Significance of the 'Socially Integrative City Program' in the urban policy of Germany

Kenji Yamamoto

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to outline the new urban policy in Germany, the 'Socially Integrative City Program', which was launched in 1999, and to raise some questions about it. This is not an easy task, because there are a very large number of relevant documents and articles, including those which are available through the internet. Therefore, in 2006, the author conducted interviews with some German academic colleagues and practitioners who are well-informed about the program. This paper is a preliminary report for the understanding of the new urban policy in Germany on the basis of the interviews and reading of the basic papers. The traditional urban policy in Germany has been to provide citizens with physical infrastructure and good residential facilities, including the renewal of old deteriorated ones. This task is in the hands of the authorities who are responsible for urban planning and construction at all the levels of government. But the social and spatial polarization within urban spaces has become more and more obvious in the 1990s through so-called globalization. Even if physical conditions of a quarter within an urban space are not bad, it can suffer from negative spiral effects of economic, social and cognitive factors. All the problem quarters in German urban spaces suffer from the deterioration of place image and the local people cannot be integrated into urban social life. There are problem quarters not only in large cities but also in small and medium-sized ones both in the old and the new federal Länder. They are classified into two types. The first are inner-city old residential areas which were built between the late 19th and the early 20th century. The second are large-sized residential areas built at peripheral locations of the concerned urban spaces mostly in the 1960s in West Germany and in the 1970s and 1980s in East Germany. We can find, however, differences in the specific characteristics of the peripheral large residential areas between West and East Germany with respect to their physical appearance and the social structure of the local people. The new urban policy had already started at the beginning of the 1990s in North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, and all the federal states had shared the concept of the new urban policy with each other by 1996. In order to draw financial support from the federal government, ARGEBAU, the workshop of the ministers and senators of the 16 federal Länder who are responsible for urban planning and construction, played an important role. The guidelines of the new urban policy presented by ARGEBAU contain some points of new urban governance: cooperation among several departments of the city authority, combination of various financial sources, public-private partnership, stress on the empowerment and voluntary participation of the local people, and so on. It is quarter management that is crucial for the new urban governance in the regeneration of problem quarters. Quarter management should rouse the local potential actors to voluntarism and should make networking among them work. Managers stand as mediators between local actors and the city authorities. The nexuses which should emerge through quarter management are a key for the success of the 'Socially Integrative City Program'. In brief, quarter management plays a key role in the new urban governance or steering of development of the quarter. In this sense, it is important for the new urban policy to implement suitable quarter management. It depends, however, partly upon whether there is social capital in the quarter concerned. If there is no social capital, the quarter management has to create and accumulate it. There may be no one model appropriate for this practice. In fact, there are varieties of models of quarter management not only among cities but also within the same city. There is also a theoretical question. We can find some typical characteristics of neoliberalism in the concept of the new urban governance. However, neoliberalistic globalization causes the socio-spatial polarization within each urban space. In order to relieve the negative aspects of neoliberalism, we should have recourse to the powers of reciprocity as well as of redistribution. It is still now an open question how to combine the three modes of human relationships and exchanges: market exchange, redistribution and reciprocity in Polany's words, and voice, exit and royalty in Hirschman's words. The new urban governance should be reexamined from this view-point theoretically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-226
Number of pages22
JournalJapanese Journal of Human Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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