Tag Archives: social production of space

Norris, P. (2001). _Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide_. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Pippa Norris, Phd in Politics from the London School of Economics, is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard University. She compares democracy, elections and public opinion, political communications, and gender politics. She has also served recently as Director of the Democratic Governance Group, United Nations Development Programme in New York.

Pippa Norris views the digital divide, “shorthand for any and every disparity within the online community” (4) three ways. The “global divide” connotes the industrialized and developing world’s disparate Internet access. The “social divide” is a national measure showing the chasm between the information rich and poor. The “democratic divide” exists online and signifies the extent to which people do or do not use the Internet for civic participation, mobilization, and deliberative democracy.

The global divide persists because of uneven economic development efforts throughout the world. Internet access is just another way in which the world’s poorest countries lag behind its richest. Wiring the world matters because not doing so “is likely to reinforce the economic growth and productivity of rich nations while leaving the poorest ones farther behind” (234).

Norris’ research suggests that main issue of the social divide in Internet access exists “in broader patterns of socioeconomic stratification that influence the distribution of household consumer durables and participation in other common forms of information and communication technologies, as well as the digital world” (234). This social divide will not close as Internet access becomes increasingly ubiquitous. Ubiquity will not wipe away prevailing social inequalities: education, income, and occupational status still matter, even in countries with richer integration of the new technologies (e.g. Sweden and the Netherlands).

Finally, the democratic divide. “Cyber-optimists” hope the Internet will allow for new modes of engagement, weaken if not take down entirely barriers to engagement, and “transform worthy but dull civic dross into democratic gold — generating a more participatory, egalitarian, and deliberative form of public affairs” (236). “Cyber-pessimists,” on the other hand, say whatever opportunities the Internet holds, it does so well within the confines of prevailing political interests — “politics as usual.” Norris rejects both the Hooray! and Bah! positions and comes up with three primary conclusions:

  1. Yes, the Net is a social/political construction (point, cyber-pessimists), and political institutions have been pretty conservative in terms of use. [NB: This is before the  Obama/Biden 2008 campaign’s savvy articulation]. Most communication has remained unilateral.
  2. Also, the Net isn’t capable of mobilizing the disengaged. “In this regard, the Internet will largely serve to reinforce the activism of the activists” (238). However, Norris does find evidence that the online community in the United States “is more tolerant of alternative lifestyles, more sympathetic toward new social movements, more secular toward moral values, more liberal in general on the social issues although more pro-business on the economic agenda” (238).
  3. Finally, the advances of digital technologies and knowledge economy are likely to benefit smaller parties and fringe movements, though the Internet has not created even conditions for all parties involved.
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Miles, M. (1997). The City (Ch.1), The Contradictions of Public Art (Ch.4), and Art in Urban Development (Ch.5). In _Art, Space, and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures_. London: Routledge.

Malcolm Miles, PhD, Architecture from Oxford Brookes University, is Professor at Plymouth University’s School of Architecture, Design and Environment. He chairs the Culture-Theory-Space research group and researches the intersection of critical theory, contemporary visual culture, and urbanism.

Miles here aims to undo the nostalgic view of public art, particularly transhistorical modern art, which, rejecting context, helps to “project a compensatory fantasy of the present which abolishes conflict” (88), including — especially — those of race, gender, and class. Genuine public art should reflect that there are numerous discrete publics, and that the public realm evokes more than urban sites.

“The reconfiguration of a city introduces, in treating its existing fabric as a contourless ground on which to inscribe a new design, the possibility of a radical break with history…. perhaps the urge for a new city derives from a desire to purge the unclean, abolishing the mess and complexities of the past” (23).

He levels, following Zukin (1995) and Deutsche (1991), an attack against using art for redevelopment purposes, particularly the prosperous 80s. The essential question, linking art, urban policy, and the predictable gentrification is, Who controls the process? Miles holds that Percent for Art projects ignore the difference between “urban development” and “urban regeneration.” The latter evokes something more sustainable and strives for social justice. The former, by contrast, too often means capitulating to developer interests. Saskia Sassen (1996) worries about cultural districts/centers because reflect middle-class interests and flatten difference. Yet, per Sassen, “A large city is a space of difference” (as cited on 118). Again, whose public art is this? Who’s in control? Because even though they’re agents of gentrification, it’s rarely the artists who feel empowered on their way out.

