Beyond a Liberal Critique of ‘Trickle Down’: Urban Planning in the City of Malmö


This article scrutinizes the much used, but less examined, concept of ‘trickle down’ in an urban setting. We make a distinction between the production of and distribution in the city, and argue that trickle down in contemporary urban policy could be regarded as the liberal link between production and distribution. Based on interviews with key figures and document analyses, we look at the transformation of the Swedish city of Malmö from an industrial to a post-industrial city, where, during the last two decades, we have found three concurrent components: the ideology of trickle down; several urban policy programs and governmental policies to ‘make’ money and resources trickle down; as well as increased economic polarization and segregation. A liberal critique of trickle down would argue that market mechanisms cannot by themselves solve distribution, and that government policies therefore are needed. We argue for the need to go beyond a liberal critique of trickle down and stress how unequal distribution is built into the unequal production of the city.