By Alexander J. W.
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33 However, the urban chal- Introduction 15 lenge for the Left was captured most systematically by the sociologist Manuel Castells, who was associated at the time with the revisionist Marxism of Louis Althusser and Nikos Poulantzas. , and at the same time, the charging of the sphere of “consumption” and “everyday life” with political action and ideological confrontation [that require] new tools of intellectual work. We looked for these tools, mainly, in the Marxist tradition. Why there? Because we had to answer questions linked to topics such as social classes, change, struggle, revolt, contradiction, conflict, politics.
Yet his appeals to ideas such as “hegemony” and “articulation,” while welcome and provocative, are left unde- Introduction 27 veloped and in the end appear to leave his model closer to the pluralist model than he would like. 68 Central to this problematic is the question of gender, not only as a subject position around which interests and group identity can be woven, but also in the fundamental sense that subjectivity is irreducibly gendered. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the spaces of the city.
My goal rather is to trace the effects of reductionist assumptions on attempts to escape it. Since I argue that this attempt is unsuccessful, I draw lessons from this impasse for an alternative model. My approach is to apply enough analytical pressure on the tensions of dealing with the separation of work and home to pry open another way of seeing the spaces of identity in the city. This flows from my conviction that the city has something to teach us about a cosmopolitan ethic. Because of its unique attempt to link structure, space, and agency, Marxian urbanism is as good a place to start as any other, if not better, for thinking about this alternative city.