Urban theory without an outside
Neil Brenner, “Urban theory without an outside,” in Neil Brenner (ed.), Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Berlin: Jovis, 2013, 14-35.
Urban theory has long been premised on the assumption that cities are distinctive, discrete and bounded types of settlement space that can be contrasted to putatively "non-urban" zones that lie outside or beyond them (suburbs, the countryside, the rural, the natural and so forth). In this introductory chapter to Implosions/Explosions, such entrenched assumptions are called into question. A new epistemology of urbanization is proposed in which there is no longer any "outside" to an emergent worldwide urban fabric. Building upon the work of theorists such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Henri Lefebvre, several conceptual tools, methods and clarifications are elaborated through which this variegated fabric of extended urbanization may be investigated across time and space. The genesis, structure and design of the book are briefly summarized, along with the broader research agendas that are currently under development in the Urban Theory Lab.