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Keywords:

  • regional planning;
  • discourse analysis;
  • social inequality;
  • spatial differentiation;
  • sustainability;
  • neoliberalisation;
  • relational space;
  • power;
  • Germany

Abstract:  Subsequent to the Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987, Our Common Future), sustainability has been set up in many countries as a mission statement of cross-sectoral policies. Sustainable development carries the normative notions of equity, empowerment and environmentally sensitive economic development. Thus, it seems to suggest a fundamentally different vision to neoliberal dogma, which is at the same time described as dominating all socio-political processes. This paper intends to explore the relation between these two discursive framings of contemporary policies through the example of German spatial planning guidelines. More precisely, it addresses social justice as one pillar of sustainability and how it is operationalised in spatial planning policies in Germany. This may exemplify how the seemingly opposing discourses interact in policy practices. The empirical analysis suggests that the ways in which the German spatial planning report focused on social space in territorial terms promotes an economistic and truncated view of social justice, one which fosters the neoliberal idea of regional competition for global capital and reduces socio-spatial justice to territorially equally distributed economic inclusion.