Reconceptualizing public and private in urban regime theory: governance in AIDS politics


Regime theory is a means by which scholars study governance in the city. Governance is defined as a productive exercise of power (‘the power to’) resulting from the normative and actual arrangements (the ‘regime’) between public and private spheres in a liberal democratic community. To date, the public‐private couplet has been conceptualized as the state and market institutions respectively. In this paper I show that this definition is but one particular (Lockean) conceptualization of the public and private. Other dimensions also exist in liberalism itself (Romantic, Modern and feminist critique) and thus have considerable saliency in urban life and politics. Recognizing this point benefits regime theory by strengthening and extending its theoretical and empirical consistency. It captures the complex structuration of city politics better, and facilitates the examination of non‐traditional forms and locations of politics in the city, where each of the dimensions of the public‐private couplet might produce governance. Using grounded theory, that point is developed through an account of local politics of AIDS in a New Zealand city, where various forms of public and private enterprise connect to successfully achieve the policy goals of prevention, education and support.