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Volume 37.4 July 2013 116887 International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Development Regimes, Scales and State

Spatial Restructuring: Change and
Continuity in the Production of
Urban Space in Metropolitan
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Using the experience of metropolitan Rio de Janeiro, this article contributes to the broader
debate on development regimes, rescaling and state spatial restructuring in Brazil, and its
specificities in relation to the international discussion on the transformations in Atlantic
Fordism. I argue that the transition from a (peripheral) development state to a competitive
and rescaled regime has been accompanied by important continuities. Legitimized
through discourses around development poles and trickle-down effects, the national-
developmental regime has systematically promoted some spaces as opposed to others,
without much emphasis on the social and environmental dimensions of spatial policies.
The emerging competitive state spatial regime, whether in its neoliberalized, or its more
recent rolled-out national-developmental version, is merely expected to aggravate the
historical socio-environmental contradictions in the production of space. Moreover, scale
has proven contested and strategic-relational, both molding and being influenced
by actors that seek to use scalar politics to reach their interests. My analysis suggests
that, within this scenario, neither economic growth, nor regulatory and institutional
strengthening, nor financial resources are likely to produce structural transformation in
the inherited spaces of Greater Rio de Janeiro.

While the debate on globalization and city-regions has intensified since the 1990s,
critical social science, so it seems, has also rediscovered the role of development regimes
and scales in the (re)production of space. The emerging discussion seems to have moved
away from static and essentialist interpretations of what constitutes scale, and its
relationship with the socio-spatial dialectic (Soja, 1989). Brown and Purcell (2004:
6079) argue that there is nothing inherent and fixed about scale, considering that it is
socially produced, rather than ontologically given.
This interpretation of scale as dynamic, and politically constructed (Johnson, 2008: 85),
stimulated a debate on the interdependencies between globalization, territorial-productive
restructuring, rescaling and evolving state spatial regimes, particularly after the apparent
transition of welfare towards workfare-oriented regimes (Jessop, 1993; Swyngedouw,

I would like to thank the IJURR reviewers who helped me to improve the quality of this article.

2013 Urban Research Publications Limited. Published by John Wiley & Sons. 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4
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Scalar and spatial restructuring in Rio de Janeiro 1169

Focused on the Western European context, Brenner (2004) analyzed the

transformation of so-called spatial Keynesianism towards rescaled and competitive state
spatial regimes. While spatial Keynesianism was characterized by uniform and centrally
managed policies, aimed at the redistribution of assets, income and employment
opportunities and infrastructure in order to create socially cohesive national space
economies, from the 1980s onwards we witness the proliferation of customized and
downscaled institutional arrangements aimed at the creation of competitive urban
economies. Brenner (2004) argued that this rescaled and competitive state spatial regime
would lead to the proliferation of regulatory deficits and socio-spatial disparities within
the European space economy, inverting what had been one of the cornerstones of spatial
Brenners contributions on the transformation of Atlantic Fordism generated an
intense debate on rescaling and state spatial restructuring. Some authors argued in favor
of more relational and less functionalist approaches, whereby scales would be politically
constructed by actors as particular means to their end (Johnson, 2008). According to that
view, scale represents an arena both resulting from and influencing the interaction
between structure and agency. While analyzing the governance of regional economic
development in the UK, (Pike and Tomaney (2009: 1718), for example, develop a
Gramscian-inspired approach, making use of what they label a geographical political
economy of the qualitative state, according to which the (central and local) state is a site
of hegemonic conflict and compromise through which competing social actors seek to
assert their interests.
With a few exceptions, not much of this discussion has actually spread out from its
rather Eurocentric context.1 There is not much geo-historic analysis of experiences
outside the specific context of Atlantic Fordism. This is remarkable, considering the
potential of an international research agenda that would both cross-fertilize the ongoing
theoretical work and deepen our understanding of the specificities of regime shifts,
rescaling and the production of space in the South (Brenner, 2009: 1326).
The Brazilian scenario provides an illustration. Being a continental country with
historically vast socio-spatial disparities, the evolution of its developmental regime and
the politics of scale (and scalar politics) have performed a key role in the elaboration of
spatial discourses and state spatial practices. Nevertheless, and with a few exceptions
(Vainer and Arajo, 1992; Vainer, 1995), much of the Brazilian literature has assumed a
remarkably static and dichotomy-based view of the relations between development
trajectories, scalar restructuring and state spaces. A particularly influential strand of
thinking claimed that, from the mid-1980s onwards, a national-developmental regime,
aimed at building a more cohesive and integrated national space economy, orchestrated
at the national scale, has been replaced by neo-localist development patterns and state
spatial interventions, aimed at creating internationally competitive urban and regional
systems and thereby generating a more fragmented national space economy (Brando,
2003; Fernandes, 2001). Much of this literature incorporated a certain distrust of
neo-localism, opposing the local-regional to the national scale, and arguing in favor
of a more proactive redistributive policy stance organized around a national
project, which would be able to deal with the socio-spatial disparity of Brazilian
society (Costa, 2007). In that respect, the successive federal administrations under
president Lula (200310) have also been characterized by a laudable move toward a
renewed national developmental state, with redistributive spatial interventions and
institutional arrangements aimed at building a more cohesive national space economy
(Oliva, 2010).
In this article I will develop a somewhat more complex hypothesis on the
developmental trajectory and the production of space in Brazil. Its purpose is to enrich
the debate on developmental regimes, rescaling and state spatial restructuring in

