ICS Seminar Series - Jamie Peck

Date: Thursday, 27 August 2020
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: The seminar will be hosted online via Zoom. Please RSVP to e.blight@westernsydney.edu.au by 26 August, 5:00pm, to receive the Zoom details.

Policy Models in the Wild

Presenter: Professor Jamie Peck


The presentation will explore the social, political and technical means by which policy-making 'models' are made, circulated and reproduced. Beginning with an assessment of the origination and evolution of the 'policy mobilities' research program, a fast-developing interdisciplinary project that has made a distinctive contribution to the methodological renewal of the field of critical policy studies, the presentation will outline an approach to the study of the making and movement of policy models, drawing on insights from economic geography, economic sociology, and economic anthropology.

This will be illustrated by a discussion of mobilizations of the Hong Kong 'model' in economic theory and in imaginaries of (urban) development, focusing on connections made by (and around) Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Romer, as a roving policy advocate for charter cities and as an 'economist in the wild'. It will be suggested that one of Romer’s signature ideas—the failure-prone but politically persistent idea of charter cities, territorial enclaves founded on market-friendly rules—recycles the tabula rasa conceit of 'start-up' urbanization, yoked to the recurring motif of 'islands' of experimentation, purified on the inside and insulated from corrupted worlds beyond.

A case study of Honduras, just one of the places where projections for a new Hong Kong have run aground, reveals some of the reasons why these efforts are consistently frustrated in practice, but remarkably resilient as political projects and vehicles for policy advocacy. In Honduras, grandiose acts of policy-making projection and developmental hubris descended into a saga of banana republicanism. The diagnostic significance of this frustrated attempt to fashion a transplant of Hong Kong lies in the insidiousness of the (neoliberalized) compulsion to model, even in the face of serial failure, and the longstanding 'availability' of Hong Kong as a socioeconomic imaginary-cum-island fix, irrespective of facts on the ground.


Jamie Peck is Canada Research Chair in Urban & Regional Political Economy and Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia, and a Global Professorial Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. With long-term research interests in geographical political economy, urban restructuring, and critical studies of statecraft, his current research is focused on the political economy of neoliberalization and capitalist transformations in Hong Kong and South China. He is the Managing Editor of EPA: Economy & Space and the convenor of the Summer Institute in Economic Geography.