Marxism and the City?
This introductory chapter starts by discussing the vast array of definitions and typologies of the city and the many specifications of the objects of urban studies (geography, sociology, politics, urban economics, etc.) that are symptomatic of uncertainty not only as to whether the social sciences possess the necessary tools to analyse cities, but also as to whether the city, both as an empirical and theoretical concept, constitutes a coherent entity. It is suggested that a critique is needed of the tradition in Western social theory that tries to apprehend the partial elements of the city within an approach that treats modernity in terms of differentiation, and that Marxism's claim that it can illuminate studies of the city is precisely because it uses wide‐spanning and comprehensive concepts and hypotheses about the shape of history. The next section of the chapter looks at the differences between Marxism and the differentiation approaches to cities in the company of Max Weber, whose analysis was grounded in the large‐scale processes that underpin urban development; it also discusses the views of some of his contemporaries. The final section examines the specific content of Marxist social theory/analysis that stresses social processes and relationships, and counterposes the differentiation problematic in the analysis of cities. It also discusses the urban omissions within Marxism, and work done later (in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, and David Harvey) that reinvigorated the urban conversation within Marxism.
Keywords: cities, David Harvey, differentiation problematic, Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, Marxism, Marxist social theory, Max Weber, social theory, urban development, urban omissions within Marxism, urban studies, Western social theory
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