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

By Gary Bridge | Go to book overview

6

At work and home in the urban economy

RATIONALITY, CULTURE AND THE URBAN ECONOMY

Economic rationality rules the city. From the political left or the right, as a Marxist or a liberal, it is the imperatives of instrumental economic rationality that have the greatest impact on the built form, physical and social divisions and the pace and pulse of the city. Yet the character of this rationality is strangely abstract, separate from the people and the cultures it makes wealthy or impoverishes. In the neoclassical model of urban form people are reduced to consumers who bid for land in the same way as firms do. In Marxist urban studies it is the logic of capital that takes precedence; people and cultures take their form from economic imperatives.

There are possibilities of resistance to the overall economic logic. As we have seen in previous chapters resistance has been attributed to seemingly non-rational spaces (such as of the body) or sites of alternative rationalities, such as the communicative rationality that Habermas proposes. Habermas's alternative rests on a sharp dichotomy between strategic and communicative rationality and their respective spheres of operation in 'the system' and 'the lifeworld'. One is where economic rationality operates and the other has the vestiges of the rationality that underpins everyday language use to establish understanding and is not concerned with instrumental gain. In this perspective 'culture' has been seen as being separate from the economy, home to more traditional and important shared values and loyalties beyond the narrow acquisitiveness of economic rationality. Understandings of urban change that privilege such aspects of city life as lifestyle and culture have tended to be distinct from economic readings.

There is a growing trend to read the economic and the cultural together. An example is where capital is seen to absorb culture, such as in Sharon Zukin's compelling account of the transition from garment factories to artist lofts to gentrified 'loft living' in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (Zukin 1982) and her broader reading of the role of culture in urban economies (Zukin 1995). Here the relationship is one of appropriation rather than interpenetration: the transition from one logic to another. Culture is used in the advertising and place marketing of cities (Kearns and Philo 1993). In this

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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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