Theoretical Approaches to Urban Politics

  • Patrick Dunleavy
Part of the Sociology, Politics and Cities book series


All social science work takes place within a theoretical framework of some kind. The ‘theory’ involved may be explicit or implicit, however. Where theory remains implicit, its core propositions may be only dimly recognised, its overall coherence may be unexamined, and the theory’s broader implications may be unexplored. In addition, the source of the theory in broader social values may be obscured; implicit theory in such circumstances can be overtly ideological. An attempt to make theory explicit provides at least some safeguards against the most common distortions of social science work.


Urban System Political Ecology Consumption Process Methodological Individualism Community Power 
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Guide to Further Reading

  1. Two existing volumes contain descriptions of different approaches to urban politics. Hawley et al.’ s Theoretical Perspectives on Urban Politics (1976) provides an unselfconscious insight into the current theoretical bankruptcy of North American political science. Young’s (1975) collection, Essays in the Study of Urban Politics, lead Ray Pahl to comment in his review: ‘In general the authors seem to be saying that most of the work which has been done in this area by political scientists is as boring as old boots.’ In the community power literature there are a number of theoretically important works. Polsby’s Community Power and Political Theory (1963) is shortly being reissued with his customarily vigorous style applied to an addendum belabouring pluralist critics. Bachrach and Baratz’ Power and Poverty (1970) has four worthwhile chapters. Williams’ Metropolitan Political Analysis (1971) is a much neglected study giving important insights. Castells’ work is summarised in some of the essays in Pickvance (ed.), Urban Sociology: Critical Essays (1976), and in a form which would be more approachable but for the manner in which it is translated in Castells’ own short volume City, Class and Power (1978). His major work, The Urban Question (1977a), is long and difficult, but worth the effort. Harloe’s introduction to the volume he edited, Captive Cities (1977), is a good discussion of neo-Weberian and neo-Marxist work.Google Scholar

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© Patrick Dunleavy 1980

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  • Patrick Dunleavy

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