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Sam’s Response Paper: Urban Env Classics (9/16 rdgs)

September 13, 2015 in

Last week’s readings on the historical development of environmental psychology felt like a semi-blind journey through an unfamiliar city; this week’s selection of planning classics, however, felt more like a walking into a family reunion, with dearly loved relatives as well as embarrassing uncles and cousins I’ve heard of but never met.

In this new context and pairing, however, these somewhat familiar texts take on new and surprising meanings. Some questions these readings raised for me include:

1.      If we take seriously Iris Marion Young’s critique of individualism and communitarianism, what kinds of changes would need to take place to transform the socially unjust cities we live in to their ideal form? Are the approaches Jane Jacobs endorses—both in the chapters we read and in the rest of her book—sufficient? Would a more “top down” approach than Jacobs condones be necessary to overturn the current inequalities that stand between the reality of our cities and their ideal form, or would such an approach inevitably lead to more long lasting inequities?

2.      Each author claims the mantle of “difference” (or “heterogeneity”) as an essential frame through which to view the urban. What does each author mean by this? How compatible are the definitions, and what do they say about each author’s overarching ideological position in relation to the various scales politics: the individual, the household, the community, the region, the nation-state and the world?

3.      What is the difference between “the urban” and “the city”? (Relatedly, why does it matter—if it matters at all—and why is it so hard to draw a line between these terms?) This question applies most directly to Wirth, but could be applied to Lynch, Simmel and others.