“Developers do not develop in order to construct the ‘city beautiful,’ they construct the city beautiful in order to conceal the incompatibility of their development with a free society” (130).

For Miles, “art” and “public” didn’t jibe in the 19th century and they still don’t today, and he contends the art-and-architecture trope is a framework for conventional, male-dominated public art. A sculpture in a plaza isn’t necessarily any more approachable than hallowed museum galleries. Per museum director Kathy Halbreich (1984), “Public art should not be restricted to artworks placed in public plazas but should encompass relationships and dialogues between artists and the public” (as cited on 94). But, per feminist art historian Arlene Raven (1989), “the new public-spirited art can…critique…the uneasy relationship among artworks, the public domain, and the public” (as cited on 100). (Thus, harking Helguera (2011), the community member’s input is key.)

Finally, Miles quotes Suzanne Lacy’s (1995) Mapping the Terrain proposal for new, socially active modes of art practice.

“An alternative history of today’s public art could read through the development of various vanguard groups, such as feminist, ethnic, Marxist, and media artists and other activities. They have a common interest in leftist politics, social activism, redefined audiences, relevance for communities (particularly marginalized ones), and collaborative methodology” (as cited on 101).

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Couldry, N. & McCarthy, A. (2004). Introduction: Orientations: Mapping mediaspace. In _MediaSpace: place, scale, and culture in a media age_, N. Couldry and A. McCarthy , eds. London and New York: Psychology Press.

Anna McCarthy, PhD, Northwestern University, is Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University. She is co-editor of Social Text, Ambient Technology, and The Citizen Machine. She researches television history, sponsored film, education film, history of technology, material culture, cultural policy, governmentality, trauma, biopolitics. (See other entry for Couldry’s bio.)

Couldry and McCarthy coin the term “MediaSpace” to convey how media and space are “the obverse of each other” (1). Like the built environment, MediaSpace is a social construction, dominated by power ideologies, and under the pressure of “flux, transience, and unmanageability” (3). They propose an interdisciplinary concept to capture MediaSpace’s nuances: anthropology, cultural studies, urban sociology, urban studies.

Evoking the importance of context, they remark that, at the heart of the book, is an investigation into “how media-caused entanglements of scale are variously experienced and understood in particular places” (8).

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Staeheli, L.A. and Mitchell, D. (2008). _The People’s Property? Power, Politics and the Public_. New York: Routledge.

Lynn Staeheli, PhD Geography, University of Washington, is Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University. Along with public space, she researches citizenship, political activism, and immigration. (See other entry for Mitchell’s bio.)

This book is an expanded publication of earlier journal articles detailing five case studies that each reflects various iterations of public space (broadly defined) and examines the interrelations of “public space, property, politics, power in the construction of publicity” (xxv). The case studies discuss:

  1. permit requirements for protests in Washington, D.C.: the regulation of place, time, and manner of political demonstration
  2. property law in Santa Fe Plaza: the plaza as both a civic property and set of social relationships, and the governments’ contradictory roles of landlord and sovereign
  3. the public redevelopment for private interests and subsequent delegitimizing of the homeless population in downtown — the “neoliberalization of the city” (71)
  4. community spaces (and thus controlled) in private malls in Syracuse (“community” is an unwieldy term)
  5. the public-ization of public property in NYC gardens (Fraser’s [1992] subaltern groups and their “rescue” from Giuliani by land trusts, though they themselves are under no obligation to create space for mobilization)

Following Weintraub (1995), Staeheli & Mitchell conclude the book with two chapters that ask, What is the public? and What are the ‘regimes of publicity’? They assert you must look at property relationships to comprehend public space fully, as well as understand that the public nature is constantly in flux. The “differentiations of property are productive of differentiations within people” (138); and publicity itself is “an exercise of power” (141), therefore the struggle will never be resolved.

