The promise of the city : space, identity, and politics in contemporary social thought / Kian Tajbakhsh.

by Tajbakhsh, Kian, 1962-Looking glass.

Publisher: Berkeley, Calif. ; University of California Press, [2001]Description: xv,229 pages ; 24cm.ISBN: 0520222776; 0520222784.Subject(s): Marxian school of sociologyLooking glass | Sociology, UrbanLooking glassNote: Bibliography: pages 215-226. - Includes index.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

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.

Bibliography: pages 215-226. - Includes index.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  • Preface (p. xi)
  • Introduction: Identity, Structure, and the Spaces of the City (p. 1)
  • 1. Marxian Class Analysis, Essentialism, and the Problem of Urban Identity (p. 35)
  • 2. Beyond the Functionalist Bias in Urban Theory (p. 72)
  • 3. Toward the Historicity and the Contingency of Identity (p. 113)
  • 4. Difference, Democracy, and the City (p. 162)
  • Notes (p. 185)
  • Bibliography (p. 215)
  • Index (p. 227)

Reviews provided by Syndetics


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

Author notes provided by Syndetics

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