Drivers of Global Urbanization: Exploring the emerging Urban Society

Chapter in The Routledge Handbook of Henri Lefebvre, The City and Urban Society

About a year ago we started writing our contribution to the Routledge Handbook with Panu Lehtovuori and Jani Tartia. Now Drivers of Global Urbanization: Exploring the emerging Urban Society is on pre-order.

The core argument of this chapter is that descriptive accounts of global urbanization fail to grasp the main legacy of Henri Lefebvre’s urban writings. Demographic and equilibrium economic theories are not very helpful to understand the contemporary drivers of change. The way ‘planetary urbanization’ is recently interpreted overlooks important dimensions of the current situation, too. Lefebvre’s notions of ‘urban society’ and ‘critical phase’ foreground the potential of a radical societal change, embedded in the complex, self-organising and place-bound urbanization process.

Despite the importance of flows and networks, ‘habiting’ is for Lefebvre the main driver of future urban society, unfolding in new urban, social and architectural forms. This vision is not substantiated in the original texts, as Lefebvre focusses on the epistemological difficulty to see through the singularity of a systemic chance. The critical phase between the industrial and urban phases of societal process, thus, is characterized by a ‘blind field’, an epistemological and methodical limbo.

This chapter revisits Lefebvre’s self-critical position, proposing two scientific approaches that give new empirical insights in what habiting could mean in the emerging urban society. Those are the rhythms and the bodily, experiential dynamism of everyday mobility and the ‘metamorphology’ of citizens’ activities and values, referring to new spatial practices that reshape traditional readings of urban centrality.

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