Conflict Perspectives: Political Economy Models
Conflict theorists argue that cities do not grow or decline by chance. Rather. they are the product of specific decisions made by members of the capitalist class and political elites. These far-reaching decisions regarding land use and urban development benefit the members of some groups at the expense of others (see Castells, 1977/1972). Karl Marx suggested that cities are the arenas in which the intertwined processes of class conflict and capital accumulation take place; class consciousness and worker revolt arc more likely to develop when workers are concentrated in urban areas (Flanagan. 2002). According to the sociologists Joe R. Feagin and Robert Parker (1990). three major themes prevail in political economy models of urban growth. First. both economic and political factors affect patterns of urban growth and decline. Economic factors include capitalistic investments in production. workers. workplaces. land. and buildings. Political factors include governmental protection of the right to own and dispose of privately held property as owners see fit and the role of government officials in promoting the interests of
business elites and large corporations. Second. urban space has both an exchange value and a use value. value refers to the profits that industrialists. developers, bankers. and other make from buying. selling. and developing land and buildings. By contrast. use value is the utility of space. land. and buildings for everyday life. family life. and neighborhood life. In other words. land has purposes.
on the individual choices of the ordinary citizen with regard to real estate. just as they do with regard to other choices (Fagin and Parker, 1990). They can make housing more affordable or totally fur many people. Ultimately. their motivation rests not in benefiting the community, but rather in making a profit; the cities that they produce reflect s mind of the major results of these urban practices is tendency of some neighborhoods, cities. or regions to grow and prosper whereas others stagnate and decline (Perry and Watkins. 1977). Conflict theorists argue that uneven development reflects inequalities of wealth and power in society. The problem not only affects areas in a state of decline but also produces external costs.
even in “boom” areas. that are paid by the entire community. Among these costs are increased pollution, increased traffic congestion. and rising rates of crime and violence. According to the sociologist Mark Forgotten (1985: 214). these costs are “intrinsic to the very core of capitalism. and those who profit the most from development are not call ed upon to remedy its side effects.