1 For examples of international work on state spatial rescaling see Brenner (2009: 130).

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Brazil, as well as to highlight its specificities in relation to the international discussions

on the state spatial dimensions of a restructuring Atlantic Fordism. I will argue that,
under the national-developmental regime whether in its initial populist stage, or in
the authoritarian version that prevailed under the military regime from 1964 onward
state spatial practices have always put priority on some regions and metropolitan areas
as opposed to others, have been legitimized by discourses centered on growth poles,
trickle-down effects and import substitution, but have effectively subordinated
environmental and social considerations to the creation of a selective national space
economy. In that sense, the emerging post-1980s competitive and neoliberalized
regime represents important continuities, and tends to exacerbate the geo-historical
production of socially and environmentally unsustainable spaces. Moreover, I claim
that scale has proven a contested arena. After the destabilizing laissez-faire and
neoliberalization of state spaces of the 1990s, Brazil, as a continental and semi-
peripheral space economy, has witnessed contradictory and crisis-driven processes of
up-, down- and re-scaling, but with a continued prominent role for large oligopolistic
companies and national scalar politics in an animating and mediating process
(Brenner, 2000: 321) that shapes competitive metropolitan spaces not as selective
building blocks of a more integrated national space, but to connect the Brazilian
economy to worldwide markets. The more recent developmental rolling out of largely
unaccountable state institutions at variable scales, through compensating and
redistributive interventions, regulatory reform and institutional strengthening, has also
not been able to avoid the social and environmental contradictions associated with this
emerging neoliberalizing and competitive state spatial regime (Brenner and Theodore,
I will explore this argument on the basis of the experience of Greater Rio de Janeiro,
which is exemplary both in terms of its role as a projected space (Lipietz, 1994), driving
Brazils international competitiveness in resource and energy intensive sectors, and also
on account of its increasing crisis tendencies, regulatory deficits and socio-spatial/
environmental contradictions that are likely to mold the production of its urban space in
the context of a competitive state spatial regime.
After this introduction, I develop the analysis in four sections. The first presents some
facts about the trajectory of the Brazilian developmental regime, its state spatial
restructuring and the production of space since the 1950s. The second discusses the
contemporary developmental momentum and the projected state space in Greater Rio,
particularly in terms of the narrative of a competitive metropolitan economy, which
drives part of the successful Brazilian export performance in resource- and
energy-intensive sectors, as well as the countrys newly gained attractiveness in hosting
mega-events. The third argues that the neoliberalized and competitive state spatial
regime is likely to increase the contradictions, crisis-driven tendencies and regulatory
deficits that have been built up as inherited state spaces in Greater Rio along Brazils
historical development trajectory. In the final section, I will provide some preliminary
conclusions on the Brazilian case and draw implications for the broader comparative
research agenda on developmental regimes, state spatial restructuring and the production
of space in the urban South.

Regimes, state spatial restructuring and the production

of space. Some facts about the Brazilian scenario
In this section I provide an outline of the Brazilian developmental regime, its state spatial
restructuring and the production of urban and regional spaces since the 1950s. My
objective is not to generate new evidence from the abundant literature on the
geo-historical evolution of the Brazilian economy (Cano, 1998; Araujo, 2000; Moreira,
2004), but to establish its relevance to the purpose of my discussion.

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The (semi)-peripheral national developmental state: development

poles without irradiation and environmental sacrice, 195685
During the national-developmental regime, the national government had a leading role
in a strategy aimed at industrialization and the creation of a national space economy
(Furtado, 1959).2
The organization of the state apparatus was characterized by a high degree of
centralization, often through technocratic agencies and institutions directly linked to the
presidency (Brasil, 2006: 25). Centralization was based on the notions of nation building
and modernization, and the civilization and occupation of spaces that had not been
developed yet. On this basis, and with the explicit mission of both fixing uneven
development and inserting lagging regions (Amazon, Northeast, Central-West) into the
national space economy, several regional superintendencies were created, largely
functioning on the basis of earmarked constitutional tax resources and fiscal incentives
(Carvalho, 2006). The spatial strategies emphasized centrally coordinated regional
development plans, such as the Plano de Metas (195661), the national integration plan
(1970) and the first (197274) and second (197579) national plan for regional
development, which were combined with specific plans for regions such as the Amazon
and the Northeast. While the initial populist phase of national-developmentalism was
characterized by a sector emphasis on (durable) consumer goods, under the military
regime priority was put on intermediate and capital goods, with a strategic role for the
peripheral regions as specialized suppliers of resource- and energy-intensive goods to the
national and international economy (Moreira, 2004). Several large state investments and
supporting infrastructure in the petrochemical sector, extractive and mining industries
and steel metallurgy were undertaken in the Amazon and the Northeastern states. The
investments of the second regional development plan, which was launched after
the collapse of the deficit-financed growth miracle of 196773, contributed to the
construction of competitiveness in resource- and energy-intensive sectors (Pacheco,
For the purposes of this discussion, several observations are appropriate. First, the
national developmental regime was marked by an intense involvement of the federal
government in lagging regions and peripheral cities in metropolitan areas, aimed at
consolidating a nationally integrated space economy. This came about not only by
building almost from scratch a programmed patch of highways, cities, energy and
telecommunication networks (Becker, 1990), but also by creating competitive
advantages in sectors such as agro-business, the petrochemical industry, mining and steel
metallurgy through fiscal incentives, public investments and an enabling business
environment (Monteiro, 2005).
Second, a national space economy was created through complementary and selective
growth poles, but without giving effective priority to the social and environmental
dimensions of urban and regional policies. For instance, energy- and resource-intensive
segments such as steel metallurgy received cost-reducing support through state
investments in hydro-electricity, and through a permissive regulatory framework that
allowed the use of cheap inputs such as coal, but had devastative effects through
deforestation, changes to water courses, irreversible environmental degradation and the
deterioration of local livelihoods (ibid.: 191; Brasil, 2006: 32). Much of the impressive
economic growth preceded the emergence of an environmental regulatory framework in
the 1980s. Likewise, and although federal policy discourse was based on the concepts of
growth poles, import substitution and export base models and related narratives (Simes
and Da Lima, 2009), according to which spatially concentrated investments would
trigger a virtuous cycle in the surrounding areas, with irradiation, and trickle-down
would actually occur. The military regime (196485) played this card of large investment

2 In other words, by replacing a system of regional economies that was located in the national
economy with a national system that located the regional economies (Oliveira, 1984).

