Re-framing the Urban Blight Problem with Transdisciplinary Insights from Ecological Economics
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Similar to circumstances in the field of economics, market fundamentalism dominates urban blight policy spaces in the U.S. despite criticisms of the paradigm. Unlike the unified alternative that ecological economics (EE) provides to conventional economic theory, however, disagreement over the meaning of “blight” has prevented a commonly held pre-analytic vision and policy agenda from forming in critical blight scholarship. This paper asserts that “applied EE” offers a framework in which to develop such a vision, and to strengthen the inchoate critical blight policy stream. We draw on the EE theory and concepts to argue that blight can be understood as a stock that accumulates in an urban system as a result of underinvestment into real property. Our conceptualization of the problem has several important implications for public policy. A brief illustration compares the relative efficacy of one city's characteristically neoliberal blight policies with more “EE-consistent” policies in a second city to show that the latter might in fact outperform the former.
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