Towards post-growth cities: the cultural politics of mobility transitions in Tower Hamlets, London


  • Imogen Hamilton-Jones LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Political Science




Post-growth planning is an urgent new paradigm seeking to reorient urban development goals away from economic growth and towards ecological and social well-being. There is a need, however, for this emerging field to pay more attention to the fundamental role of cultural politics in enabling such a shift. In response, our research foregrounds 'the cultural’ as a vital site of political struggles over meaning (Korf, 2020) and applies this to the recent backlash against progressive urban mobility initiatives in European cities from Oslo to Berlin to Barcelona. This paper focuses particularly on the recent introduction (and subsequent dismantling) of Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Tower Hamlets, London. Whilst LTNs have not been explicitly framed as post-growth urban planning, they contain latent elements of post-growth that challenge the growth-driven hegemony of contemporary urban mobility – for instance, by evoking values, imaginaries and affective relations of commoning and ''alternative hedonism'' (Soper, 2020). This paper analyses emerging findings from ethnographic fieldwork in Tower Hamlets and introduces key discussion questions arising from them. We consider, especially, how post-growth planning might work in practice to help communities to overcome polarisation and to collectively re-politicise and re-imagine urban mobility transitions at neighbourhood level. Finally, we suggest ways in which the contested cultural politics of urban mobility transitions might illuminate the broader political challenges of transforming existing urban spaces and infrastructures towards post-growth futures.   


Korf, B. (2020) ''Cultural Politics'', in Kobayashi, A (ed.) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Second Edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 111-116

Soper, K. (2020) Post-Growth Living: For an Alternative Hedonism. 1st edition. London: Verso