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

By Gary Bridge | Go to book overview

1

Reason in the city of difference

INTRODUCTION

The city has always been the home of reason. From early Greek civilization the city was the polis, the location of political democracy. The agora was the site of open and enquiring debate amongst rational citizens. Yet that space of reason also excluded difference: women and slaves did not count as rational citizens. This association of reason with exclusivity and the activities of an elite persisted into the modern era, encoded in the urban Master Plan and efficient bureaucracy. In the past century the idea of reason has been assailed from all directions - through a turn to the body, to language, to culture, to the unconscious. The way that difference is registered across all these realms is now of primary philosophical and social concern. That the city should be the home to difference is an aspiration in metaphor as well as practical politics - where cities pre-eminently include the claims of multicultural and polyvalent identities. Surely it is time to banish reason, with all its exclusivities and homogenizations, from the city, and to let difference in?


THE CITY AFTER POSTMODERNISM

In his paper heralding the era of postmodernity Frederick Jameson (1984) pointed to the Bonaventure Hotel, a structure of endlessly curved mirror glass that refracted the city around it but gave no sense of its own interiority, as iconic of the new age. The postmodern turn in urban studies denied that explanations of the city could rest on ultimate foundations of knowledge and opened up the space for a cultural politics of identity (sexuality, gender and ethnicity as well as class). It treated space as multiple and emergent and critiqued the desire to locate or fix space, in the same way poststructuralist theory sought to evade the fixing of meaning in the word. And yet its anti-foundationalism and emphasis on difference ultimately meant that the postmodern city was seen as all surface, an endless play of space and difference, an unmappable space, a posthuman environment in which human activities are just one small part of an overall assemblage of emergent effects that involve also non-human biological actants, machines and texts.

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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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