Socio-economic and political responses to regional polarisation and socio-spatial peripheralisation in Central and Eastern Europe: a research agenda

  • Thilo Lang Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, Leipzig, Germany
Keywords: territorial cohesion, regional policy, spatial disparities, uneven development, peripheralisation, polarisation


In the past years, new patterns of regional disparities between metropolised core regions and the remaining parts of Central and Eastern European countries (CEE) have emerged. Such spatial disparities have lately fuelled concerns about further regional polarisation and the peripheralisation of non-metropolitan regions in particular. This is the case although balancing spatial development has been a major goal of European Regional Policy. The paper argues that there is a clear need to bett er understand the social, economic, discursive and political processes constituting regional polarisation and to conduct further research on approaches to deal with and respond to peripheralisation. The proposed research agenda focuses on a multi-scalar relation between core and peripheral regions and applies a process based dynamic understanding of peripherality and centrality. Following this, peripheralised regions bear agency capacities and cannot be seen as powerless victims of some overarching processes associated with the globalising economy. Applying the notions of polarisation and peripheralisation to guide further research, offers multi-dimensional, multi-scalar and process based conceptualisations of regional development research. With the proposed research agenda, I would like to open up the discussion on new interpretations of the terms peripherality and centrality, rurality and urbanity, border and rural areas, core and peripheral regions, and contribute to the development of new approaches in multi-level governance and ultimately in regional policy.


Aligica, P.D. and Evans, A. 2009. The neoliberal revolution in Eastern Europe. Economic Ideas in the Transition from Communism. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Allmendinger, P., Haughton, G., Knieling, J. and Othengrafen, F. (eds.) 2015. Soft Spaces in Europe. Re-negotiating governance, boundaries and borders. Abingdon, Routledge.

Amin, A., Cameron, A. and Hudson, R. 2002. Placing the Social Economy. London, Routledge.

Artelaris, P., Kallioras, D. and Petrakos, G. 2010. Regional inequalities and convergence clubs in the European Union New Member States. Department of Planning and Regional Development Discussion Paper Series 16. (3): 43-62.

Avdikos, V. and Chardas, A. 2015. European Union Cohesion Policy Post 2014: More (Place-Based and Conditional) Growth - Less Redistribution and Cohesion. Territory, Politics, Governance. [Accessed 9 June 2015].

Bathelt, H. and Glückler, J. 2011. The relational economy. Geographies of knowing and learning. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Beaverstock, J.V., Smith, R.G. and Taylor, P.J. 2000. World-City Network: A New Metageography? Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90. (1): 123-134.

Beetz, S. 2009. Analysen zum Entscheidungsprozess Jugendlicher zwischen "Gehen und Bleiben". Die Relevanz kollektiver Orientierungen bei Migrationsentscheidungen ostdeutscher Jugendlicher. In Regionale Abwanderung Jugendlicher. Theoretische Analysen, empirisiche Befunde, und politische Gegenstrategien. Eds.: Schubarth, W. and Speck, K. Weinheim, Juventa Verlag, 135-151.

Blowers, A. and Leroy, P. 1994. Power, politics and environmental inequality: A theoretical and empirical analysis of the process of 'peripheralisation'. Environmental Politics 3. (2): 197-228.

Bohle, D. 2006. Neoliberal Hegemony, Transnational Capital and the Terms of the EU's Eastward Expansion. Capital & Class 30. 57-86.

Boschma, R. 2005. Proximity and innovation: a critical assessment. Regional Studies 39. (1): 61-74.

Bosworth, G. and Willett, J. 2011. Embeddedness or Escapism? Rural Perceptions and Economic Development in Cornwall and Northumberland. Sociologia Ruralis 51. (2): 195-214.

Brenner, N. 2009. What is critical urban theory? City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 13. (2-3): 198-207.

Bulmer, S. and Padgett, S. 2005. Policy Transfer in the European Union: An Institutionalist Perspective. British Journal of Political Science 35. (1): 103-126.

