Reliance Structures: How Urban Public Policy Shapes Human Agency

  • Matthew Noah SmithEmail author


This chapter attempts to articulate a novel approach to thinking about urban politics and urban public policy. Building on the observation that all action requires reliance, the chapter argues that elements of the urban environment function as what we call reliance structures. These are the structures that allow agents to realize their intentions as actions. That is, reliance structures are constitutive features of the capacity for action, that is, for agency. The chapter then argues that the urban can be understood as a network of reliance structures. It follows that the urban partially constitutes human agency—agential capacities are partially constituted by urban reliance systems. This is meant to be a substantive diagnostic tool for making sense of the ways that urban public policy can produce and reproduce forms of human agency and, ultimately, the way that the urban partially determines human freedom.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northeastern UniversityBostonUSA

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