Coalfields regeneration and improving 'best practice' : an analysis of Easington District
This thesis explores the reasons for the persistence of deprivation in East Durham despite the concerted efforts of the East Durham Task Force and the East Durham Local Strategic Partnership over the last 15 years to tackle the social, economic and environmental problems caused by the rapid run down of the mining industry in the District. It uses a critical realist methodology and techniques of documentary research, (participant) observation and semi-structured interviews to analyse the processes of strategy formulation and the devising of regeneration projects. The research was an ESRC collaborative research project with the District of Easington Council. The thesis uses a number of theoretical debates in contemporary social science to interpret the evidence collected in East Durham which in turn contributes to the development of those debates. In particular, the research engages with debates on the changing role and geometry of the state and the purported 'hollowing out' of the state which is often characterised as a shift from government to governance. The evidence collected in East Durham suggests this is not happening in the field of regeneration and that the central state remains of primary importance. Local governance occurs 'in the shadow of hierarchy' (Scharpf, 1994). This is explored through Jessop's (2003) concepts of metagovemance and, in particular, metaheterarchy. These approaches echo Foucault's concept of government as 'the conduct of conduct'. Foucault's (1982) concept of power as something positive and technical is used to understand the changing role of the state. The governmentality approach provides the conceptual tools to understand the processes of governance and the way in which the centre can influence local actors without direct involvement in regeneration. Patterns of interorganisational cooperation are observed, however, which cannot be adequately explained by the shift to governance, and Grabber's (2002) concept of project ecology is used to understand governance in turbulent environments.