As I’m digging deeper into archival work about the South Lake Union redevelopment, I’m finding how limiting the concept of neoliberalism feels. On the one hand, there is this sort of language, which sounds like neoliberalism 101:
WHEREAS, in Resolution 30610, the Seattle City Council affirmed its commitment to support the redevelopment of the South Lake Union area as the region’s most competitive location for biotech and high-tech research and manufacturing; and
WHEREAS, the Seattle City Council has taken numerous actions in support of the redevelopment of South Lake Union for this purpose, including selling City property in South Lake Union to enable its redevelopment, approving zoning adjustments that support biotech, allowing certain modifications to building height restrictions, adding South Lake Union to the City’s multi-family tax exemption program, contributing to the development of 226 low-income housing units, and contributing funds towards the development and improvement of South Lake Union Park and Cascade Playground; and
WHEREAS, the Seattle City Council will be considering additional measures that would further promote economic development in South Lake Union, such as adjusting zoning in certain areas to enable multi-family residential development, making improvements to the pedestrian environment, and designating South Lake Union as an Urban Center, which could make it eligible for certain grants and other priority funding; and…
But on the other hand, I’m finding — in the same document — language that sounds much different:
WHEREAS, the City Council appreciates the efforts and enthusiasm by certain parties to build a streetcar in South Lake Union as a possible way to accelerate development to the area and provide additional public transportation alternatives; and
WHEREAS, the City of Seattle has made budget reductions of approximately one hundred million dollars in the last three years and continues to face challenges in maintaining city services; and
WHEREAS, the City’s transportation infrastructure requires more than five hundred million dollars worth of investment to maintain street surfaces and bridges; and
WHEREAS, while the Seattle City Council believes that a South Lake Union streetcar could provide an additional attraction to development in South Lake Union, the Council is concerned about using scarce City resources for the streetcar capital costs and future operating and maintenance given the longstanding needs in other neighborhoods and the challenges of maintaining adequate funding levels for city services and transportation infrastructure maintenance; and
WHEREAS, while a streetcar may have the potential to help organize and accelerate development in South Lake Union, development in South Lake Union is proceeding at a rapid pace and it is not likely dependent on the installation of a streetcar line; and…
This is just a snapshot of what was transpiring in 2004, but the claim I’m making is that the relentless restructuring toward which theorists of neoliberalism often hint it is, at least in this case, tempered by another tendency that, following Jessop (2002), might be called neocorporatism. Among other features, it is it marked by a commitment both to private interests and social accords in its pursuit of stable economic growth.
Jessop, B. 2002. “Liberalism, Neoliberalism, and Urban Governance: A State-Theoretical Perspective.” Antipode 34(3): 452-472.