A Theory of State–City Relations in Western Societies
There are diverse theoretical conceptions of the state underlying contemporary analyses of urban change in Western societies. Those conceptions, some of them anchored in democratic pluralism and others in the recent political economy literature, incorporate assumptions about the purposes of states’ urban policies and shape conclusions about what states can and should do about the social stresses of urban growth and decline. In the pluralist conception, government policies tend to promote the general welfare because public policy results from the interaction of diverse, contending sectoral interests in the larger society. The specifics of urban policy decisions and implementation are a function of shifting coalitions of organised economic, political and social groups, some pursuing conceptions of general welfare, others seeking to enhance sectoral and individual interests (see, for example, Banfield, 1961, ch. 12 and Dahl, 1961; a recent general statement is Guterbock, 1980, pp. 433–4). To the extent that there is a self-conscious government objective in urban policy, it is to enhance the common welfare. Urban economic development is pursued by American municipal governments in active partnership with business because growth is widely beneficial to all urban groups (Peterson, 1981).
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