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Browsing by Author "Nyström, Henrietta"

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  • Nyström, Henrietta (2023)
    Urbanization, densification of the built environment, community degradation, and privatization and commercialization of space have shaped the urban development of Helsinki and also worldwide. These environmental, social, and economic problems have increased political pressure to find appropriate uses for existing spaces. The development of urban commons, i.e. shared, often non-commercialized spaces in urban environments, has entered the policy arena in recent years. This master's thesis examines how the ideas underlying urban commons are intertwined with contemporary neoliberal urban policy and planning. The ideas underlying urban commons include notions of social processes and socio-spatial relations that allow us to reimagine urban space and to figure out in what ways and by whom it is owned, managed, and utilized. The study aims to find out how the interrelationships between urban commons and neoliberalism are manifested in urban space and in the objectives behind the creation of urban commons. I approached the topic from the perspective of public administration and therefore examined in more detail two projects/actions managed by public sector organizations in Helsinki: Circular Green Blocks and Enhancement of the Sharing Economy in Zoning Plans. Data was collected through seven semi-structured interviews with planning and policy professionals and from several planning documents. Discourse analysis was used as a method of analysis and enabled the discovery of the meanings and representations of the world that underlie talk about urban commons. The results of this study show that the development of urban commons is intertwined in complex ways with neoliberalism in urban politics, which became evident through five discourses uncovered. The discourses of welfare and the right to the city revealed attempts to create a more spatially and socioeconomically equal as well as open urban space. Creating space that supports sustainable economic development was another key objective manifested in the discourse on the green economy. The support for the private sector in policymaking revealed an entrepreneurial discourse that indicated that urban space was sometimes treated as a commodity. A managerial discourse revealed a shift in urban governance and the role of the public sector, which showed that urban space was also sometimes treated as something non-political. The study concludes that the development of urban commons is influenced by neoliberal ideals, but also by ideas that can be considered as going beyond neoliberal ideology. For example, ideas of equality and welfare that reflect the tradition of welfare state policies in Finnish politics. The study encourages further research on the governance of urban commons, power relations in policymaking, and discourses among other actors in planning.