Theories of Urban Politics


Edited by: Jonathan S. Davies & David L. Imbroscio

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    The editors of this second edition wish to acknowledge and thank the editors of the first edition, professors David Judge, Gerry Stoker and Hal Wolman, without whose inspiration and hard work this volume would not have been possible. We also wish to thank our contributors for generously devoting much time and effort to their chapters and for their patience and openness to criticism and suggestion from the editors. The advice and counsel of our friends and colleagues Judy Garber, Clarence Stone and Ron Vogel were particularly helpful in shaping the overall structure of the book and chapter content in the initial phases of planning. Anne-Mette Kjaer, Vivien Lowndes, Peter John and Helen Sullivan, at the book panel at the Political Studies Association annual meeting in April 2006, provided very helpful insights into the general task of understanding what constitutes theories about politics at the urban scale. Also helpful were the reviews of the proposal proffered by Kevin Ward and Mark Evans. Thanks also go to Ali Modarres, Larry Bennett, Anne Caldwell and Andrea Blair who each provided useful feedback on elements of the project as it moved along. Our editor at Sage, David Mainwaring, has been a joy to work with on this project, in what we hope will be the first of several in a long and productive collaboration. We thank him specifically for providing just the right mix of patience and prodding in response to the inevitable delays experienced in the production of a complex project such as this. Finally, we dedicate this volume to our fathers, one of whom died just as we were completing it. From their teachings and guidance we draw continual inspiration.

    Notes on Contributors

    Jonathan S Davies is Reader in Public Policy in the Institute of Governance and Public Management at the University of Warwick. He graduated from the University of York (UK) with a DPhil in Politics in 2000. He is author of Partnerships and Regimes: The Politics of Urban Regeneration in the UK and co-editor, with Imbroscio, of the forthcoming Critical Urban Studies, New Directions and the Sage Library of Political Science collection on Urban Politics. He sits on the editorial board of Policy Studies. Davies has published numerous articles on critical issues in the study of governance, urban politics and public policy.

    David L. Imbroscio is Professor of Political Science and Urban & Public Affairs at the University of Louisville, USA. He is author of Reconstructing City Politics: Alternative Economic Development and Urban Regimes, co-author of Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era, co-editor of the forthcoming Critical Urban Studies: New Directions, and he is currently finishing a book tentatively titled Urban America Reconsidered. His work also has appeared in several scholarly journals and edited collections. He serves on the Governing Board of the Urban Affairs Association and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Urban Affairs.


    Peter John is the Hallsworth Chair of Governance at the University of Manchester, where he is co-director of the Institute for Economic and Political Governance. He is author of Analysing Public Policy (1998) and Local Governance in Western Europe (2001).

    Alan Harding is Professor of Urban and Regional Governance and Director of the Institute for Political and Economic Governance (ipeg) at the University of Manchester. He works in the broad field of urban and regional development, policy and governance, on which he has published widely.

    Karen Mossberger is Associate Professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She teaches local government management and public policy. Her research interests include digital inequality and current projects on public-private partnerships for neighborhood regeneration in Chicago and regional collaboration to address poverty.

    Mike Geddes is a Professorial Fellow in the Local Government Centre at the University of Warwick. His research has covered aspects of local governance ranging from local democracy and partnership to poverty and social exclusion. His current interest is in cross-national comparative analysis of local responses to neoliberalism in both the North and the South.

    S.S. Kataoka is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria, in the Department of Political Science. Her background in interdisciplinary studies and community development enables her to do research that focuses on, and opens up, particular urban scenes.

    Vivien Lowndes is Professor of Local Government Studies in the Local Governance Research Unit at De Montfort University. Her current research interests include citizen participation in local governance, faith and community cohesion, neighbourhood governance and local government reform.

    Hank Savitch is the Brown and Williamson, Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Louisville (USA). An author of numerous books and articles, his co-authored work Cities in the International Marketplace was named the best book in the urban field by the American Political Science Association. He recently completed Cities in a Time of Terror: Space, Territory and Local Resilience (M.E. Sharpe).

    Ronald K. Vogel is Chair of the Department of Political Science and Professor of Political Science and Urban & Public Affairs at the University of Louisville. His research focuses on comparative metropolitan and regional governance including the US, Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong.

    Stephen Greasley is a research associate at the Institute for Political and Economic Governance at the University of Manchester. His research has focused on the impact of political leadership on democratic processes and policy outcomes at local level.

