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urban social movement

  Defined broadly as protest challenging state provision of urban social services and/or environmental regulation, such as popular movements against expressways, to preserve neighbourhoods threatened by redevelopment, or squatters\' rights movements. The term originates in the work of Manual Castells (1977) who linked the definition of urban social movements to his conception of the city and its place within capitalism (cf. urban). Critical of all previous theories of the city, especially the legacy of the Chicago school, Castells argued that urban sociologists should embrace a marxist approach where the city is seen as a spatial expression of a unit of labour power that must be continuously reproduced for capitalism to survive. Basic social services, such as education and public transportation, must be provided by the state because corporations find these activities unprofitable (cf. collective consumption; welfare state). However, it is virtually impossible for the state to deliver public goods and services evenly across an entire urban population; moreover, in recent decades local states have found it difficult to maintain the level of service provision achieved in the 1960s. The capacity of the state to protect urban environments is also limited in a society geared to profit maximization. conflicts over the provision of public services, or to strengthen environmental regulations, are therefore inevitable. In his early work Castells argued that these struggles should be classified as urban social movements only when they have the potential to improve the class position of workers vis-à-vis the bourgeoisie. He asserted that the escalation of these movements, in conjunction with other forms of conflict (e.g. labour-capital), will lead to a \'ruptural unity\' and transform capitalism. In later work Castells (1978, 1983) broadened his definition of urban social movements to include struggles to maintain cultural identity and to achieve more decentralized urban government as well as conflicts over public services. In the process he began to recognize the importance of feminism as a social movement and, more generally, the need to understand the motivations and beliefs of actors involved in protest movements.

Subsequent research has explored the nature of urban social movements in a variety of national contexts; much of this is reported in The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Key issues are the identification of factors that encourage or impede the mobilization process (Lustiger-Thaler and Maheu, 1995), the role of women in initiating and maintaining protest, state responses to urban social movements, and cross-cultural comparisons of these movements (Lowe, 1986). Critical appraisals of the concept focus on the imputed linkages between social structure and political behaviour. R.E. Pahl (1989), among others, believes that theorists of urban social movements have yet to reveal how people acquire a consciousness of structured inequities and how they transform this consciousness into political action. Ironically, although the concept of urban social movements continues to have much salience, Castells has abandoned it in his more recent work. (DH)

References Castells, M. 1977: The urban question: a marxist approach. London: Edward Arnold. Castells, M. 1978: City, class and power. London: Macmillan. Castells, M. 1983: The city and the grassroots. London: Edward Arnold. Lowe, S. 1986: Urban social movements: the city after Castells. New York: St. Martin \'s Press. Lustiger-Thaler, H. and Maheu, L. 1995: Social movements and the challenge of urban politics. In N.J. Ramapo Coll, ed., Social movements and social classes: the future of collective action. London: Sage, 151-68. Pahl, R.E. 1989: Is the emperor naked? Some questions on the adequacy of sociological theory in urban and regional research. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 13: 709-2 0.



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