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Alpenstädte - zwischen Metropolisation und neuer Eigenständigkeit

Erscheinungsjahr 2001
Autor(en) Manfred Perlik
Verlag Geographisches Institut Bern
Erscheinungsort Bern
ISBN/ISSN 3-906151-42-5
Seitenanzahl 246
Sprache de - Zusammenfassung in: en
Zeitschrift Geographica Bernensia
Seiten 246
Zeitschriften Nr. P 38
Considering that major societal processes today are initiated in cities and that urban spheres of influence continue to grow due to improved methods of overcoming distance, the functional importance of the Alps risks being reduced to that of a region with mere recreational value, due to its location in between the most important European zones of economic growth. The situation is intensified by the lack of towns or metropolitan areas of European significance in the Alpine area. However, with the transition from the Fordist to the post-Fordist era, previous locational advantages as well as disadvantages lose their importance, which means that areas which until now have been disadvantaged could – in principle - be able to improve their status at a national and international level by establishing and strengthening new production systems. Even in these areas, towns play an important role as centres of regional production systems. Taking post-Fordist regime change into consideration, this empirical investigation seeks to identify the importance of Alpine towns for the Alps and within the European and global contexts of functional division. On the basis of these results, it is possible to sketch the prospects for development and possible courses of action, and to assess them according to criteria of sustainability. A purposeful strengthening of existing towns and urban systems in the Alps is sensible, also with a view to sustainability. This may seem contradictory at first, since it also entails a strengthening of the structures of global labour division, and thus a reinforcement of the divide between different levels of added value. However, if we strive for sustainability in all its three aspects (ecology, society, economy) and for the entire Alpine area, then we need a multifunctional economic structure and a relatively balanced land use at a regional level. A strengthening of towns thus entails both the maintenance of urban perspectives for small and medium-sized towns and the attempt not to let the Alps as innovative potential detach themselves from the extra-Alpine area. Stable towns may facilitate a reinforcement of existing regional value-added chains and production systems. A stronger urbanisation of the Alps thus seems to be the only possibility for countering a further polarisation and steepening of the hierarchy within the Alpine arc. A certain contradiction, which can not be eradicated in this context, is found in the fact that large as well as small towns in the Alps have partly divergent interests. Moreover, the strengthening of regional capitals, which is necessary from a European point of view, can lead to a weakening of the smaller towns. As a conscious enforcement of urbanisation calls for the support by national and European institutions, there is in principle also a possibility to accommodate conflicting interests. Another reservation is to be made in that not every kind of urban growth complies with criteria of sustainability. This reservation mainly concerns staged urbanity ("inszenierte Urbanität") and the attempt at excessive image-building by "branding", which can be fatal particularly for small towns which do not have the financial means to react to short-term changes in trends. The transition from the Fordist to the post-Fordist phase is partly linked to a social re-evaluation of former fields of conflict, as ecological sensitivity, ecological efficiency and socio-cultural differentiation are increasingly acknowledged. The new values influence both the accumulation regimes (valorisation of environmental qualities) and the regulatory regimes (through the demand for transparency and additional platforms of representation, e.g. nongovernmental organisations). At the same time, local regulatory mechanisms are losing their influence due to the growing importance of the global network function. There is thus a risk that the new calls for sustainability will be simply ignored if they cannot be immediately valorised. Hence it is essential to have a new approach which is not biased towards landscape and environmental qualities as the sole base of production systems, but which seeks instead to enhance the strengths of a region in terms of its differences in comparison to other landscapes and economic regions. Such a perspective promotes innovation because it is open to different fields of action, and it has a preserving effect because it consciously concentrates on distinctive regional conditions. The Post-Fordist regime change means that the development of towns is determined less by their traditional position in the urban hierarchy. It also means, however, that they cannot count so much on fiscal redistribution by higher-order institutions anymore. Towns are thus experiencing a new autonomy, a situation in which the capacity and cooperation among local agents are increasingly decisive of development paths. This also entails the risk of a loss of importance. This risk could be mitigated by better cooperation among Alpine towns. On the one hand, this concerns collaboration with close neighbours, with a view to a common utilisation of regional potentials, which would thereby be stabilised and enhanced. An example would be a negotiated distribution of important locations within a region which would diminish competition in the assignment of locations for central institutions. A shared strategy heightens the prospects of success, e.g. also in comparison to peri-Alpine regions. Experience shows that this cooperation is sometimes more difficult to realize than cooperation with other Alpine regions. On the other hand, at a superregional level, close-knit cooperation will build an effective network for mutual support for common problems, and for successful outward lobbying. This would, for instance, be the case in a common action with regard to the European traffic debate, in which the Alpine regions neither want to be run over by unwanted traffic, nor be excluded from access to the most modern and most environmentally friendly transport modes.
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