Chapter 9: Summary
This chapter argues that the scale of large cities in the world has expanded largely thereby making urban management complex. Thirteen global megacities have populations that exceed 10 million (Parker, 2004). However, most of these cities are found in less advanced or advancing nations in South America and Asia. Only Los Angeles, Osaka, New York, and Tokyo are located in advanced industrialized nations. This problem can be attributed to increased urban populations thereby leading to the emergence of ‘edge cities’ and urban corridors that span hundreds of miles along leading interstate highways (Parker, 2004). Such challenges are experienced by megacities present immense challenges to theories present by urban literature and other forms of metropolitan explanations.
Another important point raised in the chapter is the lack of meaning divide between the country and city in the developed world and less developed worlds. Amin and Thrift assert that the country is permeated by urban development to the extent that talking about a city as being a specific place becomes meaningless (Parker, 2004). According to their description, a city represents a spatially open phenomenon defined by different mobilities such as the flow of people and information from one place to the other. This definition is confused with Manuel Castell’s “space flows’, or ‘splintering urbanism’ by Graham and Marving or ‘transnational urbanism’ by Peter Smith (Parker, 2004). However, the new crop of urban research rejects the possibility of static functionalism in most 20th century urban but emphasizes on morphology and transitivity of the urban system.
The interaction between empirical analysis and theoretical speculations is the third aspect addressed in this chapter because they help in breaching the gaps regarding Anglo-American urbanism and continental European as identified in previous chapters (Parker, 2004). The new urban sociology breed of urban writers are concerned with racism, inequality, power, and contemporary capitalism. The city is also explained from the lens of post-colonial theories, post-structuralism, and discourse analysis. The chapter also identifies three major research agendas that concern the analysis of cities from the mirrors of urban theory.
The first explanation of cities using the urban lens is conventional but often misleading because a city is referred to as a ‘Third World City’. This explanation argues that the development of cities influenced by urban conditions is increasingly becoming diffused by western societies. As such, the study of ‘developing cities’ became a preserve for most regional experts specializing in anthropology, geography, and developmental economics (Parker, 2004). The transition from the machine age to the information involved major reconfiguration of urban environmental aspects and changes to urban organizations such as labor, capital, and space (Ghasemzadeh, 2013). This is evident because most developments in communications have risen because of concentrations in urban centers. Ultra-networked, highly capitalized, and information rich ‘space of flows’ are now more independent as compared to the past. This can be attributed to the development of enlightenment of civilization, growth of democracies, and expansion of cultures.
The synergy between urbanization and the growth of informational cities have contributed immensely to the development of capital. However, it has led to the worsening effects to the city such as environmental degradation and pollution. Sustainability of cities also involves a multiplicity of factors other than just the idea of caring for the physical environment (Grodach, 2013). Instead, cities involve the enhancement of the quality of life for future generations and in addition to implementing policies that enhance the regeneration of these cities.
The information city, as presented by Castells, is a critical aspect that can be used to explain fundamental changes and functions within cities. While capitalism is not changing at the same pace, in the same time, place, or uneven, the nature of capitalist development already existed. This assumption shows that changes will be different from one urban center to the next.
The study of social phenomena presents the greatest challenge to study of division of labor and intellectual aspects in urban centers. This can be attributed to increased development of a myriad of factors within cities (Parker, 2004). For instance, the increased number of professionals that have completed their higher education means than more individuals would want to reside in urban centers in order to realize their career objectives. Another challenge for the study of the social phenomenon in urban centers is the general absence of integral treatment of the practical aspect of the subject. The discipline aspect of the subject is more prioritized over the practical aspect. The end of the heroic era of social sciences in the late 1960s led to the declined studies of cities (Parker, 2004). The declined academic endeavors contributed to the declined study of cities.
Finally yet importantly, the chapter tries to explain urban experience using aesthetic, moral, and philosophical explanations that were available during the time. Culture, community, consumption, and conflicts play a fundamental role in defining the structure, urban shape, and urban complexities including the level of modernity within the city (Parker, 2004). The aspect of urban experience will continue to dominate urban discussions, particularly in determining the way in which cities are imagined and conceived. However, the chapter argues that development of theoretical vocabulary is necessary for understanding and defining the urban features that define cities.
Ghasemzadeh, B. (2013). Cross-Traditional Boundaries Of Urban Planning. Annals Of The University Of Oradea, Geography Series / Analele Universitatii Din Oradea, Seria Geografie, 23(1), 80-85.
Grodach, C. (2013). Cultural Economy Planning in Creative Cities: Discourse and Practice. International Journal Of Urban & Regional Research, 37(5), 1747-1765.
Parker, S. (2004). Urban theory and the urban experience: encountering the city: Chapter 9. Routledge