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A Power-Conflict Approach to Urban Land Use: Toward a New Human Ecology

D. Claire McAdams
Urban Anthropology
Vol. 9, No. 3 (FALL 1980), pp. 295-318
Published by: The Institute, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40552924
Page Count: 24
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A Power-Conflict Approach to Urban Land Use: Toward a New Human Ecology
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Abstract

Sociologists have written extensively about the city since the pioneering work of the Chicago school in the 1920s. With the research of sociologists like Park, Burgess, and McKenzie arose a research tradition with a central focus on urban land use and land patterning. Since the 1920s a considerable urban ecology literature has emerged. This "classical" school was criticized during the 1930s and 1940s, as in the critique of Firey pointing toward values as land use determinants. This was followed by the "neoclassical" analyses of the psysical conditions determining ecology apart from cultural values. Yet, with one brief exception, nowhere in this extensive sociological literature on land use and urban patterning is there a serious, systematic concern with the ways in which the inequality of power or the class structure shapes the decisions that originate and arrange the physical face of cities. This paper traces purposefully the ways in which urban spatial structure and land use have been previously analyzed and offers an original typology of the powerful actors that shape urban spatial and land use. This is linked to my concern to contribute to an alternative theory of urban ecology that accents the role of class structure, the role of powerful, land-oriented, capitalist actors in shaping the location, development, and decline of American cities.

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