Theses on Urbanization

Neil Brenner, “Theses on Urbanization,” Public Culture, 25, 1, 2013, 86-114.

The urban has become a keyword of early twenty-first-century economic, political, and cultural discourse. But as its resonance has intensified in social science and in the public sphere, the conceptual and cartographic specificity of the urban has been severely blunted. Is there any future for a distinct field of urban theory in a world in which urbanization has been generalized onto a planetary scale? This article reflects on this state of affairs and outlines a series of theses intended to reinvigorate the theoretical framework of urban studies in relation to emergent forms of urbanization. Several conceptual distinctions — between categories of practice and categories of analysis, nominal essences and constitutive essences, and concentrated and extended urbanization—are proposed to inform possible future mappings of the planetary urban condition.

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