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By Kurt Iveson

Publics and the town investigates struggles over the making of city publics, contemplating how the construction, administration and rules of ‘public areas’ has emerged as an issue for either city politics and concrete concept. Advances a brand new framework for contemplating the varied spatialities of publicness with regards to town Argues city’s contribution to the making of publics is going past the supply of areas for public accumulating Examines a sequence of particular case reviews appears on the courting among urbanism, public spheres, and democracy

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This framework is developed by establishing a conversation between urban studies and critical social theories of the political ‘public sphere’. The distinct trajectories of these two literatures has meant that studies of publicness in the ‘polis’ and in ‘print’ have mostly failed to connect (Iveson 2003; Smith and Low 2006). But the connections are there to be made. If the public space debates in urban studies have tended to lack conceptual clarity with regard to what constitutes ‘publicness’, then it is also true that the spatial vocabulary of critical social theory remains underdeveloped in some important respects.

Habermas was well aware that workers without property and women (among others) were denied status as participants in bourgeois public spheres. As he noted, ‘the positive meaning of “private” emerged precisely in reference to the concept of free power of control over property that functioned in a capitalist fashion’ and it ‘had its home, literally, in the sphere of the patriarchal conjugal family’ (Habermas 1989: 74, 43). Such restrictive qualifications for access were supported by politicaleconomic theories which purported to show that in a free market economy, anyone could acquire property and education if they so desired.

The very fact that even the strongest advocates of universally accessible urban ‘public spaces’ choose to write articles and books to outline their case illustrates this point. Those who want to address an academic public on matters of urban theory and politics are unlikely to restrict their activities to street-corner speech-making – their imagined public is elsewhere, and they might also imagine a rather disinterested response to ruminations on Habermas and Sennett from most passers-by. So, calculations about the usefulness of a particular site as a venue for public address are made with reference to the specific form and content of the address.

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