A regime of publicity comprises the “prevailing system of power” (152), characterized by the intersection of these three dimensions:

  1. property, which they contend the contest of which is not discussed nearly enough in the literature
  2. social norms and community membership, or civitas, that’s based on the notion of a public sphere and the Lefebvrian (1996) notion that the assertion of norms and community bear with them the potential for radical democratic remaking of the city
  3. legitimation, the social norm-hewing and normalized outcome of which ensures the regime is in accord with the prevailing concepts of publicity.

In all, we must look at “actually existing [Fraser, 1992] public spaces” (154) to understand the structural composition of regimes of publicity.

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Purcell, R. (2011). Community development and everyday life. _Community Development Journal_, 47(2):266-281.

Rod Purcell is Senior Lecturer and Director of Community Engagement at the University of Glasgow. His research interests include: visual sociology with emphasis on globalization and cultural shifts; urban social theory; psychogeography; community development and education methodologies; community development evaluation methodologies; and photography as a tool for personal and community development.

United Kingdom Occupational Standards for Community Development say: “Community development is a long-term value based process which aims to address imbalances in power and bring about change founded on social justice, equality, and inclusion” (as cited on 266). This process encourages individuals to collaborate and (1) identify their demands and hopes, (2) act to influence policies affecting them, (3) enhance their own lives, communities, and societies as a whole.

However, there are problems. For one, community development is locally based and yet part of national programming. For another, while community development worker’s rhetoric includes the topics of social change, power relation reconfiguration, social cohesion, and attenuation of exclusionary forces, a 2003 survey demonstrated these workers lacked the theoretical training that might encourage these anti-establishment, pro-radical practices. As such, says Purcell, community development is a “depoliticized activity of the state” (267).

Current theoretical perspectives espouse Antonio Gramsci’s and Paolo Freire’s respective contributions. The latter argues for the development of critical consciousness, and the abandonment of traditional “banking” teaching that separates the knowledge of the teacher and the learner. Gramsci’s view holds hegemony as an explanation for working class interest in both revolution and fascism. Class struggles are ideological as much as they are economic, and true changes come through human social activity. Like Freire, he believed in praxis and that all people had the capacity to be intellectuals: “true education is something that people do for themselves with the help of others, not something that is done to them by experts” (269). Unlike Freire, Gramsci is embedded in a Marxian Europe and cultural conflict. Freire’s post-structural developing world drives his interest in popular culture.

But, harking back to Lefebvre (1991), space matters for all of this. Writers about everyday life include Michel de Certeau (1984), Guy Debord (1983), Henri Lefebvre (1991, 2003, 2008), and Raoul Vaneigem (2006). Certeau’s everyday response to hegemonic power structures, “strategies” and “tactics,” aim to upend authority structures. They are spontaneous and often performative, even transgressive. And such activities include tagging, drug use…all tricky for community development workers.

What kinds of transgressions should community development workers support? Purcell likes the dérive, documenting the SI’s revision of Baudelaire’s and Benjamin’s flâneur, wherein participants take purposeless/purposive walks through the urban landscape.

The dérive is good for “producing literature…art, photography, video, street performance, sociological study, social history” (276) and is so a valuable tool in the community development worker’s and citizen’s kit.

The community development worker can ask a series of place- and power-based questions, much like the basic questions taught in media literacy courses. However, adapting these findings from dérives into policies and practices is a thornier task. Purcell says Freire is helpful here in that discussion with locals about the dérives‘ findings might result in strategic discourse that envisions a better life, perhaps methods towards it.

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Logan, J.R. and Molotch, H.L. (2007). The Social Construction of Cities (Ch.1); Places as Commodities (Ch.2); The City as a Growth Machine (Ch.3). In _Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place_. 20th anniversary ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.

John Logan, PhD Sociology from UC Berkeley, is Professor of Sociology at Brown University. Prior to this post he was Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Administration at the University of Albany, SUNY; Director of the Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research; and Director of the Urban China Research Network. His current research includes the sociospatial implications of Hurricane Katrina; immigrant routes to political incorporation; immigration, ethnicity, and the family in the early 20th century; group boundaries in early 20th century New York and Chicago.

