(Dis)Assembling policy pipelines: unpacking the work of management consultants at public meetings
- Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
Abstract. Confronting growing fiscal deficits in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, local governments around the world have often commissioned outside experts – such as policy gurus, management consultants, and transnational professional service firms – to undertake services delivery reviews as a means of making
tough decisions, identifying the areas of government spending that are most expendable and setting priorities for cutbacks. This paper draws from the recent literature on trans-urban policy pipelines in studying the role of service delivery reviews in thickening relations of knowledge production between city regions (McCann and Ward, 2011, 2013; Prince, 2012). Taking the encounter with Toronto's 2011 Core Service Review as a starting place, it sets out to examine the textually mediated practices through which policy knowledge is generated. Drawing from Allen and Cochrane's (2010) topological approach, it highlights how management consultants make use of evaluative texts, lifting out and folding in knowledge and ideas from other places to make their presence felt. However, while these texts are presented as a
pure lens of cost savings, the work of rendering the city of Toronto commensurate with other distant places is often based on fragile and tenuous connections. Hence, against assumptions that these texts facilitate the foreclosure of possible utterances that can be made, I also explore the public meeting as a site for investigating alternative ways of knowing the city, providing a window onto the way in which oppositional registers of the city are themselves generated through translocal practices.