Chilla, T. and Neufeld, M. 2015. Cohesion as a multi-scalar challenge: The EU-wide perspective. In Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Eds.: Lang, T., Henn, S., Ehrlich, K. and Sgibnev, W. Basingstoke, Palgrave, 199-2016.

Coenen, L., Moodysson, J. and Martin, H. 2015. Path renewal in old industrial regions: possibilities and limitations for regional innovation policy. Regional Studies 49. (5): 850-865.

Csomós, G. and Derudder, B. 2014. European cities as command and control centres, 2006-11. European Urban and Regional Studies 21. (3): 345-352.

Dolowitz, D.P. and Marsh, D. 2002. Learning from Abroad. The role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making. Governance 13. (1): 5-23.

Dubois, A. et al. 2007. Regional Disparities and Cohesion: What Strategies for the Future? Report to the Directorate General Internal Policies of the Union. [Online] Brussels, European Parliament. [Accessed 3 June 2015]

EC 2010. 5th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion. Brussels, European Commission.

Ehrlich, K. and Lang, T. 2012. Soziale Unternehmen und Initiativen in Deutschland - auf dem Weg zu einer neuen sozialen Ökonomie? [Online] Leipzig, Forum IfL. [Accessed 9 June 2015]

Ehrlich, K., Kriszan, A. and Lang, T. 2012. Urban Development in Central and Eastern Europe - Between Peripheralization and Centralization? disP 189. (2): 77-92.

Eriksson, M. 2008. (Re)Producing a 'Peripheral' Region - Northern Sweden in the News. Geografiska Annaler, Series B 90. (4): 369-388.

EU 2011. Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020. Towards an Inclusive, Smart and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions. [Online] Brussels, European Union. [Accessed 9 June 2015]

Filipov, D. and Dorbritz, J. 2003. Demographic consequences of economic transition in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Strasbourg, Council of Europe Publishing.

Finka, M. 2007. Territorial Cohesion - Between Expectations, Disparities and Contradictions. In German Annual of Spatial Research and Policy 2007. Territorial Cohesion. Ed.: Scholich, D. Berlin, Springer Verlag, 23-39.

Finka, M. 2011. Evolving Framework for Regional Development and Spatial Planning in the New Regions of the EU. In Territorial Development, Cohesion and Spatial Planning. Eds.: Adams, N., Cotella, G. and Nunes, R. London, Routledge, 103-122.

Finka, M., Kluvánková-Oravská, T. and Ondrejička, V. 2015. Concept of soft polycentric governance for fuzzy soft spaces as a challenge for Central European peripheral spaces. In Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Eds.: Lang, T., Henn, S., Ehrlich, K. and Sgibnev, W. Basingstoke, Palgrave, 309-322.

Friedmann, J. 1986. The World City Hypothesis. Development and Change 17. (1): 69-83.

Giddens, A. 1993. New Rules of Sociological Method. A positive critique of Interpretative Sociologies. Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Glückler, J. 2013. Knowledge, networks and space: Connectivity and the problem of non-interactive learning. Regional Studies 47. (6): 880-894.

Gorzelak, G. and Goh, C. (eds.) 2010. Financial Crisis in Central and Eastern Europe - from Similarity to Diversity. Warsaw, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar.

Hudson, R. 2004. Conceptualizing economies and their geographies: spaces, flows and circuits. Progress in Human Geography 28. (4): 447-471.

Hudson, R. 2005. Economic Geographies. Circuits, Flows and Spaces. London, SAGE Publications.

Jansson, D. 2003. Internal orientalism in America: W.J. Cash's The Mind of the South and the spatial construction of American national identity. Political Geography 22. (3): 293-316.

Keating, M. 2008. A Quarter of a Century of the Europe of the Regions. Regional and Federal Studies 18. (5): 629-635.

Komlosy, A. 1988. An den Rand gedrängt: Wirtschaft sund Sozialgeschichte des oberen Waldviertels. Wien, Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik.

Komornicki, T. and Czapiewski, K. (eds.) 2006. Europa XXI - 14. Core and peripheral regions in Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Polish Academy of Sciences.

