The cities of the future and the perspective of networks

It is quite possible that we will see the formation of networks of towns and cities smaller than the current CIM

I return to the theme of the cities of the future (see the my chronicle of December 10, 2020 on Sul Informação about the city-region of the Algarve). The ongoing mass tourism obliges us to look at the cities of the future in a much more judicious way in order to safeguard the quality of life and our well-being.

Furthermore, we are at the beginning of 2023 and in a decade with events that will mark us forever. It is the time of major transitions – climate, energy, ecological, food, digital, demographic, migratory, labor, security – which will have devastating impacts on many aspects of our collective life and which, therefore, require us to rescale our communities most unprotected local and regional areas.

It is also a unique decade because it brings together massive financial resources – PT 2020, PT 2030, PRR 2026 – which require a special requirement with regard to multilevel governance and the entire national and regional structure for managing European funds.

One of the central topics of this 2030 agenda refers to what I designate as the points of regionalization, that is, the interactive dynamic between the regional (NUTS II) and sub-regional (NUTS III/CIM) levels of government and administration and, in in particular, as a result of this interaction, the evolution of the intermunicipal community (CIM) towards a new city-country configuration that I designate as region-city. Let us see, then, a little of the political philosophy of the cities of the future and, in particular, the territorial approach from the perspective of networks.

Em first place, political philosophy tells us that the globalized financial economy is, more and more, extraterritorial, that the digital society triggers a growing disintermediation and dematerialization of the administration of the territory and that politics, on the contrary, feels, more and more, confined and confined within the territorial limits of its electoral legitimacy; this imbalance, all too evident, pushes political society to the defensive, to populism and nationalism, with a view to protecting the territorial limits that delimit its original representativeness.

Em second place, political philosophy also tells us that a territorial approach from the perspective of networks – centralized, decentralized and distributed – can be applied to the cities of the future and, in particular, to the city-region as a polycentric, distributed and collaborative network; the main vectors of structural cooperation in the region-city relate to a geo-economy of networks and their interconnections, namely: networks and interconnections of the green and circular economy, networks and interconnections of the new urban mobility, networks and interconnections of the technological and business ecosystem , networks and interconnections of outpatient services and cross-border cooperation, networks and interconnections of creative and cultural industries.

Em third place, the territorial approach from the perspective of networks tells us that it is imperative to increase synergy and reduce the entropy of relations between spaces and territories, improve their collective territorial intelligence and adjust the respective network-intensity; the city-region is the urban-industrial city of the 1st modernity, vertical and radial, peri-urban and suburban, invasive and discriminatory, the city-region is the intelligent and creative city, polycentric and distributed, a network of small, intelligent, inclusive and collaborative practices of post-modernity and the 2nd rurality.

From here derive the main lines of action of the respective actor-network: promoting interconnections, matching the pace of the network-intensity with the involvement of the communities involved, using intelligence and imagination to connect the loose ends of the matrix of flows and fostering capillarity from a territory in search of meaning and purpose to a desired geography and a common destiny.

Em fourth place, the territorial approach from the perspective of the networks directly depends on the investment made in the smartification of the territory; on a first level, the simple optimization of resources in the provision of public services, on a second level, the creation of an intelligent environment in the education-teaching-training of the entire population, on a third level, the promotion of digital platforms made in view the creation of a more participatory and collaborative local society, finally, the creation of an integrated digital ecosystem oriented towards the territorial development strategy of the city-region.

Em fifth place, the territorial approach from the perspective of the networks depends a lot on the political-administrative evolution of the intermunicipal communities (CIM), in particular, within the scope of law nº50/2018, which transfers attributions and competences to the municipalities and the CIM; however, beyond this transfer, it will be important to know whether the municipalities themselves wish to evolve towards a genuine inter-municipal federalism, a new level for a government of the commons and a true desired territory; well, over all this there still hangs a thick and heavy cloud.

Em sixth place, the political philosophy of regionalization, in particular, the dynamic interaction between the regional (NUTS II) and sub-regional (NUTS III/CIM) levels; at the first level, we will most likely witness a reform of the state's deconcentrated regional administration and the formation of a regional executive based on the current CCDR; at the second level, we will perhaps witness a strengthening of the CIM with the corresponding modernization of the structures of municipal administrations; it remains to be seen whether the collaborative dynamic between the two levels will be up to the great challenges and transitions of this decade.

Em seventh place, the political philosophy of European integration and its course of action throughout this decade will be decisive in establishing the general framework of public policies, in particular with regard to fiscal union, own resources (taxes), debt formation European joint venture and the communitarisation of new areas of integration, such as climate change, public health and security and defence; Furthermore, the European Union still lacks a well-established regionalist doctrine in terms of European macro-regions, common goods and cross-border mobility, which would open a window of opportunity for the next generation of European groupings of territorial cooperation (EGTC).

Final Grade

Having arrived here, we still don't know how the rescaling of multilevel governance in Portugal over the course of the decade, much less if we witness the transformation of the CIM into true city-regions.

However, it is quite possible that we are witnessing the formation of networks of towns and cities smaller than the current CIM, taking advantage of the external economies offered by these and taking advantage of their geographic contiguity to form genuine city-regions endowed with a true government of the common.

And for that, it is enough to think about what is at stake with the government of the commons: the intermunicipal green plan and the agroecological park, the offer of ambulatory and itinerant common goods, the new intermunicipal energy mix and the local energy communities, the forest and preventive forestry, the shared center of digital resources and innovation platforms, the grouped management of regional multi-products, the new school of arts and technologies, the cluster of creative and cultural industries, the integrated areas of landscape management, mosaics and amenities landscaping, soil banks and common areas, village condominiums and the management of the 2nd rurality.

The raison d'etre of the cities of the future is therefore more than justified.


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