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About this book

This wide-ranging and state-of-the-art new edition reviews the classic contributions to understanding modern and post-modern cities, and is comprehensively updated to take account of the issues and concepts at stake in 21st century urban theory.

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Introduction

Abstract
Three major urban revolutions have transformed the world. The first saw the emergence of the premodern city between 11,000 and 5,000 years ago, in different parts of the world. Cities were hugely influential but small in size, tiny urban pinpricks in a vast rural ocean. The second urban revolution began in the late eighteenth century with the creation of the industrial city. An archipelago of industrial cities was established around the developed world. We are living in the middle of the third urban revolution, global in character, that involves rapid and large-scale urbanization, the increasing size of cities, the growth of megacities of over 10 million people and the creation of metropolitan urban regions spreading across the landscape. The urban history of the world is the move from tiny city islands to vast conurbations. In 1800 only three out of every hundred people in the world lived in cities; by 2013 it was more than one out of every two. More people now live in cities than in rural areas. We inhabit an increasingly urban and urbanizing world.
John Rennie Short

Theorizing the City in Time

Frontmatter

2. Theorizing the Premodern City

Abstract
Theories of the premodern city fall into three main categories: understanding the origins of cities, explaining the form of the preindustrial city and looking for intimations of present-day urban issues of sustainability and resilience in the urban past. I will look at each of these discourses in turn, although themes and ideas resonate across the three.
John Rennie Short

3. Theorizing the Modern City

Abstract
In 1927 two great classics of cinema, Metropolis and Berlin: Symphony of A City, were released. While the first is better known than the second, they share a similar preoccupation with understanding and representing the modern city.
John Rennie Short

4. Theorizing the Postmodern City

Abstract
For some, the postmodern film equivalent to the modern classic of Metropolis is Blade Runner (1982). The opening shots are overhead vistas of a dense city, cloaked in darkness. Combining film noir and science fiction genres, Blade Runner depicts a future world of mega-structure buildings, corrupt corporations and world-weary citizens, all inhabiting a cosmopolitan, bleak and polluted city where a perverted science has produced murderous humanoid robots. As in Metropolis, there is the same mad scientist, the same reference shots to giant tower blocks, the same cyborg figures and the same sense that the emotions, even feelings for a non-human, win out in the end. So what makes it postmodern?
John Rennie Short

Theorizing the City in Space

Frontmatter

5. The City as Network

Abstract
Cities do not exist in isolation; they form an integral part of various networks. Urban networks are not just spatial configurations; they are spatio-temporal arrangements that embody the spacing of time and the timing of space. There are various theories of urban networks in part based on the scale of the analysis. The focus has shifted from a concern with the local and national to a fascination with the global.
John Rennie Short

6. The Economic City

Abstract
The city is many things but one feature that attracts particular theoretical attention is its role as a site of economic activity. In this chapter I will look at the wide-angle perspective given by political economy as well as the more medium-shot angle on selected sectors.
John Rennie Short

7. The City of Difference

Abstract
The city, especially the large city, is a place where people with different characteristics share the same urban space. Space and place are not just containers of social difference — they define and undermine, reinforce and challenge it in subtle and complex connections. Urban space is socially structured and social difference is spatially embodied.
John Rennie Short

8. The Political City

Abstract
Politics in the broadest sense takes place in a variety of settings, including the home and the workplace. In this chapter, however, I will restrict my comments to the urban arena of formal politics and the associated informal connections. Theories of urban politics revolve around two fundamental questions: Who has power in the city, and what do they do with this power?
John Rennie Short

9. The Everyday City

Abstract
The city is more than just a mute collection of buildings, or the locus of bloodless economic activity. It is also the place of everyday experience. Here I look at four themes: the erotic city, traversing the city, the effects of urban design, and the city and emotions.
John Rennie Short

10. The City and Nature

Abstract
Over 5,000 years ago a sophisticated urban culture emerged in Mesopotamia. In cities such as Lagash, Ur and Uruk, irrigation, writing and the understanding of the solar system were first developed on a systematic basis. Around 4,300 years ago the cities were organized into the world’s first empire centered on the city of Akkhad. Standardized rules, weights and measures were introduced and artistic expression flourished. A complex urban culture was created. And then suddenly the empire collapsed. The once proud cities were laid low and eventually abandoned to the desert winds. Recent research suggests the cause was a severe drought. A mighty urban empire was brought to its knees by climate change — a reminder that the city, the most human of inventions, is precariously predicated upon ecological systems of water circulation and climate change.
John Rennie Short

11. Urban Imaginaries

Abstract
Geographical imaginaries are spatial orderings of the world that connect space and society, identity and place in active, constantly changing constructs that move back and forwards from representations of reality to effective constructors of reality. Nietzsche comes closest to the intent of the definition employed here when he noted that imaginaries encompass more than the real world: there are no facts, only interpretations, and, in his widely quoted — but impossible to source — words, ‘whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth’. Imaginaries fill out the world with hopes and wishes as well as facts and observation; they describe and explain as well as affect and influence. They embody, shape, inform and condense power relations in geographical worldviews. ‘Urban imaginaries’ are to do with the construction and representation of the city. In this chapter I will consider three possible urban imaginaries: the designed city, the ordered city and the utopian city. They are not so much distinct and different as connected and intertwined.
John Rennie Short

12. Marketing the City

Abstract
In 2011 officials from the Russian city of Yekaterinburg submitted a nomination to the Bureau of International Exhibitions to host Expo 2020. It was part of a marketing campaign to rebrand the city that also included a renaming. During the Soviet years the city was called Sverdlovsk, a military-industrial city closed to foreigners with movement into and out of the city strictly controlled. It was a closed city not only to visitors but also to discursive representations. It was a supposedly secret city, hidden from international view and global scrutiny. The city’s name change and Expo 2020 application embody a more general trend, the marketing of cities to achieve recognition, to change the internal and external image of the city and to connect to a global flow of positive urban images and upbeat urban imaginaries. Urban imaginaries sometimes lie deep or partially veiled. In the case of the marketed city, in rich contrast, the imaginaries are front and center.
John Rennie Short

13. The Future of Urban Theory: Directions and Intersections

Abstract
We live in exciting times. Cities are an important element of this excitement; they are on the very edge of the cusp of social and economic transformation. Deindustrialization and the global shift in manufacturing, the growth of global cities, increasing polarization, new technologies, a new urban geopolitics of war and terror, the rapid urban growth of the global South and a whole host of social and economic processes are reshaping urban hierarchies, rewriting urban structure and renewing urban identities. We are in the middle of the third urban revolution.
John Rennie Short
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