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On the study of urban social movements. Pickvance " ;.
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In France, there had been a sudden and brief expansion in urban studies, albeit at least a decade behind the North American explosion in the field. I therefore advise you to take what I am about to say with a pinch of salt, as the actors of a given history are not in the best position to view it objectively. In other words, what follows is a testimony and not a presentation of research results. He had authored numerous surveys and works on Paris, produced with the financial support of several public administrations responsible for urban-planning policy Chombart de Lauwe , and Empirical studies began to emerge from the Institut de Sociologie Urbaine Institute of Urban Sociology that he had founded.
Urbanization was a challenge to which French society had to find a response. The solutions offered by the field of urban planning called into question the organization and operation of the social space; there was therefore a need for sociologists. The second text that marked the French context at this time was a critical analysis published in first issue of of Sociologie du travail , one of the main journals in French sociology, under the patronage of Alain Touraine, a professor at Nanterre and director of studies at the EPHE.
And if the city is presented as a dependent variable, that is to say as the product of history and society, it is then necessary to explain how this society produced the city. As long as the type of causality had not been defined, urban sociology or urban ecology was doomed to being nothing more than the description of forms. Castells and many others responded. Partners changed, on both sides.
Those who managed programmes in ministries formed specialist teams. Their relations with the operational urban-development bodies were distant; by contrast, they maintained close relations with the senior civil servants of the Gaullist central government, who were concerned by the social shock waves and difficulties that their modernizing project were coming up against. At the same time, the managers of the research programmes developed a close working relationship with a milieu of researchers that they had created and which was entirely dependent upon them.
The contracts financed the surveys and salaries of young graduates of the mass university, recruited directly from outside the allegiances of the leading figures of the discipline.
The new generation of researchers would therefore find themselves working outside the ordinary contexts of the university and the CNRS French National Centre for Scientific Research. They were politically radicalized and, for the most part, had studied in the diverse variants of Marxism and structuralism.
This surprising combination of young academics who were critical of power and a technocracy whose certainties were shaken to the core would give birth to a critical urban sociology that had a new agenda: it was no longer a question of adapting urban planning to the needs of city dwellers but rather one of analysing the capitalist production of the city, the urban policies of central government, and the social movements that contested these policies. The number of projects grew, combining strong theoretical claims and field studies; more and more research reports were produced, a very small proportion of which would ultimately lead to visible forms of publication.
Researchers from Paris brought monographs in various languages, and in Chris Pickvance published a collection of critical essays written by French researchers Pickvance In its home nation, this new form of sociology was seen as intriguing as a result of its pretensions and vitality, but its origins made it illegitimate in the eyes of university authorities: historians and geographers in particular would deny its very existence.
In any case, those who promoted a form of sociology as a partner of urban planning like Chombart and Ledrut were temporarily marginalized. Critical currents that did not identify with Marx developed in parallel, and also enjoyed the support of ministries — for example, disciples of Michel Foucault with the journal Recherches e.
Researchers who were angry at the hegemony of the various forms of Marxism began to arm themselves intellectually with a view to putting an end to this situation — in particular by travelling to Chicago, where they sought the legitimation of a fieldwork-based sociology that was attentive to everyday life and had dispensed with all-embracing theories Grafmeyer and Joseph The abandonment of Marxist urban sociology was brutal: the whole intellectual and political landscape changed.
Furthermore, was also the year when the Union de la Gauche collapsed, followed by a haemorrhaging of intellectuals away from the French Communist Party. The currents of research that have contributed to this renewal of interest are quite varied, and I shall consequently restrict myself here to talking only about what I consider to be essential.
Works on the socio-economics of urban production have practically disappeared: sociologists, who previously fought over this territory with economists, have now abandoned it. The field of economics, for its part, tends to focus on increasingly abstract formalizations, and those economists who are attentive to institutions and forms of production have been marginalized within their own discipline. Most sociologists have also moved away from works on the urban policies of the French state.
But political scientists have taken over research in this domain: in France, political science is a dynamic discipline that aims to be a sociology of practices and the political field. It takes a particular interest in the genesis and transformation of public policies from a constructivist standpoint: how are public problems defined?
