This paper offers a contribution to contemporary studies of spatial planning. In particular, it problematises the relationship between neoliberal competitiveness and spatial planning. Neoliberal competitiveness is a hegemonic discourse in public policy as it (allegedly) provides the ‘path to economic nirvana’. However, commentators have critiqued its theoretical underpinnings and labelled it a ‘dangerous obsession’ for policy makers. Another set of literatures argues that spatial planning can be understood as a form of ‘neoliberal spatial governance’ and read in a ‘postpolitical’ framework that ‘privileges competitiveness’. Synthesising these debates this paper critically analyses the application and operationalisation of neoliberal competitiveness in Northern Ireland and Belfast. In focusing on this unique case study—a deeply divided society with a turbulent history—the paper takes the debate forward in arguing that rather than offering the ‘path to economic nirvana’ neoliberal competitiveness is a ‘postpolitical strategy’ and represents a ‘dangerous obsession’ for spatial planning.
- Neoliberalism, competitiveness, planning, politics, economy