Critical perspectives on the city: Constructivist, interpretive analysis of Urban politics

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Urban politics research usually lacks discussion of ontology and epistemology, but most research implicitly adopts a positivist understanding of social science. Despite the critical stance against the "positivist hegemony" taken by some urbanists (see Wyly Chapter 1, this volume), there remains implicit positivist orthodoxy in much urban politics research. Comparative and singlecase studies, large-N analyses, and survey research-the dominant methods in the field-all embrace positivism, either in a strong or, more commonly, weak form. In this chapter, I argue for return to discussions of ontology and epistemology in general, and for the explicit development of constructivist and interpretive approaches in urban politics research. These theoretical and methodological approaches, which stand in opposition to positivism, are well developed in the study of international relations and public policy, and have proved useful in examining inequalities and power disparities in political life, but are used infrequently to study urban politics. Bringing constructivism squarely into the study of urban politics would help to fill important gaps that mark our research on urban inequality, would expand the range of research methods used, and would build on, and contribute to, the tradition of critical inquiry in urban studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCritical Urban Studies
Subtitle of host publicationNew Directions
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781438433059
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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