On Technology, Infrastructure and the Contemporary Urban Condition: A Response to Coutard


This response to Coutard’s piece, ‘Premium Network Spaces: A Comment’ (in this issue) takes issue with his three main arguments in turn. First, it is argued that post‐monopolistic systems of infrastructure supply, along with the biased application of new technology, do often lead to exaggerated inequalities in social power which his analysis of water fails to reveal because it is the sector where natural monopoly characteristics are most difficult to undermine. Second, I explore Coutard’s argument that intensifying spatial specialization in infrastructure supply can often be benign and economically positive because of the wider trickle‐down and fiscal impacts of major development spaces. Under conditions of intensifying place competition and the erosion of regional planning coordination, however, I argue that such trickle‐down and fiscal impacts are often less significant than the spatially and socially regressive cross‐subsidies that support and sustain the emergence of such spaces. Finally, I argue that boundary control around powerful ‘glocal’ economic spaces, far from being socially benign as Coutard suggests, usually amounts to a powerful set of exclusionary practices with all too real social effects.