    Gerry Stoker is Professor of Politics and Governance at the University of Southampton, UK. His current research deals with issues of governance in complex settings, political disenchantment in western democracies, citizen empowerment and strategies for encouraging civic behaviour among citizens. He is Director of the centre for Citizenship and Democracy (

    Anne-Mette Kjaer is Associate Professor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Her main areas of research are new forms of governance in comparative perspective, state capacity and public sector reforms in Africa, and the role of elites in implementing the new poverty agenda. Recent publications include Governance, and various articles in, among others, Journal of Modern African Studies and Forum for Development Studies.

    Richard Stren is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, and the former director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies. He has worked for many years in Africa and, more recently, Latin America on urban issues, and is author or editor of 18 books, including most recently Decentralization and the Politics of Urban Development in West Africa (with Dickson Eyoh).

    Mara Sidney is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University-Newark. Her research focuses on housing discrimination, affordable housing, and urban education. She is the author of Unfair Housing: How National Policy Shapes Local Action, a co-author of Multiethnic Moments: The Politics of Urban Education Reform, and co-editor of The Handbook of Public Policy Analysis.

    J. Phillip Thompson is Associate Professor of Urban Politics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His book, Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities and the Call for Deep Democracy was recently published by Oxford University Press.

    Judy Garber is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. She has published on the constitutional powers of US cities to regulate land for redistributive purposes, feminist approaches to local community, the Christian Right's legal strategies, and critical theories of urban politics and public space.

    Helen Sullivan is Research Director of the Centre for Public Service Partnerships at the University of Birmingham, where she also holds the Palmer Chair in Public Service Partnerships. She specializes in the study of collaboration in urban governance and has researched and published widely in this area.

    Gordana Rabrenovic is Associate Professor of Sociology and Education and Director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University. Her publications include the books Community Builders: A Tale of Neighborhood Mobilization in Two Cities, Community Politics and Policy, and Why We Hate, and edited volumes of the American Behavioral Scientist, Hate Crimes and Ethnic Conflict and Responding to Hate Violence.

    Clarence N. Stone is Research Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at George Washington University and Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland. His books include Regime Politics and Economic Growth and Neighborhood Discontent. His current research is about the politics of neighborhood revitalization.


    Published in 1995, the first edition of Theories of Urban Politics, edited by Professors David Judge, Gerry Stoker and Hal Wolman, was a huge success and a landmark for urban studies. It has inspired thousands of readers, no doubt encouraging many bright scholars to embark on careers in urban political research. That collection still resonates 13 years later and contemporary scholars would do well to return to it time and again. Yet, urban politics is a fast moving field and soon enough, the original editors realised that a second edition was required. Fortuitously for us, they did not have time to fulfil the task themselves and graciously entrusted us with this second edition. We owe them a debt of gratitude and hope that they, and all the readers who pick up the volume, are pleased with the outcome.

    Urban politics is a pluralistic sub-field. It draws on many normative, methodological, and analytical traditions. It also draws inspiration from sibling social science and humanities disciplines spanning at least history, economics, geography, sociology, philosophy and law. Urban politics is thus inflected by myriad influences, an attribute that does not always find favour with critics. Such criticism was visibly and forcefully expressed in a recent polemic authored by Bryan D. Jones, a once prominent urbanist (and contributor to the first edition of Theories), and two of his graduate students, Joshua Sapotichne and Michelle Wolfe. Jones, who famously left the urban politics sub-field several years ago (Judd, 2005), and his co-authors took urban politics to task for failing to pay due attention to mainstream political science on the one hand and for failing to influence it on the other (Sapotichne et al., 2007). While several urbanists, including both co-editors of this volume and the author of its lead-off chapter, Peter John, took issue in various ways with their critique,1 Sapotichne, Jones, and Wolfe performed a service by forcing us to think about the state of the urban politics field, both in relation to the discipline of political science and the broader social science arena. Crucially, they caused us to think about challenge and renewal. Do we subject our work to critical scrutiny sufficient to ensure that key perspectives evolve and respond to new intellectual and real-world challenges? Do urbanists have a proper perspective on the balance between theoretical continuity and change? In our view, the contributions to this volume offer a resounding ‘yes’ to these telling questions. It is our hope that readers will concur with this affirmative appraisal of the state of urban political theory.


    1 See Urban News: Newsletter of the Urban Politics Section (of the American Political Science Association), Spring 2008, 22(1). Available at:

    Judd, D.R. (2005) ‘Everything is always going to Hell: urban scholars as end-times prophets,’ Urban Affairs Review, 41 (2): 119–31.
    Sapotichne, J., Jones, B.D. and Wolfe, M. (2007) ‘Is urban politics a black hole? Analyzing the boundary between political science and urban politics,’ Urban Affairs Review, 43 (1): 76–106.

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