Self-responsibilization, the municipality, and the state: Peripheralization shaping local initiatives in shrinking small towns

Katrin Großmann (Corresponding author), Ria-Maria Adams, Alla Bolotova, Johanna Lilius, Maria Gunko, Sven Messerschmidt, Leona Sandmann

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


The literature on shrinking cities often portrays local initiatives in two contrasting ways: either as marginal, powerless, and somewhat backwards-oriented actors, or as human capital, a resource for development, and even as the hope for a more democratic development. However, there is a risk that scholarship unintentionally contributes to local initiatives being included in neoliberal development agendas. During our field research in two small, shrinking, and peripheralized towns in Finland and Germany, we discovered that both perspectives are misleading. They distract from the actual conditions of the initiatives' work, the causes of their financial or demographic precarity, and the self-responsibilization that is common among such initiatives. Scarcity motivates a DI(F)Y approach, organizing services and amenities on limited resources to enhance the quality of life in the area. This limited availability may seem like a natural result of population decline. By comparing the German and Finnish cases, we can see how state policies towards peripheral areas affect the work of local initiatives. This demonstrates that precarity in shrinking places is a result of policies rather than demographic development trajectory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105067
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 507015 Regional research


  • Local initiatives
  • Peripheralization
  • Self-responsibilization
  • Shrinking cities
  • Small towns
  • State

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