Re‐imaging the City Centre for the Middle Classes: Regeneration, Gentrification and Symbolic Policies in ‘Loser Cities’


This article aims to show how the governments of two industrial cities in France and the UK have now come to the view that middle‐class reinvestment in the city centre offers a solution to urban economic decline, and so have encouraged the middle class to move in by implementing ‘symbolic policies’. Their objective is to transform the image of the post‐industrial city through cultural and urban planning policy, in order to adapt it to the supposed taste of potential gentrifiers. This development in strategy results from both external constraints and internal political changes in these cities. The failure of earlier redevelopment strategies is also a factor in explaining this paradoxical phenomenon, in which a social group that is, in fact, almost absent from the central spaces of these cities has now been accorded the status of ‘systematic winners’.