Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Communicative Action, and Contemporary Urbanism

Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Communicative Action, and Contemporary Urbanism

Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Communicative Action, and Contemporary Urbanism

Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Communicative Action, and Contemporary Urbanism

Synopsis

In the modernist city rationality ruled and subsumed difference in a logic of identity. In the postmodern city, reason is abandoned for an endless play of difference. Reason in the City of Difference poses an alternative to these extremes by drawing on classical American philosophical pragmatism (and its contemporary developments in feminism and the philosophy of communication) to explore the possibilities of a strengthening and deepening of reason in the contemporary city. This is a transactional rationality based on communication, rather than cognition, involving bodies as much as minds, and non-discursive, as well as discursive competences. It is a rationality that emerges out of difference and from within the city, rather than over and above it.Using pragmatist philosophy and a range of suggestive examples of urban scholarship, this fascinating book offers a new, alternative reading of the city.

Excerpt

Contemporary urban theory seems divided between homogenizing circulations of power and increasingly complex, social relations of difference. In recent social theory rationality is cast as the agent of power, be it economic, disciplinary or discursive. What I do in this book is suggest how the city of difference may play host to an alternative form of rationality - transactional rationality - which emerges from the communicative potentials of a more networked and distantiated urban space.

An appreciation of transactional rationality comes from some recent developments in a philosophy that influenced some of the earliest systematic theorizations of the modern city through the Chicago School - that is, American pragmatism. Contemporary feminist pragmatism and pragmatist theories of communication draw on the insights of the classical pragmatists, and especially the work of John Dewey. This work includes a broad idea of communicative action and rationality (discursive and non-discursive, aesthetic as well as instrumental, speculative as well as conventional) involving bodies as much as minds (or rather body-minds) that has emancipatory potential (as well as reproducing disciplinary norms). In the structure of the book I explore the traditional and non-traditional sites of rationality in the city: On the body (Chapter 2); On the street (Chapter 3); In the community (Chapter 4); In the public realm (Chapter 5); At work and home in the urban economy (Chapter 6); In city hall (Chapter 7); and conclude with Cosmopolitan reason and the global city (Chapter 8). In all these sites I suggest how transactional rationality opens up alternative spaces of communication involving ideas of bodying, communicative excess, hybridity, emergent publics, pragmatic planning as argumentation, and an idea of cosmopolitanism as situational. All these realms show how rationality is implicated within difference in the city.

Throughout the book I draw on a range of historical and contemporary examples of urban scholarship on western cities that I think can also be deployed to illustrate the spaces of transactional rationality. From the work of the women professionals in the early settlement houses, to an analysis of civic clubs and social centres in US cities, to the emergence of gay identity in New York to Mardi Gras in Sydney and New Orleans to my own work on

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