IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Urban Question as Cargo Cult: Opportunities for a New Urban Pedagogy




Urban research is unreflexive toward its object of study, the city, compromising its methodologies and theoretical capacity. This polemic draws on examples such as ‘creative cities’, which have been profiled and analysed for their local recipes for economic success. ‘Global cities’ have become stereotypes of a neoliberal form of the ‘good life’ to which much recent urban research is a handmaiden, a hegemonic knowledge project. These ‘metro‐poles’ of value are a form of urban pedagogy that presents lesser local elites with lessons to be followed. A form of cargo cult theory suggests, build it and wealth will come — hence the symmetry of urban scholarship with the fad for city rankings in pop journalism. In contrast to neo‐structural analyses of the global city, other research focuses too closely on regional geographies, local forces and urban affordances. A synthetic level of theory is proposed to bridge the divide which marks urban and regional studies. The ‘urban’ needs to be rediscovered as a central question. The urban is an object of theory and the city is a truth spot. The urban is more than infrastructure and bodies but an intangible good or ‘virtuality’ that requires an appropriate methodological toolkit. Résumé La recherche urbaine manque de réflexivitéà l’égard de son objet d’étude, la ville, ce qui compromet ses méthodologies et sa capacité théorique. Cette critique part d’exemples tels que les “villes créatives” dont on a établi le profil et l’analyse pour en déterminer les recettes locales de réussite économique. Les “villes planétaires” sont devenues des stéréotypes d’une forme néolibérale de la “bonne vie” au service de laquelle se met généralement la recherche urbaine, un projet de savoir hégémonique. Ces métro‐pôles de valeur constituent une sorte de pédagogie urbaine qui expose aux moindres élites locales des leçons à suivre. Un genre de théorie du culte du cargo suggère qu’il suffit de construire pour voir la richesse arriver, d’où la symétrie entre les travaux de recherche urbaine et la mode pour les palmarès de villes dans le journalisme populaire. Contrairement aux analyses néo‐structuralistes de la ville planétaire, d’autres études se consacrent de trop près aux géographies régionales, aux forces locales et aux affordances urbaines. Un niveau de théorie synthétique est proposé pour franchir la ligne de démarcation des études urbaines et régionales. Il faut redécouvrir “l’urbain” en tant que question centrale. L’urbain est un objet de théorie, la ville est un lieu de vérité. L’urbain est plus qu’une infrastructure et des entités, c’est un bien intangible, une “virtualité”, qui nécessite un jeu d’outils méthodologiques approprié.

Suggested Citation

  • Rob Shields, 2008. "The Urban Question as Cargo Cult: Opportunities for a New Urban Pedagogy," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(3), pages 712-718, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ijurrs:v:32:y:2008:i:3:p:712-718
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.2008.00808.x

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eve Chiapello & Luc Boltanski, 2005. "The New Spirit of Capitalism," Post-Print hal-00678024, HAL.
    2. Eve Chiapello & Luc Boltanski, 2005. "The New Spirit of Capitalism," Post-Print hal-00680089, HAL.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Louis Moreno, 2014. "The urban process under financialised capitalism," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(3), pages 244-268, June.
    2. Louis Moreno, 2012. "Looking backward," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(3), pages 345-354, June.
    3. Virginie Xhauflair & Benjamin Huybrechts & François Pichault, 2018. "How Can New Players Establish Themselves in Highly Institutionalized Labour Markets? A Belgian Case Study in the Area of Project†Based Work," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 56(2), pages 370-394, June.
    4. Langenohl, Andreas, 2009. "Social security and financial professionalism in "Neo-Liberalism": Perspectives for economic sociology," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 10(2), pages 22-26.
    5. Stéphane Debenedetti & Isabelle Huault & Véronique Perret, 2015. "Resisting the power of organizations in Modern Times : May we all be Charlot? [Résister au pouvoir des organisations dans les Temps Modernes : Peut-on tous être Charlot ?]," Post-Print hal-01525807, HAL.
    6. Hutter, Michael, 2021. "Three Modes of Valuation Practices in Art Games," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 85-119.
    7. Sikka, Prem & Lehman, Glen, 2015. "The supply-side of corruption and limits to preventing corruption within government procurement and constructing ethical subjects," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 62-70.
    8. Sikka, Prem, 2015. "The corrosive effects of neoliberalism on the UK financial crises and auditing practices: A dead-end for reforms," Accounting forum, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-18.
    9. Neman Muradli & Fariz Ahmadov, 2019. "Managing contradiction and sustaining sustainability in inter organizational networks through leadership: a case study," Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Issues, VsI Entrepreneurship and Sustainability Center, vol. 6(3), pages 1255-1269, March.
    10. Ismail Erturk & Julie Froud & Sukhdev Johal & Adam Leaver & David Shammai & Karel Williams, 2008. "Corporate Governance And Impossibilism," Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(2), pages 109-127, July.
    11. Philippe Batifoulier & Jean-Paul Domin & Maryse Gadreau, 2011. "Market Empowerment of the Patient: The French Experience," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 69(2), pages 143-162.
    12. Paola Trevisan, 2017. "The managerialization of the arts in the era of creativity. The case of an Italian opera house," Working Papers 01, Department of Management, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.
    13. Justin O'Connor, 2015. "Intermediaries and Imaginaries in the Cultural and Creative Industries," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(3), pages 374-387, March.
    14. Baker, Darren T & Brewis, Deborah N, 2020. "The melancholic subject: A study of self-blame as a gendered and neoliberal psychic response to loss of the ‘perfect worker’," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    15. Münnich, Sascha, 2016. "Note from the editor: Economic sociology and capitalism," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 18(1), pages 2-5.
    16. Antonio ALOISI & Valerio DE STEFANO, 2020. "Regulation and the future of work: The employment relationship as an innovation facilitator," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 159(1), pages 47-69, March.
    17. Lutter, Mark, 2014. "Creative success and network embeddedness: Explaining critical recognition of film directors in Hollywood, 1900-2010," MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/11, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    18. Meg Holden & Andy Scerri & Azadeh Hadizadeh Esfahani, 2015. "Justifying Redevelopment ‘Failures' Within Urban ‘Success Stories': Dispute, Compromise, and a New Test of Urbanity," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(3), pages 451-470, May.
    19. Sharon Zukin, 2021. "Planetary Silicon Valley: Deconstructing New York’s innovation complex," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 58(1), pages 3-35, January.
    20. Stefano Dughera, 2020. "Skills, preferences and rights: evolutionary complementarities in labor organization," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 843-866, July.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:ijurrs:v:32:y:2008:i:3:p:712-718. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Wiley Content Delivery (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.