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projects in the peripheral regions as a deliberate strategy toward the combined objectives
of national security, an integrated national space economy and the alleviation of
socio-political tensions (Beckler and Egler, 1993: 101). Nevertheless, while competitive
archipelagos were created, much of the potential benefit leaked out of the regions to
national and international centers of command and control, leaving an urban and regional
space characterized by intense socio-spatial disparities, the proliferation of slums and
unemployment (particularly at the end of the large development projects) and
environmental devastation (Monteiro, 2005; Carvalho, 2006). F. de Oliveiras study
(2003) of the reproduction of urban space under the military regime shows how
low-wage urbanization and industrialization and the massive growth of slums and
self-help housing on the outskirts of the Brazilian cities occurring in the middle of the
growth miracle (196973) became its hallmarks.
Third, despite the discourse of technical decision-making and Weberian bureaucracies
isolated from political bargaining, under the developmental regime the national scale was
transformed into a privileged arena that both molded and was influenced by actors with
a direct stake in the production of urban and regional space (Vainer, 1995: 4549). For
instance, with the consolidation of national import substitution and industrialization, the
regional elites associated with the agro-export-oriented development regime had lost
their privileged position. Nevertheless, centralization provided them with an arena for the
negotiation of the geopolitical and financial conditions of their insertion into the national
space economy. This would become better known as the old Brazilian regionalism,
particularly associated with the Northeast, under which regional elites were keen to
articulate the national scale in order to defend and bargain for their particular interests in
the name of the region (Araujo, 2000). At the same time, new forms of national scalar
politics were created, organized around large resource-intensive development projects in
peripheral regions, such as the exploration of minerals in the Projeto Grande Carajs in
the Northern state of Par. Consequently, sector-based bipartite arenas emerged that
involved the high-level federal bureaucracy and national/international productive capital
in the design and operation of large investments, triggering a state spatial regime that
would prove to be instrumental in bypassing established party and regional interests in
the production of a national space economy (Diniz, 1994).

Competitive downscaling and the incipient

neoliberalization of state spaces, 19852002
From the mid-1980s onward, the authoritarian national developmental regime was
increasingly challenged by democratization and by a financial-productive restructuring
toward a more flexible and information-intensive international economy (Becker and
Egler, 1996). Its internal contradictions and peripheral-dependent insertion into the
international economy had generated a scenario of hyperinflation, economic stagnation
and a moratorium on international debt, which set the stage for gradual transformations
in the developmental regime.
The process of democratization and decentralization institutionalized by the 1988
constitution consolidated the emergence of new actors such as elected mayors and
social movements, the latter being strategic in putting the urban and environmental theme
on the agenda (Brasil, 2006: 41). At the same time, however, national productive
restructuring and neoliberalization led to a gradual emergence of downscaled
competitive state spaces. This was reflected in the proliferation of tax wars and
regulatory downgrading among states and local governments aimed at the attraction of
new businesses, amongst other things (Fiori, 1995; Pacheco, 1998). The extinction of the
national housing bank in 1985 was followed by a strategy of decentralization by absence
and several stopgo initiatives at the federal level, which ultimately consolidated an
autonomization of housing and urban development policies at the local level (Arretche,
1995: 114).

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The success of the 1994 macroeconomic stabilization plan (Plano Real) in providing
a stable inflation and business climate, and the relatively high interest rates it offered,
prepared the arena for the renewed entrance of international financial and productive
capital. But the scenario also required a more active national policy stance that could
alleviate some of the contradictions generated by the previous round of liberalization,
such as increased interregional disparities and the downsizing of industrial areas that
had been built up in metropolitan regions under the developmental regime (Fernandes,
2001). In that respect, the so-called National Axes for Integration and Development,
which guided the successive national spatial development and long-term annual
investment plans called Brazil in Action (19969) and Advance Brazil (200003),
launched a renewed discourse around spatial planning coordinated at national level
(Nasser, 2000; Villarim de Siqueira and Siffert Filho, 2001). The driver behind these
plans was not the growth poles concept that had prevailed in previous stages, but the
logistical and informational corridors that would connect competitive regional systems
with the main centers of command in and outside the country. These corridors were
considered anchors in a strategy that was aimed at reducing the so-called Brazil cost,
and generating consistent balance of payment surpluses (Brasil, 2006: 55).3 Unlike
under the national developmental regime, the state would withdraw from the direct
financing of investments and invite the international and national private players to take
up their part.
While the National Axes for Integration and Development program presented a
narrative based on national spatial planning that was particularly welcome after a round
of destabilizing macroeconomic restructuring, national scalar politics had also become
much more complex (Becker, 1997), influencing and being molded by new national and
international private players who had emerged after privatization and deregulation in
sectors such as mining, steel metallurgy, telecommunications and energy, and by
boosterist mayors and proactive environmental and social movements (Vainer, 1995).
Perhaps also as a result of the lack of significant direct state participation, the effective
implementation of the program was disappointing, and remained at the level of

Up-, down- and re-scaled competitive state spaces in

a rolled-out national developmental regime (2003)
During the initial years of president Lulas administration a discourse was created around
the idea of a renewed national developmental regime, aimed at a more cohesive Brazilian
space economy after the destructive neoliberalization of the 1990s. An ambitious
diagnosis with recommendations was elaborated in 2003, and set the basis for the
National Plan on regional Development that became law in 2007. Both the diagnosis and
the plan called for specific programs targeted at low- and medium-income regions that
would reduce historic nationwide social-spatial disparities (Arajo and Galvo, 2004:
44). A proposal for a constitutional regional fund linked to the regional development
policy was barred because of opposition from the states, which preferred direct transfers.
National scalar politics was supposed to evolve into a privileged arena for
multi-stakeholder negotiation and the creation of strengthened institutions and legal
frameworks that could guide the production of more sustainable urban, metropolitan and
regional spaces.
In regard to urban space, the long-awaited approval of the federal Statute of the City
in 2001 allowed for participatory local master plans that provided local governments
with more leverage over speculative real estate markets, particularly through such
instruments as inclusionary zoning, compulsory utilization, progressive taxing of vacant

3 Balance of payments surpluses were crucial in order to service the external debt obligations
accumulated during the national developmental growth miracle.

