Abstract: It is widely accepted that neoliberalism is intensified in times of crisis, and Jamie Peck has argued that ‘austerity urbanism’ has been implemented at the urban scale since the 2008 financial crisis. This article questions whether this narrative of neoliberal expansion is applicable in cities where crisis is so severe that economic growth seems highly unlikely. I focus on Detroit, whose recent declaration of bankruptcy signals the recognition among local officials and elites that the city’s decline cannot be reversed with out-of-the-box neoliberal policies. Instead, the city’s bankruptcy precipitated a breakdown of an interscalar growth coalition, and local actors have embraced a plan for Detroit’s future which diverges from ‘austerity urbanism’ favoured by extra-local investors in significant ways. Importantly, local actors have embraced a plan that seeks to improve the quality of life for the city’s residents in the context of irreversible degrowth. I refer to this as degrowth machine politics and I examine the extent to which its emergence may foster contingency and progressive urban politics.
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