Harvey Molotch, PhD Sociology from the University of Chicago, is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, Sociology at New York University. His areas of interest include: urban development and political economy; the sociology of architecture, design, and consumption; environmental degradation; and mechanisms of interactional inequalities.

The market, just like space, is a social construction. Logan and Molotch seek to understand the tension between “use and exchange value in cities” (2). Component to this is a move away from the neoclassical economist and the Marxian determinist perspectives, and toward an “authentic urban sociology” (49). For the former, its public choice model “trivializes” (42) sociospatial inequalities by chalking them up to matters of choice, and the latter’s missing explorations into human ecology and community studies.

“Places are not simply affected by the institutional maneuvers surrounding them. Places are those machinations” (43).

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Lofland, L.H. (1985). _A World of Strangers: Order and Action in Urban Public Space_. New York: Waveland Press.

Lyn Lofland, PhD Sociology from UC San Francisco, is currently the research professor of sociology at UC Davis. She has worked throughout the UC system, as well as the University of Michigan, over the years. Her interests are in community and urban sociology, social interaction and sociology, and qualitative methods.

Celebrating the “blessed indifference” (vii) of the city and her “promiscuity” (x) of sources, Lofland sets out to understand the city’s peculiar social situation” (3). The book has two themes: first, that the “social psychological condition for urban life cannot be taken for granted” (176), and second, the city has created the “cosmopolitan,” who is able to know others categorically (177). Appearential order is determined by traditional power structures, spatial ordering is likewise enforced. We need to have an attitude of “social psychological realism about the very unheavenly creatures who will be its [the city’s] inhabitants” (177).

In Part I, Lofland uses a historical lens to examine the preindustrial city, the early industrial city, and finally, the modern city. Throughout history, there have been biophysical, structural, and temporal limitations to encountering strangers. We have categorical and personal knowing, but the preindustrial and modern cities are different for their emphases (not exclusive relationships with) on appearential and spatial order of strangers, respectively. The preindustrial city had “mixed public space use” (34) and a “spatial integration of persons” (41). The rich and poor were not so segregated spatially, so there was an “overt heterogeneity of populace” (44), distinguishable by costuming, body markings, and language. There was also spatial ordering of particular groups of people and activities, but to a lesser extent.

The petite bourgeoisie emerged in the early industrial city, redistributing (not transferring altogether) political and economic power. In addition, rural immigration, mass-produced clothing, transit/communications technologies increased/proliferated. It was the petite bourgeoisie, who, most insecure and most harassed, that set up zoning, policing, and other instruments of spatial ordering so the emerging class could protect itself. The modern city has: specialized public space use (of activities and persons), a “masked heterogeneity of populace” (79), so now we link “who” with “where.” People refer to places’ identities, their ambiance.

In Part II, Lofland turns to urban public behavior, “city dwellers in action” (93). Urban know-how matters. We need to know how to code raw data to acquire meanings re: appearances, locations, behaviors. We acquire skills, learning: how to dress, where to go, how to act. We can privatize public space through “locational transformations” (118). We create home territories, urban villages (concentrated and dispersed), and traveling packs. In home territories, we see the casual knowledge of customers, the familiar knowledge of patrons, and intimate knowledge of residents. The public space employee and colonizer use these sites for personal purposes, and express “backstage language behavior” (Goffman, 1959), and have proprietary attitudes about those sites. Employers have less authority than colonizers, but not camouflaged colonizers, and less still than pensioners, who evoke the authority of Jacobs’ (1961) eyes on the street.

Spaces are still appropriated for non-colonizer use, “thus the urbanite’s mental map is relatively unstable” (131). The urban village is the “home territory writ large” (132) and might encompass the full life of a dweller. Importantly, they are not hermetically sealed; no place exists without outside intrusion.

Dispersed villages are created through technology. Here, Lofland means the car, which allows one to “encounter” and “avoid” (136) the city at once. Creating mobile homes through traveling packs is another method for avoiding the city, because people relate to one another (with greater bravado) rather than the city itself.

