The literature on city‐regionalism can be criticized for neglecting the mundane ways that cities and regions are socially reproduced (and contested) through processes of household decision‐making and routine coordination. Moreover, dominant debates on macro‐scale governance and economic competitiveness rarely question the way strategic city‐regional partnerships equate notions of ‘liveability’ with marketability. However ‘smart’, these initiatives persistently fetishize growth, allowing little scope for collective endeavour or an ethic of care — values which Linda McDowell (2004) points out are fundamentally undermined by neoliberalism. This paper challenges the ‘top‐down’ discourse of city‐regionalism both on the grounds of what it examines (economic efficiency and governance) and how this is viewed (partially and globally). The case is made for raising awareness of the structural inequalities which restrict the ‘choice of choices’ actually available to households competing for public services on the basis of uneven resource entitlement. This calls for an understanding of a ‘whole’ economy, recognizing the full value of unpaid care‐giving, volunteering and ‘free’ environmental resources.