What forms of language and what cognitive tools are used? How do coalitions of actors and stakeholders form around these problems? This has led to some fascinating studies of street-level bureaucracy in France, which enable us to gain a better knowledge and understanding of interactions between public administrations and populations, the effects if domination, and the ruses and forms of resistance mobilized by those that are dominated Dubois Among the countless works that have given form to this problem, particular mention should be made in the academic realm of those of Dubet , Lapeyronnie and Kokoreff This already represents two generations of almost continuous scholarly production.
This statement expresses a profound reorganization of scholarly representations of French society. Once again, a social question has been transformed into a spatial or urban question, and relationships between social groups have been redefined as relationships between groups and spaces. My aim is not to criticize this transmutation, but rather to highlight some of the processes that have been implemented along the way and the role that urban sociology has played in France in this connection. Language has a key role in establishing common meanings and shared truisms.
Race, space and punishment in urban sociology
The new forms and formats discussed here are above all a stream, an avalanche, a tidal wave of words. At this juncture, it is interesting to point out the contrast between the ways in which newspapers reported two quite similar events in and in both cases, they involved disturbances that took place in the working-class suburbs of Lyon in south-east France.
We can fairly safely say that Marxism has lost out overall, and that the concepts of social class and state power have been ousted by notions of poverty and exclusion, and even ethnic and religious categories. I believe that this formulation is altogether inadequate, as it is based on the premise that all this is a simple matter of ideas. The dominant form of French urban sociology of the s was born out of the initiative of contenders seeking entry into academia.
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They were supported by pro-reform engineers who, in the central urban-planning departments of the time, provided them with work; by the same token, the new arrivals could escape the constraints that ordinarily determined admission into the world of science, and in particular the obligation to comply with the wishes of university superiors.
This unusual set-up meant that they ignored almost all the literature, but were also able innovate. Their breed of sociology was intended to have an activist basis, and was linked to a social transformation project deemed plausible at the time by this generation that had become radicalized in a mass university that no longer guaranteed them the kinds of secure careers enjoyed by their predecessors.
The questions that they raised concerned the city from the standpoint of the policies implemented by ministries. This was nothing particularly new: the questions of Chombart or Ledrut were also forged through conversations with urban planners and developers, with the aim of improving things gradually.
They wanted to challenge the state, but, without realizing it, remained fascinated by the state at the same time. Urban sociologies that sought to further planning and those that sought to radically criticize it both found themselves cut off from the partners that had enabled them to exist, namely the planners. For this urban planning which, since the aftermath of the Second World War, had been relatively sure of itself under the direction of professionals who had a doctrine, know-how, legitimacy and significant public resources, had begun to collapse under the weight of doctrines and the forces of the neoliberal conservative revolution.
Sociologists there are thus no doubt faced with situations, questions and conversations that are very different from those that prevail in the United Kingdom since Thatcher and Blair, or in the United States since Reagan and Clinton, or in France since Mitterrand. To return to the case of France, the taste for ethnography or urban anthropology, dense descriptions of lifestyles, and questions on the formation of identities have all been fruitful developments.
This has resulted in new studies and very new results. But these trends cannot be separated from a new definition of what things it is relevant to study — a new definition where politics plays key role. However, this should not come as a surprise, as it has always been thus. Finally, let us conclude with a more general hypothesis.
It is for this reason that the cities of the social sciences took form in a context of negotiation — sometimes tacit, sometimes explicit — with public practitioners. You must be registered before participating in this forum. Please enter your personal identifier. If you have not yet registered, you must register.
Follow the comments:. Site made with Spip2 Contact us Legal notice. Tags: suburbs public policy urban knowledge sociology state urban sociology France. Download Print. What is urban sociology in France? Looking back from the fall of a shooting star In , over two decades after the founding of the Fifth Republic, which had until then been dominated by right-wing governments with no sharing of power, France saw the first electoral victory of the Union de la Gauche Union of the Left, bringing together the French Socialist and Communist Parties.
A comparison of contexts To finish, I would like to compare the two contexts described above: the context of the s and that of the s. Bibliography Amiot, Michel. Burgess, Ernest W. Castel, Robert. Une chronique du salariat , Paris: Fayard. Castells, Manuel and Godard, Francis. Castells, Manuel. Famille et Habitation, vol. Chombart de Lauwe, Paul-Henry. Dubois, Vincent. La Vie au guichet. Fijalkow, Yankel. Grafmeyer, Yves and Joseph, Isaac. Grafmeyer, Yves. Joseph, Isaac. Kokoreff, Michel.
Lapeyronnie, Didier. Ghetto urbain.
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