Chapter 7 is about fear and the privatization of public space: the “cooperative presence of others…allows the transformation in the character of the location itself to occur” (140). The loner can’t change the public space but can change her “social psychological relationship to that space” (ibid). People undertake symbolic transformation when they behave differently in public, such as when they enter a new space or sit alone.

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Lefebvre, H. (2003). Urban Form. In _The Urban Revolution_. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

Henri Lefebvre, originator of the term “right to the city,” was a French sociologist, Marxist scholar, and philosopher. He was a member of the French Communist Party (until later he became one of its biggest detractors), professor of philosophy, member of the French Resistance, an outspoken critic of Stalin, founding theorist of COBRA and the Situationist International, to name a few. His controversial, sometimes unfashionable views influenced 20th century philosophy, sociology, geography, political science, and literary criticism. Lefebvre’s understanding that space is in fact a social production pervades nearly all contemporary urban theory. It is hard to overestimate Lefebvre’s impact.

“What does the city create? Nothing. It centralizes creation. And yet it creates everything” (117).

The essence, to Lefebvre, is the urban phenomenon’s own centrality, specifically as it intersects with what makes or unmakes it. This potential is “the meaning of urban space-time” (116) and the concomitant vantage is a top-down consolidation, rendering it, through “confusion” (ibid), perceptible and revealed. The city is “associated with the logic of form and with the dialectic of content (with the differences and contradictions of content)” (119). Structures are both “morphological” and “sociological” (116).

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Augé, M. (1995). _Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity_. London and New York: Verso.

French anthropologist Marc Augé has had a career in three stages, moving from African research, to European, then global. This particular book, first an essay, describes first “place” in the anthropological sense — it is the link between space and social organization. “Place” gives us context (Dourish, 2001), and so long as a social connection can be made there, a space becomes place.

Augé’s non-places, by contrast, are the places where people move (highways), wait to move (airline terminals), or stay as they move (hotel rooms) around the world in this globalized world. These are the places people flow through as they operate on behalf of Castells’ (1989, 1996) spaces of flows, and, per Castells, these places often look like each other on purpose. One’s stay is too quick, too ephemeral, the purpose too uni-functional, and the place really too generic for any substantive experience to take place. Individuals may travel the globe via these non-places, but they don’t really see it.

“A paradox of non-place: a foreigner lost in a country he does not know (a ‘passing stranger’) can feel at home there only in the anonymity of motorways, service stations, big stores or hotel chains” (106).

Not exactly non-places, but similar, are Walzer’s (1986) “single-minded spaces.” In “Pleasures and Costs of Urbanity,” Walzer explains single-minded spaces are those design by city planners or entrepreneurial corporatists with a single thing in mind, “and used by similarly single-minded citizens” (ibid, 470). However, his condemnation, like Augé’s, is not absolute. These places serve purposes. However, the problem for Walzer is that “open-minded spaces,” those designed for multiple uses, anticipated and impromptu, and which contribute to culture-making, lose ground to the single-minded ones. Like Augé, he wants us to notice the difference.

“In the concrete reality of today’s world, places and spaces, places and non-places intertwine and tangle together. The possibility of non-place is never absent from any place. Place becomes a refuge to the habitué of non-places (who may dream, for example, of owning a second home rooted in the depths of the countryside). Places and non-places are opposed (or attracted) like the words and notions that enable us to describe them. But the fashionable worlds — those that did not exist thirty years ago — are associated with non-places” (107).

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Hayden, D. (1995). _The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History_. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Dolores Hayden, M.Arch from Harvard University, is Professor of Architecture and American Studies at Yale University. She is the president of the Urban History Association; a former Guggenheim, Rockefeller, NEH, NEA, and ACLS/Ford fellow; has taught at MIT, Berkeley, and UCLA; was founder and president of The Power of Place in Los Angeles from 1984 to 1991; and has published six award-winning books about the character and design of American cities.

