownership, network provision and management thus emerge as a reflection of social dynamics and ties in specific, place-based urban contexts. The aim is thus to challenge the mechanical link that sometimes appears in research between network ownership and territorial fragmentation. With case studies chosen from various socio historical contexts, from Papal Rome to colonial Cape Town, statist Paris to liberal Los Angeles, we argue that, even if ownership remains one of the important key factors in explaining dynamics of ‘splintering-, we must heed the whole framework of governance specific to each situation, which goes far beyond the mere issue of formal network governance. We thus resort to the concept of urban regime, studied in a historical perspective, to situate the socio spatial dynamics of networks, between market forces, and the private interests of elites, and issues pertaining to mechanisms of wider social control, which is where the notion of regulation is useful to us. Moreover, it is necessary to take into account the problematic of the political economy of network utilities, which goes beyond the simple logic of private vs. public ownership.

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Keywords : urban regimes urban fragmentation comparative perspective socio-natural water and power urban technical networks

Mots-clés : régimes urbains perspective comparative socio-naturel réseaux d-eau et d-électricité réseaux techniques

Autor: Fionn Mackillop - Denis Bocquet -



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