Politics and the City

In chapter 5, we are more or less discussing what a city really is and the connections between the urban centers and surroundings. What this all means is rather hard to say. When trying to tie in urban politics, things just get that much more unclear. I will be honest, I struggled trying to figure out where they were really going with the chapter and trying to distinguish the different sorts of politics linked to urban centers and regions.

When it came to identifying cities, this became more a lesson on the historical patterns of what made a city a true city. One of the most important elements was the use of city limits, which were the actual outer boundaries of city life. Beyond this point began rural setting. While we still have city limits today, the almost mean nothing, and have actually become very misleading in terms of population. For example, the “population” of Indianapolis is roughly 850,000. The “population” of Boston is roughly 650,000. But when you consider the population of the metropolitan regions, Indianapolis comes in at around 2 million compared to Boston’s nearly 5 million. This is indicative of urbanism, which is a term the chapter references. Today, a city is reliant on more than just its immediate boundaries. It is heavily reliant on many different economic networks of trade, labor and investment. Also as cities are becoming more modernized, socialized and diverse, urban sprawl continues its reach outward. All of this contributes to the problem with trying to define urban politics.

An important topic brought up is urban infrastructure, and how it is quietly the reason for a thriving society, yet taken for granted until something goes wrong. Whether its methods of transportation, electricity, or even sewage and clean water for areas like Mumbai, these are what hold cities together and make urbanism possible. They are all largely interdependent, relying on many different factors to become what they are. Every technicality is a product of the social and political practices of each city and region.

Another important point that was focused on was gentrification. Poor inner city conditions and limits on space were some factors in the push to the suburbs. As the inner cities began to empty, property values declined, which eventually created the division of poor and wealthy. Eventually, this counter-trend of gentrification began, which saw the return of the wealthier class to the city. As money was put back into restoring the inner city, it’s value and demand rose again. But as this began happening, it was inevitable that the poorer classes were pushed back out.

Though urban politics can be hard to define, one thing is for certain. Undoubtedly, a public is needed. Social division creates disagreement and debate. These divisions happen among urban space, and what happens in one area will affect others. Along with this, the politics associated within and around these urban spaces affect the dynamic relationships between them.

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