Redirecting examinations of the culture of the city away from its customs, art, and amenities to focus on the mental life of modern society, Alan Blum explores the methods cities and their subjects use to find meaning in the context of urban life, in particular the city’s relationships to social change and what has traditionally been identified as justice.
The Material City pictures the city as a landscape of diverse clashes over beliefs, a site that exhibits interpretive collisions over globalization, gentrification, innovation, preservation, market value, popular culture, crowds, consumption, urban governance, and different strategies for healing the democratic city’s ever-present conflicts over these concerns. Each chapter uses a problem of urban life to observe and analyze assumptions and values that are typically taken for granted and unspoken, using elements of the philosophy of Plato as well as the work of modern thinkers such as Georg Simmel, Gertrude Stein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Virginia Woolf, Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Lacan.
The Material City translates contested views of everyday life and its management into a deeper reflection on urbanity as a system of desire. The historical and the contemporary metropolis alike are shown to be sites where the enigma of mortality – and its relation to pleasure, comedy, and fate – plays out.
About the author
Noted sociologist Alan Blum's studies are sensitive to the interplay of words, meanings, and thought, and all their dimensions in human inquiry. Through events and workshops in London, New York, Montreal, Italy, and Greece, Blum has sought to create communities of interest oriented to collaborative research focusing on this question. He lives in Toronto.