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Critical Urban Studies

New Directions

Jonathan S. Davies, David L. Imbroscio

Publication Year: 2010

Essays reevaluating and challenging the critiques of the urban studies field. This volume revisits the tradition of critical scholarship characteristic of the urban studies field. Urban scholarship has had detractors of late, particularly in mainstream political science, where it has been accused of parochialism and insularity. Critical Urban Studies offers a sharp repudiation of this critique, reasserting the need for critical urban scholarship and demonstrating the fundamental importance of urban studies for understanding and changing contemporary social life. Contributors to the volume identify an orthodox perspective in the field, subject it to critique, and map out a future research agenda for the field. The result is a series of inventive essays pointing scholars and students to the major theoretical and policy challenges facing urbanists and other critical social scientists.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xi

In the eyes of many scholars, the field of urban politics has become increasingly disconnected from the mainstream study of politics, particularly American national politics. Topics of interest, concepts, and strategies of theory building overlap little between the subfield and the wider field of study. One interpretation of this disconnect is that urbanists, to their own intellectual ...

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pp. xiii

The editors would like to thank the large audience attending the two panels convened at the 38th annual meeting of the Urban Affairs Association, from which this volume sprang. Colleagues sharply engaged the subject matter of the panels and the individual papers, generously proffering useful feedback and criticism. In this regard, we especially thank our friend and colleague Bob ...

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pp. 1-5

In this volume, we demonstrate the vitality of urban studies in a double sense: its fundamental importance for understanding contemporary societies and its qualities as a dynamic and innovative field of inquiry. However, urbanists have detractors, particularly scholars in mainstream U.S. political science. In 2007, Bryan D. Jones, a former urbanist, and two graduate ...

Part 1. Critical Urban Theory

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pp. 7

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1. City

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pp. 9-21

... The city is haunted. Urban studies shares the fate of so many other fields of inquiry trapped by “a positivist ‘haunting,’ ” reflecting “positivism’s paradoxical power as a zombie-like refusal to stay buried” (Steinmetz 2005a, 3, 37). It refuses to die, “[d]espite repeated attempts by social theorists and researchers to drive a stake through the heart of the vampire,” George Steinmetz writes ...

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2. Critical Perspectives on the City: Constructivist, Interpretive Analysis of Urban Politics

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pp. 23-39

Urban politics research usually lacks discussion of ontology and epistemology, but most research implicitly adopts a positivist understanding of social science. Despite the critical stance against the “positivist hegemony” taken by some urbanists (see Wyly Chapter 1, this volume), there remains implicit positivist orthodoxy in much urban politics research. Comparative and single-case ...

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3. Seeing Like a City: How to Urbanize Political Science

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pp. 41-53

The social sciences still bear the marks of their origins in the late nineteenth century, when the world was divided up in a new way for purposes of academic study (Gunnell 1993, 2004). It was in this period that American institutions of higher learning (and the academic professions associated with them) began to take their present shape. In a crucial move, the new social ...

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4. Reflections on Urbanity as an Object of Study and a Critical Epistemology

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pp. 55-72

In Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives, Cindi Katz (2004) explores how children in Howa (Sudan) came of age as their village was incorporated in the global economic agricultural system. At the same time, the book shows how children in New York City were involved in similar transformations of their everyday lives. Because of global ...

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5. Back to the Future: Marxism and Urban Politics

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pp. 73-88

Network theories of urban politics, such as urban regime theory, prospered greatly amid the painful crisis of Marxism. Their central premise is that power is dispersed and hence that the task of governing is to mobilize and coordinate “power to,” the capacity to act. This perspective has become a powerful orthodoxy in political science, largely displacing Marxist theory. ...

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6. Keeping It Critical: Resisting the Allure of the Mainstream

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pp. 89-103

For decades there has been a trend among scholars to lament the chasm between the analysis of urban politics and mainstream political analysis, especially mainstream work done within the formal discipline of political science. Paul Peterson (1981), writing in the preface to his path-breaking book, City Limits, was an early purveyor of this trend. Peterson mournfully bemoaned ...

Part II. Critical Urban Policy

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pp. 105

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7. The Trouble with Diversity

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pp. 107-120

Many scholars decry neighborhood segregation in the United States. This segregation—by class and by race—undermines the good effects of diversity, and concentrates poverty, making it much harder to alleviate. Moreover, the effects of segregation are, in important ways, anti-democratic. When the Black and poor are left to their own neighborhoods, democratic equality is ...

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8. Do Multicultural Cities Help Equality?

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pp. 121-134

The Civil Rights struggle provided new hope for racial equality, not just in the United States but also around the world. However, the nature of the changes it could effect abroad was bounded by the political contexts of the countries that the struggle had reached out to. In the United Kingdom, the struggle for racial equality was based on a foundation of colonialism and ...

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9. Why Do We Want Mixed-Income Housing and Neighborhoods?

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pp. 135-147

... Whenever there is widespread agreement or consensus that a certain policy, or set of related policies, should be pursued and enacted, it becomes necessary to step back and ask, why? This is because once widespread agreement occurs, the theoretical premises that underlay the policies become lost—assumed away as the policy goals become self-evidently “good.” But the “Why?” questions ...

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10. Dispersal as Anti-Poverty Policy

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pp. 149-164

Recent diagnoses of urban problems in both Europe and the United States have emphasized the spatial dimensions of inequality. That uneven urban development is manifest in the geography of urban areas has been the principle underlying a string of urban policies and planning initiatives in the United States since the 1940s. The expansion of a local development authority ...

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11. Beyond Sprawl and Anti-Sprawl

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pp. 165-181

The widespread acceptance of the term suburban sprawl stands as a major rhetorical victory for critics of the land-use, transportation, and growth patterns characteristic of metropolitan America. As both friends and critics of suburbia have noted, the term sprawl itself has an almost inescapably pejorative connotation (Gordon and Richardson 1997; O’Flaherty 2005). Despite ...


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pp. 183-207


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pp. 209-211


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pp. 213-220

E-ISBN-13: 9781438433073
E-ISBN-10: 1438433077
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438433059
Print-ISBN-10: 1438433050

Page Count: 234
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1