Power, Reform, and Urban Regime Analysis


*Correspondence should be addressed to Clarence N. Stone, University of Maryland, Government & Politics, 3104C Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742-7215; cstone@umd.edu.


Although “power over” and “power to” are conceptually distinct, in political reality they are intertwined. As forms of “power to,” urban regimes are not neutral mechanisms, but are forms of empowerment. Still, they may come less out of a contest of wills around fixed preferences and more out of how preferences are shaped by relationships. Perceived feasibility plays a major part. Given bounded rationality, one alignment of relationships may crowd out others, facilitating the pursuit of some aims while hindering others. Reformers often face the handicap of being inattentive to the reality that some forms of interaction have higher opportunity costs than others and therefore are less sustainable. Reformers frequently see their task mainly in “power over” terms, that is, of ousting defenders of the status quo. But if reformers think about their task in terms of “power to,” then they can see that a major obstacle is the difficulty of achieving a settlement with sustainable forms of interaction. Going beyond particular battles to win the war for reform calls for a regime-building effort that rests on viable forms of cooperation.