This Workshop aims at reconsidering political concepts commonly applied in analysing cities’ socio-political dynamics. Our guiding rationale is that not only do the meanings of fundamental political concepts (e.g., equality, liberty, and democracy) change over time, but they are also contingent upon the spatial context and political institutions analysed. Cities are not mini-states; they constitute distinct socio-political logics that foster heterogeneity, complexity, and contradictions. Our main objectives, therefore, are to interrogate common (statist) imaginaries in political theory by attributing theoretical primacy to urbanity, and to elaborate on the contributions of an 'urbanised' political theory to multidisciplinary urban studies.
While political theorising explicitly and implicitly assumes that the political framework within which we function is the sovereign state or sometimes the international system, contemporary patterns of urbanism are positioning cities as meaningful polities with increased political power. Yet despite a growing awareness of their political significance and burgeoning work in the field, Weinstock’s (2014, 259) diagnosis that 'cities have largely been ignored by political philosophers' still holds.
Addressing this lacuna, our Workshop builds on the premise that 'seeing like a city' differs from 'seeing like a state' (Scott 1998; Amin/Thrift 2017; Magnusson 2011), and we relate this shift in perspective to the concerns of (normative) political theory. To elaborate, city-dwellers, or city-zens, often have different, overlapping, and competing political experiences and expectations as compared to their status as national citizens (de Shalit 2018; Bauböck/Orgad 2020). Moreover, 'seeing like a city' implies a sensitivity towards a specifically urban organisation of politics and democracy (Dikeç/Swyngedouw 2017; Beveridge/Koch 2023; Frick 2023). While the statist imaginary is linked to the simplifying principles of territory, borders, and sovereignty, cities increase complexity and are characterised by a multiplicity of interdependent authorities, posing particular possibilities and challenges to political practices. By taking the spatial character of cities seriously, our Workshop aims at interrogating and, if necessary, revising established concepts and theories and developing criteria for making normative judgements about urban political practices (Barak/de Shalit 2021; Barbehön/Haus 2021).
Amin, Ash/Thrift, Nigel (2017): Seeing Like a City. Cambridge, Malden: Polity Press.
Barak, Nir/de Shalit, Avner (2021): Urbanizing political concepts for analyzing politics in the city. In: Aust, Helmut Philipp/Nijman, Janne E. (eds.): Research Handbook on International Law and Cities. Cheltenham, Northampton: Edward Elgar, 329-340.
Barbehön, Marlon/Haus, Michael (2021): Jenseits von Souveränität und Territorialität. Überlegungen zu einer politischen Theorie der Stadt. Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie 8 (1), 253-278.
Bauböck, Rainer/Orgad, Liav (eds.) (2020): Cities vs States: Should Urban Citizenship Be Emancipated from Nationality? EUI Working Paper RSCAS 2020/16, http://hdl.handle.net/1814/66369.
Beveridge, Ross/Koch, Philippe (2023): How Cities Can Transform Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.
de Shalit, Avner (2018): Cities and Immigration: Political and Moral Dilemmas in the New Era of Migration. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Dikeç, Mustafa/Swyngedouw, Erik (2017): Theorizing the Politicizing City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 41 (1), 1-18.
Frick, Verena (2023): Understanding the democratic promise of the city. Philosophy and Social Criticism, online first.
Magnusson, Warren (2011): Politics of Urbanism. Seeing like a city. London, New York: Routledge.
Scott, James C. (1998): Seeing Like a State. How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
Weinstock, Daniel (2014): Cities and Federalism. Nomos 55, 259-290.
1: How does our understanding of fundamental political concepts change when 'seeing like a city'?
2: What are the possible contributions of political theory to multidisciplinary urban studies?
3: What is the conceptual and empirical relationship between 'the city' and 'the urban'?
4: How to assess the normative value of urban political practices?
5: What are the normative and political considerations involved in enhancing municipal power?
1: The relevance and meaning of cities in the history of political thought
2: The concepts of 'city' or 'urbanity' in light of global political realities
3: The specifically urban character of political concepts and phenomena
4: Freedom, civic liberties, and tolerance in the city
5: Justice, equality, and solidarity in the city
6: The city as a sphere of democratic city-zenship
7: Interdisciplinary efforts of relating political theory with geography or spatial sociology
8: Theoretically informed analyses of urban phenomena (e.g. protest, democratic innovations)