From Chicago to Los Angeles: Western Concepts and the Study of Post-Socialist Cities

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:15 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Ludek SYKORA , Social Geography and Regional Development, Charles University , Prague 2, Czech Republic
Post-socialist cities have been omitted from disputes on global urbanism. However, the insights gained from the study of their dramatic transformations can provide important suggestions for the international urban studies. The paper first introduces the key features of post-socialist urban transformations placing them within the context of contemporary global urbanism. The paper specifically discusses the urban development in cities, which developed during periods with different political regimes and socio-economic conditions. Their urban landscapes reflect multiplicity of socioeconomic logics and are characterized with a high level of socio-spatial hybridity. The western models that assume relatively stable relations between the principles of urban development and resulting socio-spatial patterns are not capable to capture the nature of cities in radical transformations. The paper then discusses the relevance of “western” concepts for the study of post-socialist cities. It is framed within the paradigmatic evolution from Chicago to Los Angeles schools of urban studies. The paper argues for the recognition of a multiplicity of urban logics and urban structures interrelated within urban landscapes of transforming cities. Relating long term development paths and contemporary path-shaping practices, paper documents that concepts from both schools are relevant for the understanding of post-socialist cities. Finally, despite the present urban landscapes of post-socialist cities can be seen as different from cities in other world regions, there are striking similarities. The paper argues that despite historic and cultural specificities in local contexts, contemporary urban development is conditioned by the universalistic driving forces of urbanization embedded in a globally spreading capitalism. The hybrid coexistence of different socio-spatial landscapes can thus be only temporary as the most dynamically developing urban areas related to global capitalism gradually displace the original urban patterns. The theories and concepts developed in the social context of capitalism thus have high relevance for contemporary global urbanism.