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Governing Complex City-Regions in the Twenty-First Century – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa


Year published: 2023
Categories: Book
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Author / Authors:

  • Philip Harrison


This book explores the challenges of complex, institutionally fragmented and dynamic city-regions across the BRICS countries and the emergence of formal and informal governance arrangements.

The scale, complexity and pace of urban change in the recent past has been disorienting. As individual cities evolve into complex urban agglomerations, sometimes called city- regions, urban scholars battle to find adequate vocabularies for contemporary urban processes while practitioners continually search for meaningful governance responses. Governing Complex City-Regions in the Twenty-First Century explores the ongoing evolution of regional and metropolitan governance as diverse urban agents grapple with the dilemmas of collective action across multi-layered and fragmented institutions, in contexts where there are manifold centres of influence and decision-making.

The author draws on the experiences of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), situating his analysis against the particular historical and political cycles of each. This expands the geography of knowledge in the study of city-region governance, revealing meanings, processes and outcomes of city-region governance that are not apparent in the more settled urban contexts of Western Europe and North America on which much of the existing literature is founded.

Intended for students, academics, and professionals, the book provides a critique of the ‘best practice’ approach, showing that governance approaches are rarely designed but emerge, rather, from the disparate intentions, actions and practices of multiple collaborating and competing actors working within diverse contexts of political settlement and political culture. While it does not offer packaged solutions or easy answers to the challenges of urban governance, it does show the value of comparative study in inspiring new thought and perspectives, which could lead to improved governance practice within South African contexts.


  • Book