Governing Complex City-Regions in the Twenty-First Century: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa

  • Philip Harrison
  • Date of publication: 16 November 2023

This book is major output for a GCRO project entitled International comparative city-region governance. The research was conducted by Professor Philip Harrison, the SARCHI-Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of Witwatersrand. Fieldwork in four countries – China, India, Brazil and Russia – was supported by a research grant from the Office of the Premier in the Gauteng Provincial Government, and GCRO subsequently provided funding to support the publication and launch of the work. The book was published by Wits University Press.

The book provides a comparative study of the complex governance challenges confronting city-regions in each of the BRICS countries. It traces how governance approaches emerge from the disparate intentions, actions and practices of multiple collaborating and competing actors, working in diverse contexts of political settlement and culture.

The scale and pace of urban change in the recent past has been disorienting. As individual cities evolve into complex urban agglomerations, scholars battle to find adequate vocabularies for contemporary urban processes while practitioners search for meaningful governance responses. Governing Complex City-Regions in the Twenty-first Century explores the ongoing evolution of metropolitan governance as diverse urban agents grapple with the dilemmas of collective action across multi-layered and fragmented institutions, in contexts where there are also manifold centres of influence and decision-making.

Whereas much of the existing literature is founded on the settled urban contexts of Western Europe and North America this book draws on the experiences of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The author shows that governance approaches are rarely designed but emerge, rather, from the disparate intentions, actions and practices of multiple collaborating and competing actors working within diverse contexts of political settlement and political culture. Intended for students, academics and professionals, the book does not offer packaged solutions or easy answers to the challenges of urban governance, but it does show the value of comparative study in inspiring new thought and perspectives, which could lead to improved governance practice within South African contexts


Introduction: Exploring hyper-complexity

Chapter 1: The global view: The city-region as material form, discourse and governmental practice

Chapter 2: The governance of Brazil’s metropolitan regions

Chapter 3: The governance of Russia’s urban agglomerations

Chapter 4: Metropolitan and city-region governance in India

Chapter 5: Governing the city clusters of China

Chapter 6: City-region governance in South Africa

Chapter 7: Concluding and comparative insight


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