Historical Social Research

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Bettina Lelong: Grasping Micro-Macro-Interactions in Urban Development Politics: A Multidimensional Network Approach to Collective Action [Abstract]

Cities are continuously evolving formations. Change occurs mostly incrementally, but sometimes more radical shifts transform the urban fabric. Considering the complexity of urban development processes, this paper asks for the conditions of collective action which enable an urban policy change deviating from established planning and political perceptions and interpretations, routines and actual balances of power. To capture the structuring conditions, the paper employs Emirbayer and Goodwin’s theoretical approach (1996), which conceptualizes cultural, social-structural and social-psychological contexts of action. The paper translates their framework into a network-theoretical methodology which provides an analytical template for the exploration of two empirical case studies. The paper outlines a multilevel analysis and discusses the qualitative network reconstruction and a frame analysis. Interpreting the findings of the political implementation processes of two waterfront redevelopments, it can be assumed that strategic networks of interdependent but loosely coupled actors aspired to overcome hegemonic network domains. The analysis reveals two types of networks, which show an exclusive and an inclusive logic of action respectively. Apart from this general distinction, both cases indicate certain supportive conditions which helped to consolidate the new urban development schemes. Regarding the methodology, it can be concluded that the integrated analysis of actor configurations, cultural frames and social-psychological conditions allowed for an encompassing analysis and helped to discern a variety of constraining and enabling conditions on human agency in urban politics.

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