Stretching urban renaissance: privatizing space, civilizing place, summoning 'community'

Craig Johnstone, Gordon MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In common with many countries in recent years, visions of an urban renaissance have been instrumental in guiding a transformation of England's cities, enabling a boom in economic development and ‘urban living’. However, while critics voice concerns about the renascent downtowns being increasingly privatized and inscribed through displacement-inducing gentrification, a seemingly inexorable rise in inequality also prompts misgivings about the social and geographical reach of any purported renaissance. Appreciative of this, the New Labour government introduced as part of its sustainable communities plan an initiative called Housing Market Renewal, designed to reconnect distressed areas of ‘low demand’ to the vibrant city centres. However, the extent to which this endeavour to stretch the frontier of England's urban renaissance is premised upon a fundamentalist faith in private property inclines us to delineate it as an archetypical case of late-neoliberalizing accumulation by dispossession that licenses state-orchestrated gentrification. We go on to consider how the landscape conversions precipitated by the renaissance vision have been convened alongside an unprecedented expansion of policies for crime control, designed to instil a particular version of ‘civility’ within the urban and suburban vernacular. The article thereby reveals how politically orchestrated endeavours to induce an urban renaissance appear to be increasingly intertwined with gentrification and a punitive urbanism, and how this chimes with experiences across many parts of the urban world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

© 2011 The Authors. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research © 2011 Urban Research Publications


  • Accumulation by Dispossession
  • Gentrification
  • Punitive Urbanism
  • United Kingdom
  • England


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