The Urban Growth Machine

Critical Perspectives, Two Decades Later

Edited by Andrew E. G. Jonas & David Wilson

Subjects: Political Science
Series: SUNY series in Urban Public Policy
Paperback : 9780791442609, 312 pages, August 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442593, 312 pages, August 1999

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Tables and Figures



1. The City as a Growth Machine: Critical Reflections Two Decades Later
Andrew E. G. Jonas and David Wilson


2. Ideology and the Growth Coalition
Kevin R. Cox

3. Urban Imagineers: Boosterism and the Representation of Cities
John Rennie Short

4. Growth Machines and Propaganda Projects: A Review of Readings of the Role of Civic Boosterism in the Politics of Local Economic Development
Mark Boyle


5. The Character and Consequences of Growth Regimes: An Assessment of Twenty Years of Research
John R. Logan, Rachel Bridges Whaley, and Kyle Crowder

6. Place, Politics, and the Production of Urban Space: A Feminist Critique of the Growth Machine Thesis
Melissa R. Gilbert

7. Redefining Urban Politics for the Twenty-First Century
Allan Cochrane

8. Reconstructing Urban Regime Theory: Regulation Theory and Institutional Arrangements
Mickey Lauria

9. Retooling the Machine: Economic Crisis, State Restructuring, and Urban Politics
Bob Jessop, Jamie Peck, and Adam Tickell


10. Organizing for Local Economic Development: The Growth Coalition as a Cross-National Comparative Framework
Andrew Wood

11. Growth Coalitions in Britain's Waning Sunbelt: Some Reflections
Keith Bassett

12. The Politics of Influence: Democracy and the Growth Machine in Orange County, U.S.
Stephanie Pincetl

13. Employing the Growth Machine Heuristic in a Different Political and Economic Context: The Case of Israel
Andrew Kirby and Thabit Abu-Rass

14. Transcending Interurban Competition: Conceptual Issues and Policy Alternatives in the European Union
Helga Leitner and Eric Sheppard


15. Growth Machine Links: Up, Down, and Across
Harvey Molotch


Biographical Notes


Two decades after Harvey Molotch’s “city as a growth machine,” this book offers a unique, critical assessment of his thesis.


Harvey Molotch's "city as a growth machine" thesis is one of the most influential approaches to the analysis of urban politics and local economic development in the United States. However, the nature and context of urban politics have changed considerably since the growth machine thesis was first proposed more than twenty years ago, and recent attempts to apply it to settings outside the U.S. have revealed conceptual and empirical limitations.

This book offers a unique critical assessment of the contribution of the growth machine thesis to research in urban political economy. Written from an interdisciplinary and international perspective, it brings together leading urban studies scholars. These contributors explore three organizing themes: urban growth, discourse and ideology; new dimensions of urban politics; and the growth machine in comparative perspective. These themes not only provide the focus for the critical examinations of the growth machine thesis, but also offer exciting new ways of thinking about and researching urban politics and local economic development.

As Harvey Molotch himself notes in this book's concluding chapter, "The growth machine idea makes a substantive argument about the empirical substance of U.S. urban regimes. It asserts that virtually every city (and state) government is a growth machine and long has been. It asserts that this puts localities in chronic competition with one another in ways that harm the vast majority of their citizens as well as their environments. It anticipates an ideological structure that naturalizes growth goals as a background assumption of civic life. In a social science realm where successful empirical generalizations have been few, the growth machine idea robustly and usefully describes reality."

Contributors include Thabit Abu-Rass, Keith Bassett, Mark Boyle, Allan Cochrane, Kevin R. Cox, Kyle Crowder, Melissa R. Gilbert, Bob Jessop, Andrew Kirby, Mickey Lauria, Helga Leitner, John R. Logan, Harvey Molotch, Jamie Peck, Stephanie Pincetl, Eric Sheppard, John Rennie Short, Adam Tickell, Rachel Bridges Whaley, and Andrew Wood.

Andrew E. G. Jonas is Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Hull, United Kingdom and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Earth Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. David Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana.


"…a positive addition to the literature on urban politics and governance in the social sciences." — Urban Studies

"…I would recommend it to anyone who feels that the study of urban politics should amount to more than simple empirical generalisation." — Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG

"The book demonstrates the continued usefulness of growth machine theory in urban politics. But its most important contribution lies in the questions it raises that can extend the framework of the theory." — Perspectives on Political Science