Gender and the city: urban politics revisited
This chapter examines the importance of gender relations in urban politics. During the last decade, the concept ‘urban’ has been the subject of extensive debate. Previously, cities had often been classified according to the industries located within their boundaries or hinterlands. This approach presupposed a direct connection between local productive activities and the sustenance of the local, urban population. However, the city is no longer the spatial unit within which productive activities are organised: in both developed and developing countries the organisation of industrial production has expanded to the regional, national or international scale. In other words, cities are embedded in, and sustained by, economic systems that extend far beyond their boundaries. But cities remain the places where the great majority of the populations of developed countries, and a growing proportion of the populations of developing countries, live. This observation led the neo-Marxist theorist Castells (1976, 1977, 1978) to advance the persuasive argument that it is more appropriate to consider the city as the locus, or spatial unit of the ‘reproduction of labour power’, than as the spatial unit of production. Subsequent work in urban studies has been strongly influenced by Castells’ approach: the notion that processes involved in the reproduction of labour power are the key to understanding the structure of, and activity within, urban areas underlies much recent research (see, for example, contributions to Harloe, 1981 and Harloe and Lebas, 1981). However, critiques of this approach are now emerging, to which this chapter aims to contribute (also see Klausner, 1986; Preteceille, 1986).
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