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land and development exactions, among other things (Maricato, 2010). The Ministry for
Cities, whose creation in 2003 represented a recognition of the strategic role of the
national scale in shaping the social function of cities, set up tripartite participatory
councils at the municipal, state and federal level in order to influence the elaboration of
more inclusive housing and urban development strategies.
As far as metropolitan regions were concerned, a 2005 federal framework law
allowed for voluntary public (inter-federative) consortia in order to strengthen the
planning and management of these areas, providing a legal basis for voluntary
collaboration among local, state and federal authorities. Its purpose was to improve
on a longstanding institutional vacuum in the federal system: under the national
developmental regime, metropolitan institutional arrangements had been ineffective,
technocratic and largely sector-driven, and the demise of the regime had left
metropolitan dynamics at the mercy of neo-localist mayors, marginalized state planning
agencies that were muddling through, and a few ad-hoc sector-based collaborations and
innovations (Souza, 2003).
Finally, regional planning increasingly recognized the role of local governments, civil
society organizations, the academy and enterprises in the elaboration of cluster initiatives
aimed at building high road regional collective learning and innovation economies
(Costa, 2007). Moreover, the compromise of the Lula administration with redistributive
national planning for regional development led to the reestablishment of the
superintendencies for the North, Northeast and Central West that had been abolished in
2001, albeit with the same limited financial resource base as the regional development
agencies they replaced (Brasil, 2010).
The national scale also received additional developmental impetus from the
gradually improving growth performance of the economy, which increased the
investment capacity of the federal government. Between 1999 and 2009, Brazilian GDP
grew by 3.27% annually, creating, especially in presidents Lula second administration,
a sound basis for national investment planning in urban areas and regions (SantAnna
et al., 2009; Villarim de Siqueira, 2009). The National Growth Acceleration Plan (PAC)
and housing and urban development programs such as Minha Casa Minha Vida
(MCMV My House My life) provided a strategic arena for national scalar politics,
particularly when compared with the enabling planning discourse that had prevailed
during the 1990s.
Nevertheless, there are several reasons to believe that this multi-scalar rolling out of
state institutions through re-regulation, institutional strengthening and federal resources
for urban-regional programs represented contradictory and crisis-driven state responses,
embedded within the broader competitive state spatial regime that has emerged since the
First, Brazilian cities have faced challenges in actually implementing the statute of the
city, particularly because of the historical conflicts regarding the built environment
(Santos and Montandon, 2011). Furthermore, while the city statute does not incorporate
a mechanism to coordinate municipal master plans among growth-oriented mayors, the
historical absence of consolidated and comprehensive structures for metropolitan
governance has aggravated a situation of unstable and insufficient leverage over
speculative city-regional land markets (Klink and Denaldi, 2012). As mentioned above,
many of the technocratic metropolitan state planning institutions of the military regime,
which had allocated financial resources for housing and urban development on a sector
basis but been ineffective in producing sustainable spaces, were either abolished or lost
prestige, while alternative arrangements were not put in place. In practice, therefore,
while the metropolitan scale developed into a key arena for state spatial and productive
restructuring, the institutional landscape of Brazilian metropolitan governance evolved
into a patchwork of arrangements that was as ineffective as the institutions they were
meant to replace (Souza, 2003). Moreover, the high level of intra-metropolitan disparities
and the large number of cities created a classic deadlock situation that challenged
the horizontal voluntary negotiation of public goods in metropolitan regions; without

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federally articulated financial equalization schemes and national programs, the new law
on public consortia, mentioned earlier, has proven something of a lame duck (Machado,
Second, although theoretically there would be a direct link between long-term annual
planning (200306), the yearly budget and the redistributive National Plan for Regional
Development, the first planning exercise came as a somewhat negative surprise, in that it
retained most of the large-scale development project of the previous administrations and
bypassed the redistributive directives of the Regional Development policy (Thry, 2005).
The conceptual anchor for the long-term annual planning and budgeting cycle continued
to be the competitive insertion into the international economy of resource- and
energy-intensive regions specializing in sectors such as agro-business (particularly soya),
mining and metallurgy, oil, petrol and gas.
Third, the substantial federal allocation of financial resources through PAC and
MCMV proved something of a mixed blessing. It consolidated a diffused national
politics of scale, whereby projects were not embedded within broader plans or
plan-making processes, while plans remained empty, disconnected from the effective
implementation of projects on the ground. The PAC program was emblematic (Leito,
2009). Initially estimated to amount to US $300 billion (of which around two thirds was
allocated in logistics and energy, and one third in social and urban investments), it
consolidated a project-oriented approach not unknown from the national developmental
regime. It not only bypassed the institutionalized National Regional Development Plan,
but also neglected a series of in-house studies on the role of multi-scalar and stakeholder
planning in the construction of regional learning and innovation economies (Brasil,
2008). In practice, PAC re-enforced a long tradition of bipartite and non-transparent
negotiations between federal bureaucracies and oligopolistic companies on the format of
large investments that shape regional space. Likewise, although the social and urban
investments of PAC, combined with the 2008 launch of the housing program MCMV,
would particularly benefit families earning between 5 and 10 times the minimum salary,4
and represented a timely anti-cyclical Keynesian injection for the building and
construction industry in the midst of the international subprime crisis (SantAnna et al.,
2009), its fast-track project-oriented approach didnt build upon, and in practice
sidetracked, the national plan for social housing. The latter had aimed to strengthen and
upscale participatory local master planning on the basis of the instruments of the statute
of the city, triggering gradual but potentially more structural transformation in the
production of urban and metropolitan space (Arantes and Fix, 2009; Maricato, 2010;
Rolnik and Nakano, 2011).
Finally, recent analysis undertaken in the context of the Brazilian state of the cities
report covering the period 19902008 has indicated that both interregional disparities
and socio-spatial inequality within cities have remained remarkably persistent (Rolnik
and Klink, 2011). The relatively dynamic and polarizing regions remain concentrated in
the southeastern and southern states, and in specific agro-business platforms in the
central-western states. In addition, even the economically speaking dynamic cities in the
southeastern and southern states have a significant proportion of families living in
precarious housing conditions,5 and with the growth of their average wages lagging
behind the increase of urban GDP per capita.
In what follows, I will explore, on the basis of the experience of Greater Rio
de Janeiro, the imbricate relations between developmental regimes, state spatial
restructuring and the proliferation of socio-spatial and environmental contradictions in
the reproduction of space.

