Spaces of informalisation : playscapes, power and the governance of behaviour

POWELL, Ryan (2010). Spaces of informalisation : playscapes, power and the governance of behaviour. Space and Polity, 14 (2), 189-206.

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Geographers have contributed a great deal towards an understanding of social control across different spaces and the ways in which power is exercised in the interests of élite groups to the detriment of marginalised ‘others’. Little attention however, has been given to decontrolled spaces: spaces where the standard of conduct expected of previous generations is no longer as rigid and formalised as it once was. This paper draws on the work of Norbert Elias and Cas Wouters in exploring how previously prohibited behaviours become admissible within particular social situations, groups and settings: a process known as informalisation. The informalisation thesis posits that a long-term perspective can elucidate the ways in which gradual changes in expected standards of behaviour are linked to corresponding changes in social habitus and the power differentials that characterise the social relations between élite and outsider groups. The paper contends that a revision of the sociological concept of informalisation, emphasising spatial context and difference, can contribute a great deal to debates in human geography. It is argued that the spatialisation of Elias' work could provide a useful theoretical framework with which to enhance the geographer's understanding of the relationship between group identities, power, social change and governance. Conversely, a focus on the spaces of informalisation may also advance the theory from a sociological perspective. The theory is applied to specific playscapes and highlights the uneven, problematic nature of contemporary governance projects and the related problem of social misdiagnoses in the quest towards the ‘non-antagonistic’ city.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research
Identification Number:
Page Range: 189-206
Depositing User: Hilary Ridgway
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2012 11:26
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 05:02

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