Krätke, S. 2007. Metropolisation of the European Economic Territory as a Consequence of Increasing Specialisation of Urban Agglomerations in the Knowledge Economy. European Planning Studies 15. (1): 1-27.

Laclau, E. and Mouffe, C. 1985. Hegemony and Socialist Theory: Toward a Radical and Plural Democracy. London, Verso.

Lagendijk, A. and Lorentzen, A. 2007. Proximity, Knowledge and Innovation in Peripheral Regions. On the Intersection between Geographical and Organizational Proximity. European Planning Studies 15. (4): 457-466.

Lang, T. 2009. Institutional perspectives of local development in Germany and England: a comparative study about regeneration in old industrial towns experiencing decline. [Online] Potsdam, Universität Potsdam. [Accessed 26 January 2015].

Lang, T. 2011. Regional development issues in Central and Eastern Europe: shifting research agendas from a focus on peripheries to peripheralisation? In Geography in Visegrad and Neighbour Countries. Eds.: Erőss, Á. and Karácsonyi, D. Budapest, Geographical Research Institute HAS, 57-64.

Lang, T. 2012a. Shrinkage, Metropolization and Peripheralization in East Germany. European Planning Studies 20. (10): 1747-1754.

Lang, T. 2012b. Conceptualising urban shrinkage in East Germany: understanding regional peripheralisation in the light of discursive forms of region building. In Peripherization: The Making of Spatial Dependencies and Social Injustice. Eds.: Naumann, M. and Fischer-Tahir, A. Heidelberg, Springer, 224-238.

Lang, T. 2016. Urban decline, resilience and change: Understanding how cities and regions adapt to socio-economic crises. In Cities in Crisis. Socio-Spatial Impacts of the Economic Crisis in Southern European Cities. Eds.: Knieling, J. and Othengrafen, F. London, Routledge. (Forthcoming)

Massey, D. 1993. Power-geometry and a progressive sense of place. In Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change. Eds.: Bird, J., Curtis, B., Putnam, T. and Robertson, G. London, Routledge, 60-70.

Massey, D. 2009. Concepts of space and power in theory and in political practice. Documents d'Analisi Geografica 55. 15-26.

McCann, E.J. 2004. Urban Political Economy Beyond the 'Global City'. Urban Studies 41. (12): 2315-2333.

McCarthy, J. 2005. Rural geography: multifunctional rural geographies - reactionary or radical? Progress in Human Geography 29. (6): 773-782.

Miggelbrink, J. and Meyer, F. 2015. Lost in Complexity? Researching the Role of Socio-Spatial Ascriptions in the Process of Peripheralization. In Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Eds.: Lang, T., Henn, S., Ehrlich, K. and Sgibnev, W. Basingstoke, Palgrave, 62-79.

Monfort, P. 2009. Regional Convergence, Growth and Interpersonal Inequalities across EU. Report Working Paper for Directorate General Regional Policy. [Online] Brussels, European Commission. [Accessed 4 June 2015].

Nagy, E., Timár, J., Nagy, G. and Velkey, G. 2015. The Everyday Practices of the Reproduction of Peripherality and Marginality in Hungary. In Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Eds.: Lang, T., Henn, S., Ehrlich, K. and Sgibnev, W. Basingstoke, Palgrave, 135-155.

North, D.C. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

OECD 2014. How's Life in Your Region? Measuring Regional and Local Well-being for Policy Making. Paris, OECD Publishing. [Accessed 9 June 2015].

OECD 2015. In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. Paris, OECD Publishing.

Openshaw, S. 1984. The Modifiable Areal Unit Problem. Norwich, Geo Books.

Parnreiter, C. 2014. Global Cities and the Production of Uneven Development. In The Companion to Development Studies. 3rd edition. Eds.: Desai, V. and Potter, R. London, Routledge, 291-295.

Perrons, D. 2012. Regional performance and inequality: linking economic and social development through a capabilities approach. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 5. (1): 15-29.

Pierson, P. 2000. Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics. American Political Science Review 94. (2): 251-267.

Pike, A., Rodríguez-Pose, A. and Tomaney, J. 2007. What kind of local and regional development and for whom? Regional Studies 41. (9): 1253-1269.

