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Victims of their own (definition of) success: urban discourse and expert knowledge production in the Liveable City

McArthur, J; Robin, E; (2018) Victims of their own (definition of) success: urban discourse and expert knowledge production in the Liveable City. Urban Studies (In press).

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Abstract

The notion of ‘liveability' has endured for over fifty years within policy discourses, shaping urban strategy and planning across the world. This Debates paper examines the current state of liveability discourse. Liveability is unpacked to consider the rhetorical work that it does to frame urban problems, select and order concepts, and build narratives that shape policy action. Liveability discourse has a dual role: it defines normative goals for a city and also reifies and demands particular forms of expert knowledge to justify and maintain its discursive power. This power is created by connecting the vague rhetoric of the ‘liveable city’ to expertise represented in liveability rankings and indicators. The experiences of apparently ‘liveable’ cities show how liveability discourse creates a representation of the city that is in contrast to the experience of many residents. The use of aggregate metrics and reliance on indices generated from undisclosed data sources and ‘expert judgement’, obscures the differentiated quality of life and everyday experience for urban populations. Therefore, liveability discourse has exerted and maintained stronger discursive power to undermine urban livelihoods than to improve them, due to the phenomena and qualities that it conceals. Liveability’s distinct type of discursive power must be recognised and mobilised to support a counter-narrative that reconnects urban policy with everyday urban life.

Type: Article
Title: Victims of their own (definition of) success: urban discourse and expert knowledge production in the Liveable City
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Liveability, discourse, knowledge production, policy mobilities, urban governance
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10056108
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