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New Urban Spaces: Urban Theory and the Scale Question
Oxford University Press
Neil Brenner is Professor of Urban Theory at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard University. His writing and teaching focus on the theoretical, conceptual and methodological dimensions of urban questions. Brenner has made influential contributions to scholarly debates on critical urban theory, the critique of capitalist urbanization, urban restructuring, state space, the political economy of rescaling, variegated neoliberalization and planetary urbanization. His previous books include Critique of Urbanization: Selected Essays; Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization (editor); and New State Spaces: Urban Governance and the Rescaling of Statehood. Brenner directs the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard GSD (urbantheorylab.net), a platform for teaching and research on emergent patterns and pathways of urban transformation under contemporary capitalism. He dialogues regularly with diverse academic, professional and activist constituencies concerned to imagine and to construct more socially just, radically democratic and ecologically sane forms of urban life. After July 2020, Brenner will be moving to the University of Chicago, where he will serve as Professor of Sociology and direct the newly founded Urban Theory Lab-Chicago.
Henri Lefebvre is one of the few Marxist thinkers (along with Nicos Poulantzas) to consider the changing and contested spatialities of state power under modern capitalism. And Lefebvre is among the only theorists to consider the co-evolutionary intermeshing of state space and the capitalist urban fabric. New Urban Spaces argues that this multiscalar intermeshing lies at the heart of planetary urbanization. While tied in many ways to the postwar moment of capitalist spatial transformation, I argue that Lefebvre’s work on state space offers useful perspectives for the study of more recent transformations.
There is no better guide to a radically relational approach to the production of space than Doreen Massey’s work. Her intellectual radicalism consists not only in the systematic exploration of the wide-ranging implications of relational thinking for sociospatial analysis, but in the rigorous elaboration of the emancipatory politics of space that flow from such an approach. Massey’s ideas are a major inspiration for my own efforts to reconceptualize the mutations of the urban question and its geographies under contemporary capitalism. A radically relational approach to the urban requires us to look far beyond the “city,” across the diverse places, territories, scales, and ecologies that constitute the planetary urban fabric.
This brilliant new book by my friend and collaborator Martín Arboleda offers a path-breaking analysis of emergent geographies of resource extraction in Latin America following the commodity boom of the last 15 years. It offers an essential perspective on emergent forms of planetary urbanization that takes us from the mine shafts and company towns of the Atacama desert to the megacities and manufacturing zones of the Pearl River Delta.