LeGates, Richard T. and Frederic Stout, Eds. The City Reader. 3rd edition. New York: Routledge, 2003—classic interdisciplinary collection, including
(from II: Urban Culture and Society)
Lewis Mumford, “What Is a City?” Architectural Record (1937): a theater of social action…social drama comes into existence through the focusing and intensification of group activity….in its various and many-sided life, in its very opportunities for social disharmony and conflict, the city creates drama; the suburb lacks it.
One may describe the city, in it social aspect, as a special framework directed toward the creation of differentiated opportunites for a common life and a significant collective drama….
Louis Wirth, “Urbanism as a Way of Life,” American Journal of Sociology (1938): large population size, social heterogeneity, and population density contribute to a peculiarly “urban way of life” and distinct “urban personality”: more socially tolerant, yet more impersonal and less friendly—adaptations to living in large, dense, socially diverse urban envirionments
Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy (1995): less civic engagement, depletion of meaningful human contact
Jane Jacobs, “The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety,” The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961): derides revered traditions of city planning as “the Radiant Garden City Beautiful,” and argues that what makes a neighborhood safe/a city liveable is “eyes on the street”: involved neighborhood surveillance of public spaces—narrow, crowded, multi-use streets—in an intricate “street ballet”
W.E.B. DuBois, “The Negro Problems of Philadelphia,” “the Question of Earning a Living,” and “Color Prejudice,” The Philadelphia Negro (1899)
William Julius Wilson, “From Institutional to Jobless Ghettos,” When Work Disappears: The world of the New Urban Poor (1996)
Sharon Zukin, “Whose Culture? Whose City?” The Cultures of Cities (1995): urban public space increasingly appropriated, privatized by corporate, commercial forceson-going cultural war on city streets: explicit site of conflicts over social differences and urban fears
Massey, Doreen, John Allen and Steve Pile, Eds. City Worlds. London: The Open University, 1999—interactive textbook, filled w/ questions to help students understand problems and possibilities of cities
Lefebvre, Henri. Writings on Cities. Trans. Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1996. Introduction:
interest in space and space originated in childhood and awareness of changing location of production; strongly influenced by surrealism: fleeting encounters in the city in which the explorer sets out without knowing what lies in store; cf. arcade as place of encounter, gatherings and jouissance, with functional, divided street spaces
“To think about the city is to hold and maintain its conflictual aspects: constraints and possibilities, peacefulness and violence, meetings and solitude, gatherings and separation, the trivial and the poetic, brutal functionalism and surprising improvisation. The dialectic of the urban cannot be limited to the opposition centre-periphery, although it implies and contains it…Thinking the city moves toward thinking the world (thought as a relationship to the world)…globality as totality…the universe, space-time, energies, information, but without valuing one rather than another…One can hope that it will turn out well but the urban can become the centre of barbarity, domination, dependence and exploitation….In thinking about these perspectives, let us leave a place for events, initiatives, decisions. All the hands have not ben played. The sense of history does not suppose any historic determinism, any destiny.”
Right to the City
Preface: all systems tend to close off reflection, to block off horizon. This work wants to break up systems…to open up through thought and action towards possibilities by showing the horizon and the road. Against a form of reflection which tends towards formalism…let us begin by taking…a “cavalier attitude”
Industrialization and Urbanization
Philosophy and the City
the opposition between use value (the city and urban life) and exchange value (spaces bought and sold, the consumption of products, goods, places and signs) will be highlighted
The social division of labour between town and country corresponds to the separation between material and intellectual labour, and consequently, between the natural and the spiritual….Philosophy is thus born from the city, with its division of labour….the logos of the Greek city cannot be separated from the philosophical logos…the history of philosophical thought..must reclaim itself from its relation with the city….
