community politics


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community politics

the political concerns generated by residence in a particular locality or place, and the relationship of residents with the central STATE.

Community politics often arise from local concerns with urban spaces, as workplaces, residences and living areas, and the politics of URBANIZATION. In this sense, the early sociological explanations of community politics can be found in the writings of TÖNNIES (1887) and SIMMEL (1903), both of whom offered a critique of the social and political effects of the transformation of Europe, both seeing the movement from rural to urban living as marked by increasing disengagement from both social and political life. Their ideas were developed by WIRTH (1938), who argued that certain social and political actions were characteristic of the city Wirth was a central figure in the CHICAGO SCHOOL, which developed a zonal model of the city. The overall approach became known as URBAN ECOLOGY. Its main assumption was that urban communities are organisms functioning according to laws which are different to those of the wider society The approach argues that urbanism and the politics of the community must be seen as a distinct way of life (see URBANISM AS A WAY OF LIFE).

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, there was a dramatic increase in community groups and COMMUNITY ACTION in the ‘inner cities’ of the UK and other industrial societies including the US and France. This was reflected in a growing interest in the POLITICAL ECONOMY of urbanization and community politics by several writers who sought to combine Marxism with a theory of the ‘social production’ and organization of space. Castells (1977,1978), for example, was concerned with the ‘urban problematic’: a series of everyday situations, housing, transport, redevelopment, the distribution of ethnic groups, the provision of shopping and recreation facilities. All of these areas Castells calls a structured social process. To understand this process, he suggested, it must be related to the political economy of STATE CAPITALISM AND STATE MONOPOLY CAPITALISM. For Castells, urban politics will develop new directions as contradictions widen between society's productive capacity and its social capacity to use its productive capacity. Because of this, social protest groups involved in community action (which he terms URBAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS) will increasingly challenge the established order through the ‘urban problematic’. Harvey (1973), however, has pointed out that problems commonly regarded as urban are not peculiar to the city but common to society and only made more manifest in urban settings. Within this approach to community politics, local issues, no matter how intensely felt or contested by local community groups, cannot be regarded as either local or urban. See also SECTORAL CLEAVAGES.

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