4 On 31 January 2012 a minimum salary was R $622 per month (US $1 = R $1.75 according to the
Central Bank Rate).
5 See note 10 for a description of infrastructure adequacy.

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Projected state spaces in Greater Rio6

From 2007 onward, a consensus has emerged among the press, local, state and
federal government and local growth machines (Logon and Molotch, 1987) that the
metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro has been slowly recovering from its cycle of relative
decadence. Part of its previous problematic development trajectory has traditionally been
associated with the citys loss of national capital status in 1960 (with Brasilia assuming
this role), the 1975 fusion between the states of Guanabara and Rio de Janeiro, the
broader process of economic restructuring and the increasing industrial dynamism of
other regions in and outside the state of Rio (F.J.G. de Oliveira, 2003). Between 1970 and
2007, the states participation in national GDP at factor cost decreased from 16.7% to
11% (Governo do Rio de Janeiro, 2011).
As part of this renewed optimism, Greater Rio has been projected as a more
polycentric, cohesive and collaborative city region that is simultaneously emerging as an
internationally competitive and attractive metropolitan economy, and as an important
driver behind the positive growth performance of the Brazilian economy. But what has
been the justification for this renewed representation of metropolitan space in Rio?7
First, productive restructuring and national scalar politics have enabled Greater Rio to
attract a series of investments in the resource- and energy-intensive segments that
underpin Brazils competitiveness, and which are believed to spread throughout what
historically has been considered a mono-centric metropolitan area (Oliveira, 2011). State
oil company PETROBRAS, which has recently received additional impetus in light of
the discovery and potential exploration of new deep sea reservoirs of oil and gas (the
so-called pre-sal fields), has announced investments of R $17 billion in a new
petrochemical complex (called COMPERJ) in the city of Itabora, located in the eastern
zone of the metropolitan area.8 Together with the expansion of an existing oil and gas
cluster, located since the 1960s in the city of Duque de Caxas, these investments are
expected to raise Rio de Janeiros share of national petrochemical production to almost
38% (Oliveira and Rodrigues, 2009: 138). The renewed dynamics of the Rio oil and gas
cluster have also triggered investments in the shipbuilding industry, which had gone
through hard times since the 1980s. Recent estimates indicate that both the city of Rio
and Niteroi (located in the Baixada Fluminense in the northern part of the metropolitan
area) are expected to receive R $5.2 billion in investments. In addition, large oligopolistic
national and multinational mining and steel metallurgy companies, which have
traditionally been operating in the western part of the metropolitan area, are
implementing investments of around R $21 billion in plant expansion and logistical
modernization.9 Finally, the so-called Itagua port (located near Sepetiba Bay in the
extreme western part of the metropolitan area), inaugurated in 1982 as part of the Second
National Development Plan, is finally living up to its projected status as a continental hub
port (Cocco, 2001), as reflected by the proliferation of public and private investments in
logistical platforms (by metallurgy company CSN), retro-ports and complementary
infrastructure (by PETROBRAS, the state port company of Rio and several metallurgy
companies). Although the 2008 macroeconomic crisis may have somewhat dampened
the spirits of these large investors, it is nevertheless expected that the port will receive
around R $12.5 billion in investments in order to take up the global competition for
intercontinental carriers (ibid.).

6 The following sections are based on interviews with state ofcials and academics, eld visits and a
review of the literature undertaken by the author in the period FebruaryAugust 2011.
7 For more details see Governo do Rio de Janeiro, (2011).
8 This location was inuenced by party politics (Torres and Giffoni, 2011: 8). While more obvious
locations were available, particularly near the city of Maca, an already existing oil and gas cluster
outside the metropolitan area, the latter constituted the electoral base of a governor opposed to the
federal administration.
9 More particularly, CSN, a privatized national steel conglomerate, and CSA, a joint venture between
national champion Vale de Rio Doce, privatized in the 1990s, and the German rm ThyssenKrupp.

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Figure 1 Location of (planned) investments in the Metropolitan Region of Rio de Janeiro,

2011 (source: authors elaboration based on Governo do Rio de Janeiro, 2011)

Second, state spatial policies at all scales, but particularly driven by the good political
relationship between the federal and state government since 2007, have actively
supported the clustering of oligopolistic national and multinational players through
subsidized credits, public investments in logistics and infrastructure and managerial
efficiency in licensing and regulatory approvals. The so-called Arco Metropolitano, the
metropolitan ring-road that will take heavy freight traffic out of central Rio, and directly
connect the eastern petrochemical zone to the steel metallurgy cluster and the Itagua
port complex in the western region, is a good example. Originally planned in the 1970s
as state highway RJ-109, the project gained new life in 2007, and received a federal grant
of R $1.2 billion in the context of the PAC program. The Arco, which will be completed
in 2012, is believed to open up new development frontiers and to have the potential to
block irregular occupation in the direction of environmental risk areas (Governo do Rio
de Janeiro, 2011: 28). Moreover, multiple state scales were mobilized to provide direct
financial and in-kind support in order to reduce entrepreneurial risks and guarantee
private investments. To illustrate, the investments by CSA/ThyssenKrupp were backed
up by state fiscal incentives of US $200 million and land grants, while the national
development Bank BNDES contributed with subsidized credit of around R$1.5 billion
(Zborowski, 2008: 170). Likewise, in 2007, the newly appointed state secretary for
the environment was widely praised by the local press for his ability to speed up
environmental licensing procedures in general, and investments financed by PAC in
particular (ibid.: 116). Frequently, the environmental assessments of complex and
multi-dimensional investments were divided in separate packages (Torres and Giffoni,
Figure 1 provides a summary of the investments that are being planned and
implemented in Greater Rio de Janeiro.
Governor Cabral, re-elected in 2010 for a second term, summarized his view on the
projected metropolitan space in the following terms:
Rio is actually going through an extraordinary moment with the arrival of new firms and the
expansion of existing ones. The implementation of the petrochemical complex of COMPERJ
and the expansion of the Itagua port are examples of projects that will generate thousands of
jobs and additional wealth in our state. This region will concentrate the largest investments of
the country. I flew over the area where the CSA plant will be located; I was positively shocked
by the sheer scale of the project. At this moment, 4,000 jobs are being generated, but in the final

