Cities are back in town : the US/Europe comparison

7 décembre 2009

Cahier N°20

Cities are back in town : the US/Europe comparison  par Patrick Le Galès , Directeur de Recherche, CNRS, CEE and Mathieu Zagrodzki , Doctorant, politique publique, CEVIPOF, Sciences Po

From the integrated medieval European cities surrounded by walls, to the colonial Boston or the rapidly growing Phoenix, Las Vegas, or London South East, the category “city” comprises different density, borders and dimensions for instance : the material city of walls, squares, houses, roads, light, utilities, buildings, waste, and physical infrastructure ; the cultural city in terms of imaginations, differences, representations, ideas, symbols, arts, texts, senses, religion, aesthetics, the politics and policies of the city in terms of domination, power, government, mobilisation, welfare, education ; the social city of riots, ethnic, economic or gender inequalities, everyday life and social movements ; the economy of the city : division of labour, scale, production, consumption, trade….. Urban areas are robust beasts. Despite ups and downs, contrasting evolution over time, most of them have considerable amount of resources which have been accumulated and which, in due course, may be mobilised for new period of growth. This does not exclude period or sequences of rapid changes, but not so often.

Comparing US and European cities is a classic exercise of urban sociology. Urban sociology has long privileged analytical models of the convergence of cities, either based on models of urban ecology inspired by writers from the University of Chicago, or in the context of the Marxist and neo-Marxist tradition that privileges the decisive influence of uneven development, and capitalism on social structures, modes of government, and urban policies. This tradition is well alive and constitutes an important body of research about global cities (Sassen, 1991), metropolis and flows (Castells, 1996). This implicit convergence is massively at play in the post modernist representation of fragmented incoherent urban space widespread all over the world (Allen and Soja, 1996). In theoretical terms, if the urban is growing everywhere, there are different types of urban models of cities which may differentiate, being different types of social, political, cultural, economic structures. That does not mean that all those models will not follow the same path to some extent. The comparison between European and American cities in this chapter is done in that spirit…Download the cahier N°20

Mise à jour: 18 octobre 2006.

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