Configurations of the Social in Contemporary Philosophy and Urbanism
By (author) Brian Elliott
Publication date:20 August 2010
Length of book:180 pages
Constructing Community examines community from the particular perspective of the shaping and control of urban space in contemporary liberal democracies. Following a consideration and critique of influential theories of community that have arisen within European philosophy over the last three decades, Brian Elliott investigates parallel approaches to community within urban theory and practice over the same period. Underlying the comparison of political theory and urban practice is a basic assumption that community and place are intimately connected such that the one cannot be adequately understood without the other. The underlying intention of this book is to advocate a particular understanding of community, one that centers on collective, grassroots oppositional action. While it draws on certain current theories and practices, the model of community put forward is far from the orthodox position. This study is a provocative and original analysis of the question of urban politics in contemporary liberal democracies. It offers a strong case for reconsidering current debates on democratic politics in light of the connection between political power and the control of public space and the built environment.
Constructing Community presents a compelling argument about the nature and prospects of urban communities. First, Brian Elliott provides a general account of the self-organization of dissenting, or resisting, localized communities. His approach combines key aspects of "dialogical" (Habermas) and "singular" (Agamben/Nancy) conceptions of social formation. Applying this model to cities like Portland, Oregon, he explains why "New Urbanists" and "postmodern urbanists" run into problems analogous to those faced by theorists of community. He defends a version of dialectical utopianism that is sensitive to both the communicative power of discourse and the exigencies of bare life. Much as Benjamin taught us to think of Paris as the capital of the nineteenth century, Elliott invites us to imagine a dialectically utopian Portland as the capital of the twenty-first.