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1178 Jeroen Klink

stage this number will increase to 18,000. Additional jobs will be created because of the new
firms that will arrive with the Arco Metropolitano, which will change the socioeconomic
perspective of this region. (Cabral quoted in Zborowski, 2008: 115; authors translation)

Third, from all levels of government, Rio has received significant financial and
political support that has enabled its transformation into a city with one of the worlds
densest agendas in terms of mega-events and international conferences, the most
important ones being the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. In line with the
international standards and agendas for these events, this has implied massive investment
in urban infrastructure. After winning the bid for the Pan American Games in 2002, for
example, local, state and federal government spent more than US $5 billion in stadium
construction and complementary infrastructure (Gaffney, 2010: 17). The Olympic
Authority, a newly created multi-scalar special purpose body composed of all levels of
government, has an investment budget of US $30 billion (ibid.: 25).
Finally, and also triggered by the marketing that accompanies these mega-events, the
developmental momentum in Greater Rio has not remained unnoticed by international
observers. The so-called Global Metro Monitor, a periodic study of the socioeconomic
dynamics of 150 metropolitan areas in the world (based on variables such as gross value
added, employment and population), indicated that, in the aftermath of the 2008 global
crisis, Rio was grouped among the worlds 10 most dynamic metropolitan areas
(Brookings Institute and LSE, 2010).
This projected metropolitan state space, as both a hegemonic representation of urban
space and an effective arena for the articulation of a political strategy for Greater Rio as
a competitive international platform (Brenner, 2000: 329), has deepened the
contradictions within the city-regions inherited space (Soja, 1989: 108). In what
follows, we will explore some of these crises tendencies in metropolitan Rio.

Inherited state spaces and crises tendencies in Greater Rio

Geo-historical specicities of Rios hinterland
Since its early stages, the (semi-peripheral) national developmental regime has molded
an already highly disparate geo-historical landscape of Rio de Janeiros outskirts,
sometimes labeled as the Fluminense Manchester. The abundance of relatively cheap,
unskilled and un-mobilized immigrant labor and land transformed it into a privileged
space for larger development projects (Cocco, 2001: 126; Oliveira and Rodrigues, 2009).
Thus, the Regional Plans of the 1970s opened up new development frontiers in Greater
Rios hinterland (Cocco, 2001: 125). The western zone illustrated the approach. The
national government created several large-scale industrial districts in steel metallurgy
and related sectors that were initially concentrated in the city, but subsequently spread
out to the western part of the metropolitan area, accompanying the implementation of
federal trunk rail and road infrastructure and the port of Sepetiba/Itagua in 1982.
The regional socio-spatial tissue that developed consisted of relatively isolated growth
poles, anchored around large national and multinational firms (Michelin, Ing, Brahma,
etc.), but with little trickle-down to city economies (Cocco, 2001: 128) and generating
substantial socio-environmental sacrifices in the production and reproduction of urban
space (Menezes, 2009: 29). For example, in 2007 average salaries in the private sector in
the periphery of Rio (R $977) were still well below those in the outskirts of Greater So
Paulo (R $1,478). The same was true for the educational base of the workforce in Rios
periphery, reinforcing its relatively lower endogenous capacity to generate value added
(Governo do Rio de Janeiro, 2011: 62). While the value added tax per capita in the cities
of the outskirts in Rio was R $195 in 2007, this figure was R $441 in the peripheral cities
of Greater So Paulo (ibid.: 89). As in other Brazilian metropolitan regions (Oliveira and
Rodrigues, 2009: 140), Rios development trajectory has followed a sprawling pattern,

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Scalar and spatial restructuring in Rio de Janeiro 1179

Figure 2 Percentage of perfectly adequate housing units in Greater Rio 2000 (sources:
IBGE, 1970 ff census data; Rolnik and Klink, 2010)

initially through (irregular) subdivisions, and later on by the formation of slums, usually
in environmental risk areas (Carneiro, 2008; Maricato, 2010). In Figure 2, using a
concept of housing adequacy based on the availability of infrastructure, lack of
overcrowding and the regularization of land tenure, it can be seen that Rios outskirts in
2000 concentrated substantial socio-spatial and environmental vulnerability.10 Recent
demographic trends detected by the national statistical agency IBGE confirm that the
socioeconomic profile of peripheral Rio has not changed much: while the participation
of families earning up to twice the minimum salary has increased from 23.2% in 2001 to
27.9% in 2009, the contribution of those earning up to five times the minimum salary
went up from 56.6% to 65.2% in the same period. At the same time, the contribution of
families in the outskirts who earn more than 20 times the minimum salary contracted
from 6.4% to 3.9% (Governo do Estado do Rio, 2011a: 29).
Likewise, permissive industrial zoning and the disregard of environmental impacts
that prevailed during the peripheral national developmental regime generated a negative
environmental legacy. The Ing case, a metallurgy firm that went bankrupt in 1998, is a
notorious example. Despite community protests, it had been polluting western Sepetiba
Bay with heavy metals for decades, generating an urgent need for investment in clean-up
measures, and exposing the socio-environmental contradictions of the prevailing
development model. Recent CSAThyssenKrupp investment in the modernization and
dredging of the port of Itagua have literally brought to the surface Ings pollution

10 In urban areas, a dwelling unit is considered adequate if the following are available: (1) connection to
the water main in at least one room; (2) electricity; (3) connection to the sewage system; (4) waste
collection systems; (5) a bathroom. It must also be located outside subnormal/precarious (or
illegal) settlements, and have a maximum of two residents per room. For a more detailed
methodological discussion see Rolnik and Klink (2011).

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1180 Jeroen Klink

legacy in the form of an enormous amount of heavy metals deposited in Sepetiba Bay,
generating a series of conflicts on how to deal with the technical and financial dimensions
of their disposal (Cocco, 2001: 134; Zborowski, 2008).

