cultural, political and social importance. The network of global cities that has emerged is dominated by a small number of major global cities.
Fourth, the emergence of global cities has been accompanied by the rise of a new social inequality: social polarisation. This is characterised by a growing gap between a large and increasingly wealthy group of people in highly skilled, secure employment, and a significant group of low-income, low-skilled people who are either perennially unemployed or in insecure employment.
Fifth, there is the growing importance of community – for two reasons. First, governments are demanding individual self-sufficiency and the establishment of strong communities for providing social support in times of need. Second, community – as the geographic area immediately around the home – is becoming increasingly important in terms of the way people define quality of life. There is a growing emphasis on the importance of a safe and attractive physical (built and natural) environment, and a community that provides extensive local opportunities for consumption. Furthermore, the emergence of new occupational and class structures has created new communities, the most striking arguably being the inner-city ('gentrified') community, an area that is now middle class but was previously working class.
Sixth, and related to the previous point, cities are becoming increasingly important as places for the consumption of fun. This is particularly apparent in the rapid growth of urban areas exclusively devoted to tourism.
Seventh, all of these developments have together effected a new urban politics, this being most apparent in debates over social capital and the 'Third Way'. However, it is also evident in government's attempts at implementing policies to achieve sustainable urban development.
Finally, the physical transformation of cities over the past quarter of a century, including the growth of new types of urban areas, has meant that the built environment today is imbued with strikingly different visual meanings from the built environments of the past. This outcome, in turn, has encouraged a number of urban sociologists to examine the symbolic meanings carried by the new built forms, relative to those of the past. Of course, this not a new perspective in urban sociology, for it was a component (albeit small) of early urban sociology, but it is an approach that has been neglected for decades.
Which of these eight stances will come to play a dominant role in Australian urban and regional sociology, or even whether other new developments will emerge, is yet to be seen. Either way, a new Australian urban and regional sociology is being formulated, one which – inevitably, in these global times – is tied to an international renaissance of the field.
Alexander, M., R. Nicholas and J.Walter. 1984. The Queensland capitalist class: Spectator or actor in regional differentiation. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology 20:332–49.
Aungles, S. 1979. The social consequences of industrial development and decline. Journal of Australian Political Economy 4:38–53.