The archipolis (or the framed metropolis)

Remi Dormois, March 2013

This paper proposes a forecast of what a « framed » metropolis would be like in 2040. This scenario emphasizes the return to state protectionism, in a system of de-globalization and re-territorialization of metropolises. This translates into the development of short circuits, the re-industrialization of regions and the taking into account of the ecological emergency.

The context for action in 2040

In 2040, in response to the damage to employment and industrial fabric in European countries attributed to liberal globalization, national governments and the European Union have responded by establishing barriers to the flow of goods, capital and labor. Customs and regulatory measures have limited the penetration of European markets by manufactured goods from the South. Recognizing the failure of the strategy of establishing a single currency without prior harmonization of fiscal and social policies, the countries that remained members of the EU decided to entrust the community institutions with the task of establishing a single social and fiscal system. For their part, following the financial crisis of 2008, the nation-states reinvested in the field of industrial policies. They have re-established complete industrial systems based on networks of small and medium-sized subcontractors that remained captive to their European location. France is less well off in this configuration than other European countries because of the low share of large SMEs in its business demography.

This deglobalization strategy stems from pressure from the middle class, which, after the working classes at the end of the 20th century, became the new victim of liberal globalization in the first decades of the 21st century. This strategy has also been facilitated by several structural factors such as the rise in production costs (especially wages) in emerging countries and, above all, the explosion in transport costs caused by « peak oil ». Indeed, despite the research efforts made to develop alternatives to fossil fuel-based modes of transport, by 2040 none of the new technologies will have reached the performance of the modes of transport of the oil era. We are therefore witnessing a reduction in the volume of trade in goods almost everywhere in the world. Only rare goods continue to sustain international trade. Everywhere, production systems are being re-territorialized and the old development models based on « import substitution » are coming back into fashion.

The European and French urban hierarchy is undergoing a certain decline due to the relocation of economic exchanges, but also to more ambitious industrial and regional planning policies. Diversified production systems covering relatively limited consumption basins are being restructured around cities. The short circuit has become, through a mixture of choices and constraints, the norm in many productive sectors and not only in the agri-food industry.

This desire to control globalization also finds expression in immigration policies that have become increasingly restrictive. The scarcity of public employment in the 2010s and 2020s has created strong competition for access to low-paid jobs, which in turn has degenerated into inter-ethnic conflicts. These conflicts have led governments to tighten entry and residence conditions for foreigners and to reinforce border control mechanisms. The policies of deglobalization have thus flourished in a climate of identity-based tensions and a heightened obsession with security.

Some characteristics of life in the archipolis

In the archipolis of 2040, public, political, technical and administrative actors have reinforced their dominant position within the metropolitan governance systems. The central authorities, and in particular DATAR, reinvigorated by the second life of « spatial Keynesianism », have finally succeeded in promoting the modernizing couple they have always cherished: the metropolises and the regions. The metropolises have seen their perimeters, their competences and their resources (financial, expertise, political legitimacy) increase. They have been given a prominent role by the state and the EU in the fields of planning, housing and urban development, as well as in land, environmental and industrial policies and in the management of urban services.

The archipelagos will be closely supervised by powerful metropolitan institutions with strengthened technostructures that have taken charge of the conversion of metropolitan systems to the post-oil era. More stringent urban planning regulations have curbed sprawl and generalized urban planning patterns that emphasize the densification of existing primary and secondary centers and the preservation of green belts and ecological corridors. Building regulations, as well as proactive policies to rehabilitate existing buildings, have made it possible to convert most of the building stock into compliance with the most ambitious energy standards. The large companies of the French oligopoly in urban services (water, sanitation, transport, electricity, waste, urban freight, etc.) and real estate development have been ousted from the French market and have repositioned themselves internationally. They have been replaced by powerful metropolitan authorities and semi-public companies involving, alongside the local authorities, the Caisse des Dépôts and the chambers of commerce. These new entities manage metropolitan facilities for the production of renewable energy, water production and sanitation, as well as smart grids that allow consumption to be controlled and production to be adapted as closely as possible. Peri-urban agriculture and the supply of fresh produce to cities have been taken over by cooperatives sponsored by the metropolitan authorities and working closely with the metropolitan transport authorities, which have developed an urban freight activity using streetcars at night.

If the revival of the public economy is a major feature of the « archipolis », the revival of local industrial systems is another. Metropolitan governments are the operators of re-industrialization policies. They are responsible, along with the CCIs, for policies to support SMEs, economic development, and innovation, as well as training, the conservation and protection of know-how, and the securing of professional careers. Together with the Regions, they have also invested massively in the capital of SMEs. Extremely strict European anti-trust regulations and the presence of local authorities in the capital of companies prevent the re-formation of oligopolies. Production and consumption basins circumscribed to regional areas are re-forming. The productive structures of the metropolises have returned to what they were until the Second World War: each metropolis has a varied industrial fabric with three or four manufacturing specializations. Around these industrial activities, there is a diversity of support activities (insurance, finance, logistics, marketing, etc.). The Datar, which has become the « Delegation for Regional Planning and Reindustrialization Action », applies to the letter the formula of a French economist who was in vogue in the 2030s, according to whom « local productive systems are now the way to modernize France ».

The « archipelagos » have a squat and stubby social stratification. The wage agreements concluded at the regional level put an end to the stretching of income scales. A rapid movement of desegregation is observed, accelerated by successive laws drastically restricting land and property speculation. At the same time, the urban hierarchy is tightening. The capital city has not widened the gap with its provincial counterparts. Similarly, the latter have participated in the revitalization of medium-sized cities through the public policies mentioned above.

Metropolitan areas are being reorganized by the public authorities in the name of the ecological emergency. Tight controls are applied to the location of households and activities, as well as to mobility. The link between urban planning policies and transport policies is achieved by the assumption of these responsibilities by metropolitan governments and their agencies. Thus, the pattern of dispersed hypermobility has been replaced by a logic of concentrating travel flows around major public transport axes.

To go further

DATAR. 2010. Territories 2040, planning for change

Presentation of the 2040 approach on Futiribles

Access to the journal Territoires 2040

Access to the Laboratory RIVES

Selection of documents from the DATAR