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public services, geography of

  The study of geographical aspects of the provision and utilization of public services, understood as services provided by (or on behalf of) the state according to non-market criteria. Although the boundary between public and private service provision has varied historically, in general services are provided collectively because reliance solely on the market or the non-profit sector would be inefficient or inequitable. Studies of public services have concentrated largely on those providing for individual welfare — health care, education, housing, and social security — but there has also been work on the provision of utilities and infrastructure, particularly in the context of recent privatization initiatives. Within what might be seen as a narrow geographical tradition of spatial science, there are three reasons for a geographical perspective on public services: the phenomenon of jurisdictional partitioning, or the fragmentation of territory into jurisdictions which vary considerably in the provision of services; tapering effects, which means that the utility of public services to individuals is a function of distance from them (cf. distance decay); and externality effects, which means that locating services has unpriced impacts on neighbourhoods, impacts which also decline with distance.

Much work was stimulated by Teitz\'s (1968) influential article. He proposed some elementary models of public facility systems, although they differed only marginally from their private-sector counterparts in industrial location. Initially, distance-minimization techniques were employed; these were subsequently refined in various ways, for example by the incorporation of spatial interaction concepts (Beaumont, 1980). There have been numerous efforts to refine such models and apply them in planning (e.g. Massam, 1992). Such techniques offer useful aids to decision-making and are used extensively in evaluating the consequences of alterations in the locational arrangements of public services. Much debate has focused on efforts to achieve solutions to locational problems which attempt a trade-off between \'the opposing forces of economies of scale and the advantages of dispersion\' (Teitz, 1968, p. 42) — in other words, a trade-off between equity and efficiency.

With the development of models based on efficiency criteria came a realization that the implicit centralization of services had adverse consequences for accessibility, and that the distributive consequences of public service location required investigation. There was also a realization that despite the achievements of the welfare state in providing comprehensive welfare services, considerable geographical variations remained at a more local scale. Studies therefore began to focus on the question of territorial justice, seeking to identify whether, and to what extent, patterns of public service provision were distributed in relation to need. There are obvious difficulties in agreeing on a concept of need, but such work was able to demonstrate important variations. In geographies of health care, for example, the so-called \'inverse care law\', which postulated that service distributions were negatively correlated with need, received considerable attention (Joseph and Phillips, 1984). The impacts of jurisdictional partitioning and of federalism on geographies of public services attracted much attention in the USA (e.g. Kodras and Jones, 1990).

In addition to studies of accessibility, there has been a focus on the externality effects of public services. Taking up Harvey\'s (1971) point that much of urban politics can be interpreted as conflicts over who is to bear the costs — externalities — of public decisions, there have been many investigations of the effects associated with waste disposal facilities, community care centres and so on. These have often demonstrated the distance-decay patterns evident in such externality fields. There has also been work on locational conflicts over proposals to locate such facilities (Cox, 1980; Dear and Taylor, 1982). Such work offers a useful corrective to the often spaceless view of the welfare state presented in other social science disciplines.

Mapping patterns of service distribution, or offering technical advice on how to improve them, offer a rather restrictive view of geographical perspectives on public services. In particular, explanations of patterns of provision have been weakly developed. Quantitative studies of public service distributions have investigated links between local economic and political indicators and the variations in service provision between jurisdictions. Such studies usually demonstrate some degree of association, after controlling for demography, between provision and party control, but like much extensive, quantitative social science, such studies have been criticized for producing little more than broad generalizations and associations. A further difficulty is that decision-making is treated as a black box, so that conflict and negotiation between competing interests is not analysed explicitly (Pinch, 1985).

Such difficulties led Dear (1978) to propose a much greater engagement with social theory and political economy as a way of explaining patterns of service distribution. A geography of public services required a \'theory of society\' and, in particular, consideration of the state. This has been attempted at various levels. Managerialist studies have drawn attention to the discretion available to urban managers in allocating scarce resources; critics have argued that the constraints on the autonomy of managers, and on the resources available to them, need to be theorized explicitly (Leonard, 1982; cf. urban managers and gatekeepers). This requires explicit theorization of the role of the state, and in geography this has generally meant drawing on political-economy perspectives. Such perspectives are also important because the boundary between public and private service provision is not fixed. Welfare services may be delivered in a number of ways — by the family, charitable/voluntary organizations (Wolch, 1990; cf. shadow state), the state or the market — and the balance between them varies between states and over time.