Fragmentary Sciences and Urban Reality
Philosophy of the City and Planning Ideology
Plato proposes an ideal town…Aristotle…studies the constitution of…Greek cities...Today Lewis Mumford and…others still imagine a city made up…of free citizens…freely associated….they think of the modern city according to a model of the antique city…the ideal and rational city. The agora, place and symbol of a democracy limited to its citizens…remains…the symbol of urban society….Within this well-worn perspective, the architect perceives…himself as architect of the world…God the creator….To claim that the city is defined as a network of circulation and communication, as a centre of information and decision-making, is an absolute ideology….proceeding from a particularly arbitrary and dangerous reduction-extrapolation….it implies a theory of rationality and organization….relegating….all the problems of society into questions of space….The radical critique of philosophies of the city as well as of ideology is vital….
The Specificity of the City
the city is an oeuvre, closer to a work of art than to a simple material product…
Continuities and Discontinuities
the city can be read because it writes…However, it is not enough to examine this without recourse to context…what is below the text to decipher (daily life, immediate relations, the unconscious of the urban…) hides itself in the inhabited spaces—sexual and family life—and rarely confronts itself, and what is above this urban text (institutions, ideologies), cannot be neglected in the deciphering…..the city cannot therefore be conceived as a signifying system, determined and closed as a system. The taking into consideration the levels of reality forbids…this systematization.
We..here propose a first definition of the city as a projection of society on the ground….not only a far order, a social whole, a mode of production, a general code, it is also…times, rhythms. The city is heard as much as music as it is read as a discursive writing. …another definition ….the cityas the ensemble of differences….another definition, of plurality, coexistence and simultaneity in the urban of patterns….These definitions…do not exclude other definitions. If a theoretician sees in the city the place of confrontations and of (conflictual) relations between desire and need…..Today, by becoming a centre of decision-making…the modern city intensifies by organizing the exploitation of the whole society….
Levels of Reality and Analysis
the semiology of the city is of greatest theoretical and practical interest. The city receives and emits messages…urban life tends to turn against themselves the messages, orders and constraints coming from above.…It also intervenes more or less at the level of the city and the way of inhabiting. In this way the urban is more or less the oeuvre of its citizens instead of imposing itself upon them as a system, as an already closed book.
Town and Country
A theme which has been used and over-used, hyperinflated and extrapolated….the expanding city attacks the countryside, corrodes and dissolves it….theory can refute all strategies resting on this conception of the urban fabric. Geographers have coined to name this confusion an ugly but meaningful neologism: the rurban….What social and political forms, what theory will one entrust with the realization on the ground of a renovated centrality and fabric, freed from their degradations?
Around the Critical Point
Industrial production…produces urbanization…The problematic is displaced and becomes that of urban development…The urban is based on use value.
On Urban Form
Mentally: simultaneity (of events, perceptions, and elements of a whole in the ‘real’).
Socially: the encounter and the concentration of what exists around, in the environments (assets and products, acts and activities, wealth) and consequently, urban society as privileged social site, as meaning of productive and consuming activities, as meeting between the oeuvre and the product….in so-called modern society, simultaneity is intensified and becomes more dense..the capacities for encounter and assembly become strengthened. Communications speed up to quasi-instantaneity….circuits of information flow and are diffused from this centrality….
under the same conditions dispersion increases: the division of labour is pushed to the extreme segregation of social groups ….Movement…reveals…the dialectical (conflictual) movement of content and urban form: the problematic…Before whom and for whom is simultaneity established, the contents of urban life assembled? Spectral Analysis
The same social practice…offers to critical analysis double character….One the one hand, this social practice is integrative….by consumption…by culture…by values…by the actions of the State….At the same time this society practices segregation…It tends…to form ghettos…in space and…in time….the term ‘zoning’ already implies separation, segregation, isolation in planned ghettos….This society…sees itself as coherent….the obsession of an incoherent society…Integration also becomes an obsessional theme….Another obsessional theme is participation….
