Marxism and the City

Marxism and the City

Marxism and the City

Marxism and the City

Synopsis

Defeated in the East and discredited in the West, Marxism has broken down as an ideology as well as a guide to governance. For all its profound and infirming flaws as a total ensemble of understanding and rule, Marxism remains an important tool for comprehending and questioning key aspects of modernity. In this work, Katznelson critically analyzes the development of Marxist scholarship on cities in the last quarter century. He not only demonstrates how some of the most important weaknesses in Marxism as a social theory can be remedied by forcing it to seriously engage with cities and spatial concerns, but explains the significant shortcomings even of this "improved" Marxism. Katznelson explores how a Marxism that is open to engagement with other social-theoretical traditions can help illuminate our understanding of cities and the patterns of class and group formation that have characterized urban life in the West. Clearly written, this book will interest not only students and scholars of social and political theory, but those involved with sociology, geography and political science as well as anyone concerned with urban studies.

Excerpt

Defeated in the East and discredited in the West, and lacking in knowledgeable or popular support, Marxism has broken down as an ideology and as a guide to governance. Why publish a book about it in the early 1990s? and even if Marxism remains an important analytical tool and critical resource in countries that are capitalist and democratic, why treat Marxism and the city? Over the time-span of its development as social and practical theory Marxism has had relatively little to say about cities. Moreover, in the late twentieth century the city itself has become more diffuse and imprecise (like the 'cities' on the last pages of the Great Khan's atlas), even, perhaps, to the point of not constituting a meaningful category at all.

The most important reasons I have had for writing Marxism and the City pivot on two hunches. the first is that for all its profound and infirming flaws as a total ensemble of understanding and governance, Marxism remains a vital tool for understanding and raising questions about key aspects of modernity. Moreover, in the aftermath of the conclusive triumph of liberal citizenship and markets over competing conceptions, the analytical and critical dimensions of Marxism, albeit in a manner far more modest than Marxists once hoped, may now find a new significance as a source of intellectual and political friction. the second hunch is that some of the key weaknesses in Marxism as social theory can be remedied by forcing it to engage seriously with urban- spatial concerns, particularly with regard to the relationship between structure and agency that is at the heart of all useful social theory. in short, I think this extended speculative essay on Marxism and the city can help produce a more capable, if more limited and modest, contribution by Marxism to the analysis of important dimensions of social, political, cultural, and economic life.

In part, too, my reasons for tackling the manifestly peculiar . . .

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