chapter
5 Pages

Introduction

Cities, like nowhere else, present a series of seemingly insoluble problems. Periodically, they seem to be ‘in crisis’. The problems take many forms: as ever more people live in the world’s cities, services fail to provide for their basic needs; as poverty deepens, people adopt survival strategies that others consider illegal or immoral; as tensions within cities rise, people take to the streets to protest. We could go on, and on. Alternatively, cities can be seen as the crisis. As they sprawl across the face of the earth, cities are disordering the environment through their consumption of raw materials or through deadly, uncontainable emissions. As stock exchanges crash, bounce and crash again, people are thrown out of work in places seemingly untouched by urban financial markets, and sometimes even the world is plunged into unexpected recession. Cities, then, seem to be genuinely unruly, and they appear to be growing uncontrollably, exacerbating already seemingly unmanageable social tensions. However, are these dystopic stories of unstoppable (economic, social, environmental) catastrophe the only ones we can tell about cities?