Piketty, T. 2013. Le Capital au XXIe siècle. Paris, Le Seuil.

PoSCoPP 2015. Understanding New Geographies of Central and Eastern Europe. In Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Eds.: Lang, T., Henn, S., Ehrlich, K. and Sgibnev, W. Basingstoke, Palgrave, 1-21.

Raagmaa, G. 2015. Territorial Governance and Core-Periphery-Relations: The Implications of European Policy Concepts to Central and Eastern Europe. In Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Eds.: Lang, T., Henn, S., Ehrlich, K. and Sgibnev, W. Basingstoke, Palgrave, 287-308.

Reimer, M., Getsimis, P. and Blotevogel, H. 2014. Spatial Planning Systems and Practice in Europe. A comparative perspective. In Spatial Planning Systems and Practices in Europe: A Comparative Perspective on Continuity and Changes. Eds.: Reimer, M., Getsimis, P. and Blotevogel, H. London, Routledge, 1-20.

Sassen, S. 1991. The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Sellers, J.M. 2002a. Governing from below: Urban regions and the global economy. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Sellers, J.M. 2002b. The Nation-State and Urban Governance. Toward Multilevel Analysis. Urban Affairs Review 37. (5): 611-641.

Servillo, L. 2010. Territorial cohesion discourses: Hegemonic strategic concepts in European Spatial Planning. Planning Theory and Practice 11. (3): 397-416.

Shearmur, R. 2012. Are cities the font of innovation? A critical review of the literature on cities and innovation. Cities 29. 9-19.

Smith, A. and Timár, J. 2010. Uneven transformations: Space, economy and society 20 years after the collapse of state socialism. European Urban and Regional Studies 21. (3): 115-125.

Smith, A., Stenning, A., Rochovská, A. and Światek, D. 2008. The emergence of a working poor: Labour markets, neoliberalisation and diverse economies in post-socialist cities. Antipode 40. (2): 283-311.

Sotarauta, M., Horlings, L. and Liddle, J. (eds.) 2012. Leadership and Change in Sustainable Regional Development. London, Routledge.

Steinführer, A. and Haase, A. 2007. Demographic Change as Future Challenge for Cities in East Central Europe. Geografiska Annaler B. 89. (2): 183-195.

Stenning, A., Smith, A., Rochovská, A. and Swiatek, D. 2010. Domesticating Neo-Liberalism: Spaces of Economic Practice and Social Reproduction in Post-Socialist Cities. Malden, Wiley-Blackwell.

Stoker, G. 1998. Governance as theory: five propositions. International Social Science Journal 50. (155): 17-28.

Timár, J., Nagy, E., Nagy, G., Velkey, G., Kugler, J. and Duray, B. 2012. Társadalomtudósok a "periférián" (Social scientists on the "periphery"). Tér és Társadalom 26. (3): 151-163.

Tsenkova, S. 2006. Beyond transitions: Understanding urban change in post-socialist cities. In The urban mosaic of post-socialist Europe. Eds.: Tsenkova, S. and Budic-Nedovic, Z. Heidelberg, Physica-Verlag, 21-50.

Varró, K. and Lagend?k, A. 2013. Conceptualizing the Region - In What Sense Relational? Regional Studies 47. (1): 18-28.

Virkkala, S. 2007. Innovation and Networking in Peripheral Areas - a Case Study of Emergence and Change in Rural Manufacturing. European Planning Studies 15. (4): 511-529.

Waterhout, B., Othengrafen, F. and Sykes, O. 2013. Neo-liberalization Processes and Spatial Planning in France, Germany, and the Netherlands: An Exploration. Planning Practice and Research 28. (1): 141-159.

Willett, J. 2010. Why is Cornwall So Poor? Narrative, Perception and Identity. PhD Thesis. [Online] Exeter, University of Exeter. [Accessed 9 June 2015].

How to Cite
LangT. (2015). Socio-economic and political responses to regional polarisation and socio-spatial peripheralisation in Central and Eastern Europe: a research agenda. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 64(3), 171-185.
Discussing inequalities from the periphery