Cover image for The promise of the city : space, identity, and politics in contemporary social thought
Title:
The promise of the city : space, identity, and politics in contemporary social thought
Author:
Tajbakhsh, Kian, 1962-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
xv, 229 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1670 Lexile.
ISBN:
9780520222779

9780520222786
Format :
Book

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Status
Central Library HT153 .T27 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

The Promise of the City proposes a new theoretical framework for the study of cities and urban life. Finding the contemporary urban scene too complex to be captured by radical or conventional approaches, Kian Tajbakhsh offers a threefold, interdisciplinary approach linking agency, space, and structure. First, he says, urban identities cannot be understood through individualistic, communitarian, or class perspectives but rather through the shifting spectrum of cultural, political, and economic influences. Second, the layered, unfinished city spaces we inhabit and within which we create meaning are best represented not by the image of bounded physical spaces but rather by overlapping and shifting boundaries. And third, the macro forces shaping urban society include bureaucratic and governmental interventions not captured by a purely economic paradigm.

Tajbakhsh examines these dimensions in the work of three major critical urban theorists of recent decades: Manuel Castells, David Harvey, and Ira Katznelson. He shows why the answers offered by Marxian urban theory to the questions of identity, space, and structure are unsatisfactory and why the perspectives of other intellectual traditions such as poststructuralism, feminism, Habermasian Critical Theory, and pragmatism can help us better understand the challenges facing contemporary cities.


Author Notes

Kian Tajbakhsh teaches Urban Policy and Politics at the New School for Social Research


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Tajbakhsh (management and urban policy, New School) explores the discontinuity between the concerns that motivate "new" social movements (located in neighborhood and everyday life-based issues) and the preeminent theories of urban society that emphasize capitalist social relations of production as determinants of urban change. He rigorously analyzes and engages the work of the three central neo-Marxist urban theorists--Manuel Castells, David Harvey, and Ira Katznelson--carefully identifying significant limits of their work regarding the motives and manifestations underlying recent social change issues. Building on these limits, the author weds Weberian macro theory with a synthesis of poststructuralism, Habermasian systems theory, and feminist theory, arguing that the city is defined and explained by identity theory, which incorporates ethnic pluralism (hybridity), spacing, and everyday life experiences. Given the changing nature of many institutional spheres--infrastructure, policing, health, social service, and even education--theorizing the centrality of personal identity and the relative autonomy and comparable influence of politics and economics on urban life may seem a priggish excess of postmodernism. Yet Tajbakhsh's dialogue with neo-Marxist urbanism may also lay the groundwork to advance and/or synthesize the insights from neo-Marxism with "identity-based" approaches reflective of the changing pedestrian experiences of urban life. Graduate students and faculty. P. McGuire University of Toledo


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introduction: Identity, Structure, and the Spaces of the Cityp. 1
1. Marxian Class Analysis, Essentialism, and the Problem of Urban Identityp. 35
2. Beyond the Functionalist Bias in Urban Theoryp. 72
3. Toward the Historicity and the Contingency of Identityp. 113
4. Difference, Democracy, and the Cityp. 162
Notesp. 185
Bibliographyp. 215
Indexp. 227

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