What Role for Social Science in the ‘Urban Age’?


There is growing recognition of a new human ascendancy: ‘the urban age’. Rising interest in urbanism is evident in popular literature, the media and major global institutions. And yet, as with another great issue of the age, global warming, there is evidence that social science is being sidelined from a rapidly enlarging field of human concern. New urban knowledges are forwarded from the physical sciences and from popular commentary that are characterized by naturalism and its kindred tendencies, especially determinism. In this essay I consider why social scientific urbanism seems increasingly marginal to an ever broadening urban discussion. The regressive consequences for human knowledge and prospect are essayed. The essay’s final part is prospectus: for a revivified social scientific urbanism that draws from Sayer’s recent argument for renewal of critical human knowledge.