There is increasing recognition of the diversity of welfare state arrangements, with several implications for the geography of public services. First, processes of restructuring are mediated in different ways by political and social structures, and welfare policies are played out on an increasingly fragmented socio-political terrain; for instance, growing social polarization may be undermining collective support for comprehensive welfare systems. There have consequently been efforts to chart the geographical outcomes of this restructuring process (e.g. Dear and Wolch, 1987; Mohan, 1995), paying particular attention to the interactions between global and national processes and their local outcomes. In the context of debates about the (putative) transition from Fordism to post-Fordism, regulation theorists have postulated the emergence of a Schumpeterian Workfare State, in which patterns of welfare provision would be subordinate to the dictates of competitiveness, and in which, as a consequence, heightened geographical disparities would be evident (Jessop, 1993). Secondly, as the public-private divide is redrawn, attention will need to be paid to geographies of privatization and their implications for access to services and for employment (Feigenbaum et al., 1998; Scarpaci, 1989; Laws, 1988). Privatization is also associated with a transition in the modus operandi of the state, away from direct provision of services towards a more regulatory role; this is part of a \'hollowing-out\' of state structures. Thirdly, the expansion of the welfare state led some commentators to place social rights — access to a package of services simply by virtue of one\'s membership of a national community — alongside civil and political rights as a dimension of citizenship. Contemporary developments in the welfare state are calling into question the social rights of citizenship and much work is being done on the associated political geographies of citizenship (Smith, 1989; Pierson, 1991; Painter and Philo, 1995). (JM)

References Beaumont, J.R. 1980: Spatial interaction models and the location-allocation problem. Journal of Regional Science 20: 37-51. Cox, K.R. 1980: Location and public problems. Oxford: Blackwell. Dear, M. 1978: A paradigm for public facility location theory, International Regional Science Review 3: 93-112. Dear, M.J. and Taylor, S.M. 1982: Not on our street. London: Pion; Dear, M. and Wolch, J. 1987: Landscapes of despair. Oxford: Polity. Esping-Andersen, G. 1990: The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Oxford: Polity. Feigenbaum, H., Henig, J. and Hamnett, C. 1998: Shrinking the state: the political underpinnings of privatisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harvey, D. 1971: Social processes, spatial form and the redistribution of real income in the urban system. In M. Chisholm, A.E. Frey and P. Haggett, eds, Regional forecasting. London: Butterworth, 267-300. Jessop, B. 1993: Towards a Schumpeterian workfare state? Studies in Political Economy 40: 7-39. Joseph, A. and Phillips, D. 1984: Accessibility and utilisation: geographical perspectives on health care delivery. London: Longman. Kodras, J. and Jones, J.P., eds, 1990: Geographic dimensions of US social policy. London: Edward Arnold. Laws, G. 1988: Privatisation and the local welfare state. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers, NS 13: 449-65. Leonard, S. 1982: Urban managerialism: a period of transition. Progress in Human Geography 6: 190-215. Massam, B. 1992: The right place: shared responsibility and the location of public facilities. London: Longman. Mohan, J.F. 1995: A National Health Service? The restructuring of health care in Britain since 1979. London: Macmillan. Painter, J. and Philo, C. 1995: Spaces of citizenship. Political Geography 14: 107-20. Pierson, C. 1991: Beyond the welfare state? Oxford: Polity. Pinch, S. 1985: Cities and services. London: Routledge. Pinch, S. 1997: Worlds of welfare. London: Routledge. Powell, M. and Boyne, G. 1993: Territorial justice and Thatcherism. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 11: 35-54. Scarpaci, J., ed., 1989: Health services privatisation in industrialised societies. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Smith, S.J. 1989: Society, space and citizenship: a human geography for the \'new times\'? Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 14: 144-56. Teitz, M. 1968: Towards a theory of urban public facility location, Papers, Regional Science Association 21: 35-53. Wolch, J. 1990: The shadow state: government and voluntary sector in transition. New York: Foundation Center.



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