Hayden’s is a feminist architectural historian’s perspective, brought beautifully and thoughtfully to bear in The Power of Place. In it she examines the terrain of urban landscape theory and history, as well as tells her story of negotiating the terrain of urban practice, sharing various projects undertaken by The Power of Place non-profits arts and humanities group. She believes we must claim the “entire urban cultural landscape as an important part of American history” (111) and that urban preservation “must emphasize public processes and public memory” (ibid).

“It all comes back to community process” (75).

She asserts that cultural geography, architecture, and social history intersect to create the history of cultural landscape, the production of space and human patterns — cultural identity, social history, and urban design are inextricably linked. Hayden follows Lefebvre (1991), who connected the sense of place felt in the cultural landscape (e.g. biological reproduction [body], reproduction of the labor force [housing], and reproduction of social relations [public space of the city] to the political economy. More, the territorial histories are based concretely and critically in race and gender, as space shapes and constrains social reproduction.

Place is especially important because studying it encourages a reclamation of history and recovery of memory. She advocates for architectural preservation, vernacular especially, because those sites are often where conflicts over power were undertaken, “counter-space.” In addition, she argues for environmental protection and landscape preservation, and public art for public memory. Relevant public art engages the historical and material, and has a “new kind of relationship to the people whose history is being represented” (76).

Hayden speaks of the invisible Angelenos, and the workers’ landscapes and livelihoods. She recounts the stories of and The Power of Place projects for: Biddy Mason, the Latina union leaders of the Embassy Auditorium, and Little Tokyo on First Street. She believes in the power of “shared authority” (Michael Frisch, 1990), and explains the rewards for undertaking the difficult tasks of collaboration for historical preservation:

  • urban history is the richest source for historical study
  • attaching history into city design is quite inexpensive
  • designation of incredibly important places obviates any need to separate out constituencies into academic categories — all are welcome.

“Any historic place, once protected and interpreted, potentially has the power to serve as a lookout for future generations who are trying to plan the future, having come to terms with the past” (247).

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Dourish, P. and Bell, G. (2007). The infrastructure of experience and the experience of infrastructure: meaning and structure in everyday encounters with space. _Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design_, 34:414-430.

Genevieve Bell, PhD in Anthropology from Stanford, is Director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research. As a cultural anthropologist, she studies how various cultures use technology. In addition to this article, she and Paul Dourish co-wrote Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (2011). [See other Dourish entry for his bio.]

What happens when computation leaves the desktop and enters our daily practice in the “third age” (Weiser, 1991, as cited on 414) ubiquitous computing (aka “pervasive computing,” “context-aware computing”)? In this context, computer devices penetrate all our actions, so “though each device may be small, the overall effect to be achieved through the combination of hundreds of thousands of devices…can be massive” (415).

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Castells, M. (1983). _The City and the Grassroots: A Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements_. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press.

Arguing upfront that sociologists and urban studies experts know much about what constitutes city form and the city’s problems, but nothing about the cause of social change, Castells sets about elaborating “a provisional, theoretical framework” (xvi) of how social change happens. Taking a express departure from Marxism’s preoccupation with production, he reasserts the city is a social social product and a site for collective consumption. Moreover, its innovations generally arise from grassroots efforts, the most successful among them, “urban social movements.”

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Castells, M. (1977). _The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach_. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Manuel Castells is University Professor and the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Community Technology and Society at USC. He is also Research Professor at the Open University of Catalonia; Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley. He was born in Spain in 1942 and grew up in Valencia and Barcelona. He studied law and economics at the Universities of Barcelona and Paris. He received a doctorate in sociology and a doctorate in human sciences from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. He moved to the United States in 1979.

In what is considered to be the first fully articulated neo-Marxist critique of the socio-political, economic, and spatial organization of cities, Castells begins by arguing that ideological perspectives shift proper focus away and displace “the axis of contradictions” (p. 430). For a full appraisal of the various urban phenomena, Castells uses historical materialism not as a perspective, but as a schema. He begins by establishing a historical account, distinguishing developed world cities’ formations from those post-colonial, dependent economies and socialist ones, as well as case studies of North American cities and Paris to distinguish between their unique formations.

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