Competitive metropolitan state spaces and enabling land use planning

The institutional arrangements for the planning of Greater Rio followed a pattern not
unlike the demise and ad-hoc restructuring of Brazilian metropolitan governance since
the 1980s referred to earlier. FUNDREM, the Foundation for the Development of
Metropolitan Rio, was created in 1975 as a think tank to support the state governments
secretary for metropolitan planning. Its main role was to support and coordinate cities in
the elaboration of their master plans, which were facilitated by the available federal
subsidies. The financial crisis, democratization and the increasing conflicts between
FUNDREM and the emerging local stakeholders undermined the legitimacy of the
institution, which was ultimately abolished in 1990. Despite ad-hoc collaborative
initiatives among mayors, such as the one in the eastern zone aimed at maximizing
oil royalties (Oliveira, 2011), and incremental sector-driven advances in areas such
as watershed planning and management (see next section), Rio does not have a
metropolitan planning institution.
It is, therefore, no surprise that the region not only lacks a metropolitan master plan,
but has also been unable to prevent the proliferation of disconnected and frequently
inconsistent local plans (Carneiro, 2008). Although most cities incorporated, at least at
the level of discourse, the principles of the statute of the city, different zoning
methodologies, indices and classifications have effectively created a kaleidoscope of
master plans without the capacity to guide metropolitan development. Moreover and
particularly problematically in a context of rapid socio-spatial transformations (see
Table 1 for the demographic trend in the cities crossed or affected by the Arco
Metropolitano) most cities have postponed more detailed definitions of zoning, land
uses and urban instruments. In line with a long tradition in Brazilian urban planning
(Villaa, 1999), most of the local master plans therefore represent generic declarations of
intention, and end up providing an enabling framework for economic development in a
territory with a substantial presence of environmentally protected areas and watersheds
(Carneiro, 2008).
Itagua, for example, while facing severe real estate pressures associated with
the expansion of its port, has rezoned districts that were originally designated as
environmental protection zones in order to facilitate the attraction of local economic
development. Duque de Caixas and Nova Iguau, while being directly crossed by the
Arco Metropolitano, have no updated master plans that enable value capture from
the upcoming investments. Mag, with approximately 60% of its surface covered
by forests, and likely to be affected by the investments undertaken by PETROBRAS
and the neighboring oil and gas cluster in Itabora, has delegated the definition of
land uses to more specific by-laws. The city of Itabora itself, containing several
important conservation and preservation zones, has established a generic macro-zoning
system, without defining demarcations and more detailed parameters for land use.
Similarly, Guapimirim, with almost 70% of its area located in legally established
conservation units and environmentally protected areas, and being polarized by the oil
and gas cluster in Itabora, has only generically defined land use and zoning
Finally, and not unlike the available evidence on the impact of mega-events on
the neoliberalization of urban space, the upcoming World Cup and Olympics in
Rio are likely to exacerbate the historical tendency to the market-driven, as well
as state-mediated and subsidized, socio-spatial exclusion and relocation of low-
income households to the worst outskirts of the metropolis (Gaffney, 2010:

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Scalar and spatial restructuring in Rio de Janeiro 1181

Table 1 Annual geometrical growth rate in the cities affected by the Arco Metropolitano/
Metropolitan Ringroad

197080 198091 19912000 200010

% % % %
Zone 1 (West)
Itagua 5.40 7.90 -3.50 2.90
Seropdica 4.40 2.30 2.50 1.80
Mangaratiba 1.20 2.40 3.70 3.80
RJ PA 5 7.70 4.30 2.00 1.30
Zone 2 (Baixada Fluminense/North)
Japeri 4.50 1.40 2.70 1.40
Paracambi 1.80 1.70 1.20 1.50
Queimados 4.20 2.60 -0.20 1.20
Nova Iguau 4.00 1.40 4.40 0.50
Mesquita 3.00 1.20 1.70 0.10
Nilpolis 1.70 0.40 -0.30 0.20
So Joo de Mereti 2.80 0.60 0.60 0.20
Belford Roxo 5.00 1.70 2.80 0.80
Duque de Caxas 2.90 1.40 1.70 1.00
Mag 2.40 2.70 0.80 1.00
Rio AP3 1.60 0.01 14.60 0.80
Zone 3 (East)
Itabora 3.70 5.00 1.60 1.50
Guapimirim 4.80 1.70 3.40 3.10
So Gonalo 3.60 2.20 1.50 1.20
Tangu 5.20 1.90 0.90 1.70
Niteroi 2.10 0.90 0.60 0.60
Maric 3.30 3.30 5.70 5.20
Cachoeiras de Macacu 0.60 1.00 2.10 1.10
Metropolitan Rio 2.40 1.00 1.20 0.90
Sources: IBGE (1970 ff ); Governo do Rio de Janeiro (2011)

The contested political ecologies of housing and urban development

The lack of leverage of urban planning over real estate markets and land uses has
intensified the socio-spatial and environmental contradictions in the reproduction of
space in Greater Rio. Data from the Ministry of Cities, based on the IBGE census, show
that, while the housing deficit in the state of Rio has actually been reduced from 505,201
in 2000 to 490,230 in 2008, the figure remained constant in Metropolitan Rio (that is,
375,314 units in 2000 and 375,461 in 2008). Moreover, the socioeconomic composition
of the housing deficit shows that despite economic growth and subsidized housing
finance, families earning up to three times the minimum salary have not been reached;
this groups absolute size and participation in the overall housing deficit has increased
during the period 20002008.
As a matter of fact, initial evaluations of the federal housing programs show that,
without leverage over real estate markets, the use of subsidies with fixed financial limits
by the MCMV program has directed construction to the more distant areas with deficient

