Article Information


Andrey Semenov (E-mail:

Irina Shevtsova

Vsevolod Bederson

Center for Comparative Historical and Political Studies, Perm State University, Perm, Russia

Citation: Semenov A., Shevtsova I., Bederson V. (2018) Gorodskaya mobilizatsiya i gradostroitel'naya politika: strategicheskoye vzaimodeystviye mestnykh zhiteley i zastroyshchikov v situatsii konflikta [Urban mobilization and urban development: strategic interactions between residents and developers in a conflict]. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 21(3): 140–169 (in Russian).

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Abstract. This article discusses the interactions between developers and residents in the situation of urban conflicts. Based on Thomas Schelling's theory, we model urban disputes as strategic bargaining and show that it is characterized by mutually exclusive preferences and, as a consequence, the lack of a mutually beneficial outcome. The sequential game model with full information indicates that for developers concessions (significant changes or cancellation of the construction project) are the least preferred outcome, and the residents who are dissatisfied with the construction, expect no concessions from the developer and prefer either not to get involved in the conflict or use low-cost forms of mobilization. Finally, the model predicts that the significant characteristics of the political context can change the expectations of players, correcting the course of the game.

We check the assumptions and observable implications of the theoretical model through the analysis of seven conflict cases in three cities –– Perm (Russia), Vinnitsa (Ukraine) and Bonn (Germany). Data on conflicts comprise 75 semi-structured interviews with representatives of activists, businesses and public authorities during 2017–2018, through media analysis, and fieldwork. The study shows that real interactions indeed exhibit elements of rational calculation: the parties have rational expectations about each other's behavior, which reflect the preferences and the assessment of the likelihood of that different outcomes. Developers perceive concessions as the "last resort" in connection with the amount of investment spent on the project. Residents, realizing the inequality of resources, mobilize organizational and emotional means that allow reassessing the chances of success in the conflict. The political and institutional context (electoral cycles, the accessibility of influential allies, the level of government accountability) affect the course of the interactions though it fails to change the fundamental preferences of the players. We conclude that the rational model of the behavior of the parties in the urban conflict has its limitations, nevertheless, reflects the significant contradictions in players' rational expectations and strategic choices.

Keywords: game theory, political mobilization, urban development, local politics, civic activism

Acknowledgements: This paper was prepared under the “Shifting paradigms: towards participatory and effective urban planning in Germany, Russia, and Ukraine” project funded by Volkswagen foundation. Irina Shevtsova and Andrey Semenov also are grateful to European University at Saint-Petersburg Department Development Partnership Program.



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