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

By Gary Bridge | Go to book overview

3

On the street

In the previous chapter we considered the rhythms of bodying as part of the broadest conception of communicative rationality in the city. In this chapter we begin by limiting ourselves to the narrowest idea of rationality. It is the instrumental, highly cognitive and strategic version that is assumed to dominate in urban society. This form of urban rationality is most evident in relations between strangers on a city street. I suggest that even in this restricted situation strategic rationality is leaky, and suggestive of wider and deeper communicative repertoires. Even where action is instrumental and strategic, that is not necessarily concerned with values, the need for strategic advantage tends to make participants open to communicative signals in excess of that directed by the situation of the encounter itself. Even in this limited case there is a tendency towards communicative expansion. Communicative expansion can push against the established norms of interaction, the conformity to which Mead called the 'generalized other' or the 'me' of interaction. This is the rationality of expectations governed by the generalized other of the community.

In contrast there are the effects of the historical agent that also expands communication in different ways. This is the manifestation of the 'I' rather than the 'me' and it represents what I call the more speculative side of rationality. Speculative rationality is often evident at the edges of interaction and enunciation. Walking and encounters on the street can also be at the edges of communication. This is shown by Anderson's (1990) famous study of street relations in poor a African-American neighbourhood, next to a gentrified white district in an Eastern American city and which I discuss in detail. De Certeau's (1984) work is an intriguing investigation of these edges of communication, which I explore in the second section of the chapter. The rest of the chapter is concerned with exploring examples of communication on the street and the creation of new meanings in the city. I compare the examples of communication in the transgressive space of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Sydney. But whereas Sydney Mardi Gras is confronting and transformative (Bruce et al. 1997), in New Orleans Mardi Gras transgressive acts (such as disrobing in public) merely reinforce prevailing gender norms (Shrum and Kilburn 1996; Jankowiak and White

-39-

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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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