The Right to the City
Over the last few years and rather strangely, the right to nature entered into social practice…through protestations….against noise, fatigue, the concentrationary universe of cities (as cities are rotting or exploding)….Nature enters into exchange value….”nature”…becomes the ghetto of leisure pursuits, the separate place of pleasure and the retreat of “creativity”….In the face of this pseudo-right, the right to the city is like a cry and a demand….
Perspective or Prospective?
It is essential…to perceive in urbanization the meaning the goal and the finality of industrialization…..growth must be guided…..
from where can the contents of the principle of assembly be derived? From play, ludo, a term which must be understood here in its broadest and deepest meaning. Sport is play and so is the theater…Fairs, collective games of all sorts, survive at the interface of an organized consumer society, in the holes of a serious society which perceives itself as structured and systematical and which claims to be ethical….all that is needed is to give form to this tendency which is still subordinated to the industrial and commercial production of culture in this society….the centrality of play...is the restoration of the meaning of the oeuvre that philosophy and art can bring so as to prioritize time over space…the space of play …still coexists with spaces of exchange and circulation, political space and cultural space (171).
play is…supreme value….to city people the urban centre is movement, the unpredictable, the possible and encounters. For them, it is either “spontaneous theatre” or nothing….There are currently attempts to establish fixed structures, “equilibrium structures”, stabilities submitted to systematization, and therefore to existing power….The ideal city would involve the obsolescence of space: (172) an accelerated change of abode, emplacements and prepared spaces. It would be the ephemeral city, the perpetual oeuvre of the inhabitants, themselves mobile and mobilized for and by this oeuvre. Time comes first. There is no doubt that technology makes possible the ephemeral city, the apogee of play and supreme oeuvre and luxury….time-spaces become works of art…art can become praxis and poiesis on a social scale: the art of living in the city as work of art …art can create “structures of enchantment” (173).
The right to the city manifests itself as…right to freedom, to individualization in socialization, to habitat and to inhabit. The right to the oeuvre, to participation and appropriation (clearly distinct form the right to property), are implied in the right to the city (174).
The Realization of Philosophy
Theses on the City, the Urban and Planning
No Salvation away from the Centre?
The situation of…the city is eminently paradoxical. Theoretically there are two opposing points of view. The first is an anti-city tradition, which has a lengthy past. The city is the site of corruption, of Hell, Babylon…an infamous place….a place of constraints…beset by tensions…the place...of breakup of society….There is another tradition of Greek origin which is that of the City. It is the place where civilization, culture and art develop. It is in the City that art appear and is produced….the modern city is not thought out because we haven’t resolved the contradiction between these two traditions…. (205-206).
The Urban in Question
Our conception [of time] is that of industry…What threatens the city today is the departure of production. What then remains is the central question of the use of free time in cities. That is for each person to invent. One cannot draw up a range of possible uses of time. They are ceaselessly multiplied in a social practice. It is an essential domain of liberty….Liberty is..the maximum of possibilities of each citizen in the city…We must find the link between the mode of production and what is called free time…free time can be fully productive in the widest sense, of art, of knowledge, of the lived. It is a delicate question which supposes the mastery by each person of their time, with a multiplicity of possibilities. This disjunction which we make between ‘productive time’ and ‘free time’ is very symptomatic (214-215).
Seen from the Window
To understand and analyse rhythms, one has to let go…but not completely. There is a certain externality which allows the analytical intellect to function…One has to … abandon oneself to its duration…in order to hold this fleeting object…one must be at the same time both inside and out. A balcony is perfect for the street…for want of these you can always be content with a window…from the window noises are distinguishable, fluxes separate themselves, rhythms answer each other….Flows and conglomerates succeed each others….Rhythms…reveal and hide, being much…varied…music of the city, a picture which listens to itself, image in the present of a discontinuous sum…No camera, no image or sequence of images can show these rhythms. One needs equally attentive eyes and ears, a head, a memory, a heart…(219-227)