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infrastructure and community services, reinforcing a vicious cycle of socio-spatial

segregation and environmental degradation (Rolnik and Nakano, 2011). In the city of Rio
de Janeiro, the spatial allocation of construction follows a real estate price gradient
(Cardoso et al., 2011: 1314); while the units distributed to groups earning between 6
and 10 times the minimum salary are located in the more central areas, the projects
targeted at beneficiaries earning up to three minimum salaries are in the more distant
western outskirts of the city. Ninety-three percent of the program is concentrated in this
western zone, which provides relatively worse conditions in terms of access to water,
basic sanitation, health, education, mobility and employment.
As in other Brazilian metropolitan areas and city regions, these contradictory and
crisis-driven urban policies have intensified historical tensions between the urban and
environmental agenda. The planning and management of Rios water resources
represents a paradigmatic illustration of the trialectical relations between the state,
nature and society (Ioris, 2011). The institutionalized unsustainability of water
management in the Baixada Fluminense, the more urbanized northern zone of the
metropolitan area near Guanabara Bay, illustrates the point. Its post-1940 pattern of
industrialization and urbanization pushed large contingents of low-wage migrants to a
rural wetland area with a severely deficient infrastructure. The majority of these poorer
migrants could only afford to live in the flood-prone risk areas along the river courses.
The 2000 census data confirm that 45% of the families near the watersheds
IguauSarapu that surround the Baixada and the Guanabara basin (excluding the data
for the city of Rio) earn a per capita income of up to one minimum salary (Carneiro,
2008: 126). In a few decades, the Baixada Fluminense has accumulated high levels of
organic and industrial pollution, and has been transformed from an exporter into a net
importer of water resources. The proliferation of large investments in basic sanitation and
clean-up measures, and the institutional strengthening of water basin management
through federal legislation on tripartite participatory watershed committees, has not
changed the technocratic decision making on the appropriation of water resources. It is
estimated that since the 1980s more than R $3 billion have been invested in supply-driven
programs aimed at environmental restoration, pollution control, basic sanitation and
urban drainage, without involving local stakeholders and communities and changing
the underlying power relations that have reproduced this unsustainable development
trajectory. The US $605 million investment package announced in 2007 as part of the
PAC program is expected to replicate the technocratic logic of earlier programs (Ioris,
2011: 257). Likewise, the rather top-down creation of the Guanabara watershed
committee in 2005 not only diluted the possibility of creating a smaller and more
politicized body for the Baixada Fluminense, but has also proven to be an institution
molded by the state government, and largely unable to influence strategic decision
making on the future of the water basin. The discussions on the required expansion of the
water supply system, considering the investments by industries such as COMPERJ, are
taking place in circuits that have bypassed the Guanabara water basin committee.

Endogenous development in hub and spokes regions

While the productive investments and the upgrading of the port and infrastructure
networks are expected to intensify the socio-spatial contradictions in the production of
urban space, there is little reason to believe that many dynamic forward and backward
linkages will be generated for the metropolitan economy. As a matter of fact, Greater Rio
resembles what has been labeled by Markusen (1999: 234) a classic hub and spokes
economy, where large multinational and national oligopolistic companies are embedded
non-locally, with substantial links to suppliers and firms outside the regional territory.
Although key strategic investments decisions can be made locally, they radiate, spread
out and spin off globally. The ItaguaSepetiba port complex itself illustrates the point;
large companies active in mining, steel metallurgy and in the oil and gas cluster
transformed this territory into a platform inserted within their global trade, infrastructure

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Scalar and spatial restructuring in Rio de Janeiro 1183

and informational networks, but generated little or no trickle-down in terms of local

employment and income (Gusmo, 2010). State spatial policies have accommodated
productive investments, but without any perspective of proactively embedding forward
and backward linkages into Marshallian districts (Markusen, 1999: 238), or
endogenous local economies. Gusmo (2010: 2834) concludes that the Itaguai-Sepetiba
port region has represented four decades of failure to develop more proactive public
policies for the region.

Throughout this article, I have argued that the transition from a (peripheral) national
developmental regime to a neoliberalized or, more recently, rolled-out and competitive
national developmental state, has been accompanied by a remarkable number of
continuities, which have not been sufficiently highlighted in the literature on state spatial
restructuring in Brazil.
Legitimized by discourses on Perrouvian growth poles, trickle-down effects and
import substitution strategies, spatial policies under the national developmental regime
have always been selective in building a national space economy, without much effective
spread-out effect in and around regions and with serious environmental cost. The
post-1990 competitive state spatial regime is merely expected to continue to promote
some metropolitan areas as opposed to others, and to exacerbate geo-historical
tendencies of socio-spatial exclusion and environmental degradation.
Unlike the prevailing dichotomist descriptions of rescaling and neoliberalization in
the Brazilian setting, which have associated the national scale with a strategy for a more
cohesive national space economy (and its opposite, down-scaling and neo-localism, as
indicators of a neoliberalization of state spaces), we have emphasized more complex
movements of up-, down- and re-scaling, and suggested the usefulness of a Gramscian
interpretation of scale as strategicrelational, both molding and being influenced by
actors that seek to use scalar politics to achieve their aims. Thus, both under the national
developmental regime and during the more recent rolled-out stage of developmental
and state spatial restructuring, the national scale has represented an important arena to
contest hegemony over urban and regional policies. Likewise, and in the absence of
transparent institutional structures for metropolitan governance, large companies and
federal and state agencies have focused on the metropolitan scale as both a projected
space and a privileged arena to implement their political agenda.
My analysis of Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro has explored some of the socio-spatial and
environmental contradictions in a scenario of a renewed national-developmental state
inserted within a competitive state spatial regime. Neither economic growth, regulatory
and institutional reform, nor redistributive financial allocations, coordinated at the
national scale, are likely to produce structural transformation in the inherited spaces of
Greater Rio.
My preliminary analysis raises additional questions for the growing research agenda
on development regimes, state spatial restructuring and the production of space. More
specific work should be done on city-regions that perform a similar role to Rio in terms
of frontiers of systemic competitiveness in national state spatial regimes, either in
or outside Brazil. Moreover, careful international comparative analysis could help to
both sharpen theoretical premises and increase our understanding of the geo-historical
specificities of state spatial restructuring in the global urban South.

Jeroen Klink (, Centro de Engenharia, Modelagem e Cincias

Sociais Aplicadas da UFABC, Rua Santa Adlia 166, Santo Andr, So Paulo, Brazil.

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