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

By Gary Bridge | Go to book overview

Preface

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

-ix-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Reason in the City of Difference 1
  • 2 - On the Body 15
  • 3 - On the Street 39
  • 4 - In the Community 65
  • 5 - In the Public Realm 85
  • 6 - At Work and Home in the Urban Economy 105
  • 7 - In City Hall 125
  • 8 - Cosmopolitan Reason and the Global City 147
  • References 159
  • Index 172
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