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

By Gary Bridge | Go to book overview

4

In the community

INTRODUCTION

In the last chapter we saw how 'urban rationality' limited the interactions on the crowded street to the fleeting contacts of strangers. In the classic literature on urbanisation these types of distanced responses were thought to be growing within more familiar communal and neighbourly relations as well. Drawing on Tonnies' (2001) famous distinction between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft there was an extended discussion about whether the process of urbanization led to traditional communal relations (typical of village life) being replaced by ties of association. Ties of community were assumed to be rich and multi-layered, ties of association were specializsed with a more diverse range of people being known only in singular ways. There were claims for a decline of community (Wirth 1938; Stein 1960), a resurgence of community (Gans 1962; Suttles 1968) and a community of limited liability (Webber 1964; Janowitz 1967).

I begin this chapter by arguing that Tonnies' original specification of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft is as much about different forms of rationality as it is about the nature of social ties. This perspective has received much less attention in the urban literature. Tonnies makes a distinction in terms of rationality between natural will (gemeinschaft) and rational will (gesellschaft). Natural will was intuitive and organic, rational will abstract and atomistic. 'Natural will is spontaneous and unreflecting, rational will was artificial, deliberative and geared to pre-meditative “rational calculation”' (Harris 2001: xvii). I argue that this distinction between rationalities is supplanted by an understanding of 'transactional rationality' that combines intuition with abstraction, shown in the productive tension between the 'I' and the 'me' of rationality. An idea of transactional rationality I believe starts to dissolve the long-standing distinctions between the implicit and intuitive rationality of the community, and the abstract, contractual rationality of the city as a whole. The community is not defined by a coherent rationality, or moral order. There are overlapping and conflicting networks of association that exist within the community and extend beyond it. Implicit, intuitive and speculative relations can be found within community and in the city as a

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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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