Urban Studies. Volume 48(12). pp 2443-2472
Paul Peterson’s (1981) City Limits was to become one of several landmark publications in the study of urban politics during the 1980s and 1990s. It pioneered the argument that, amid the unravelling of the 1960s Great Society welfare accord and associated War on Poverty1 and now confronting the deindustrialisation of their maturing economies and the new times of Reaganomics and retrenchment of Federal aid and welfare, American urban administrations were increasingly compelled to compete with other city governments in an endeavour to attract and retain the hyper-mobile investment and wealth-generating entrepreneurs which in due course were to be heralded as the saviours of a 1990s globalising economy. For Peterson, this ‘developmental politics’ left little scope – hence the limits of the title – for engaging in ‘distributional politics’ such as the socialised provision of welfare services and collective goods for the working class and lower-income communities. He further indicated how the acute fiscal crises of eastern seaboard cities like New York and Philadelphia served notice about the new priorities in urban management, particularly as the economic geographical pendulum in the US was swinging rapidly towards high-tech cities and regions in the south and west (Markusen et al., 1986).