Zukin: Sennett as “urban hipster”

Currently working on the interplay between literary (and more broadly, cultural) studies and urban studies, I came across Sharon Zukin’s “The Postmodern Invasion”, which takes stock of three key books that chart relationships between the city, city literature, and socio-economic writings of the city: City of Quartz, The Conscience of the eye, and The Sphinx in the city. All three draw on “a rapprochement between cultural studies and urban political economy” in the 1980s, which tended to focus on “cities as cultural artefacts”. One of the points that comes out of this rapprochement is the crucial resonance, in (then) recent studies of Paris, Vienna and Berlin, between “symbols, space, and social power”. Few today would call Mike Davis, Richard Sennett or Elizabeth Wilson “urban hipsters”, although Zukin’s classification of these authors as flâneurs and moral philosophers does ring true. With hindsight, Zukin’s reading of Sennett is perhaps a bit too harsh (I find The Conscience of the eye still refreshing reading two decades later), but the importance of an interplay between cultural studies and socio-economic studies of the city which she discerns remains of indiminished importance.

Zukin, Sharon. (1992). The postmodern invasion. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 16(3), 489-495.

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