It is maybe impossible to summarize in these words the importance of IJURR. It became through these 40 years the most influential international journal in urban studies, at least in Latin America. Together with the Research Committee 21 of the International Sociological Association from which the Journal originated, IJURR was the most important influence in the construction and consolidation of an international network of urban scholars and practitioners with a strong critical view of social and political processes and dense connections with both society actors and progressive urban reform policies. Its history is mingled with the production of a critic of contemporary urbanization, housing policies and space production and its main actors, heavily influenced by the urban Marxist sociology and the political economy perspectives of the 1970s, with also some Weberian presence.
Since its inception, however, both cities and social science debates changed substantially. Cities became more and more important in political, economic and demographic terms, increasing the intellectual and political relevance of urban studies. On the other hand, social science debates became more fragmented with the reduction of the centrality of the macronarratives that organized debates in the 1960s and 70s, and urban studies grew substantially and became much more heterogeneous in social, geographical and disciplinary terms.
As I see it, the Journal answered to these changes constructively, with a diversification of themes and approaches in the late 1980s and 1990s, although a return to the sociology of segregation, race and urban inequalities could be very positive today, considering what has been happening in our cities. More recently, this has been followed by three interconnected trends – a landscape of flows (of political and economic processes and influences, of people, of policies and ideas, of urbanization models), a geography of neoliberalism and influences from cultural studies. These trends have been contributing to the construction of more dynamic, complex and relational picture of urban processes, both internally to cities and in their relations with regions, States and other regions of the world. Urban studies is also much larger and substantially more heterogeneous in geographical, social and disciplinary terms.
Additionally, the journal has been hosting a new comparative effort, structured in much more sophisticated terms than the static universalizing or variation finding comparisons of the 70s and 80s. The geographical scope of the Journal included since the beginning a plethora of cities – from socialist countries (and later in transition from it), from the intensely heterogeneous urban South and from the early industrialized countries. However, there was a recent dislocation of emphasis with the so-called ‘new comparative gesture’, granting a different theoretical status to knowledge produced outside the cities from which classical theories were drawn, decentering existing interpretations and potentially opening the field for new ontologies. IJURR has been one of the main sites for this movement, as well as for the following discussions. I do not think urban studies as a whole need exactly new ontologies, but the incorporation of a wider variation of processes and actors. However, this debate, centered at the Journal, resulted in one of the most important recent theoretical controversies in the field.
Considering the complexity and multidimensionality of urban phenomena, urban studies will always host a plurality of methods, theories and disciplines for different subjects. The choice of the Journal of being multidisciplinary and of giving space to all theoretical positions was paramount to define its contribution to the field. I believe there will never be a ‘theory of the urban’ in the strong sense of the word. Instead, we will continue to see more middle-range ‘theories’ produced by different disciplines and debates – some of broader scope and others of more localized character -, in dialogue and (productive) tension. In this sense, the crisis of the macronarratives in the 80s and 90s created very good conditions for innovation in knowledge and theory production, now expanded and multiplied by decentered comparison strategies. This was a mark of the Journal through its trajectory, and should continue to be encouraged.
I end by highlighting what I consider the main analytical absence in the Journal: a more systematic discussion of urban governments, urban political institutions and urban politics. This statement may come as a surprise to some, since much was published about ‘the State’ and ‘urban policies’ since the very beginning. In fact, the very first issue of the Journal included a debate on ‘Urbanism and the State’. However, most of this production looked at the State and at politics from a political economy perspective, investigating what was considered its logic, its connections with the economy and with social reproduction, leaving aside the concrete processes, struggles and actors that constitute the States and the polities from which they have emerged and in which they are embedded. It is also true that the Journal gave important contribution through the years to the understanding of the politics of daily urban lives, as well as about the politics of urban civil society, its struggles and its heterogeneous organizations. Nonetheless, there was a substantial silence about urban political institutions, their functioning and multiple connections with their polities. It is clear that this problem originated from the theories that were hegemonic at the Journal’s inception, but the subsequent decades did not fill this important analytical gap. The multiple fits and simultaneous constitution of States and societies were in this sense eclipsed by elements, processes and subjects in (and from) society. This is not something unique to the Journal, but is an effect of a strange silence of urban studies in general about political institutions as well as of political science about cities, at least since the 1970s. A stronger incorporation of urban political actors and of the details of the functioning of urban political institutions, bureaucracies and urban policies in the Journal may contribute to a more balanced analysis of political processes in cities by international debates, enlarging at the same time the interaction of our academic debates with the contemporary historical and political conjuncture.
DCP/USP and CEM
IJURR Editorial Statements
Julie-Anne Boudreau, Matthew Gandy and Maria Kaika (2015) Volume 39.1
Reflections on the Academic and Economic Environment
Julie-Anne Boudreau and Maria Kaika (2013) Volume 37.6
IJURR: An Editorial Statement
Jeremy Seekings and Roger Keil (2009) Volume 22.3
IJURR: Policy Statement
Patrick Le Galès, Susan Fainstein and Linda McDowell (1998) Volume 22.1
IJURR: looking back twenty-one years later
Michael Harloe, Enzo Mingione, Chris Pickvance and Edmond Preteceille (1998) Volume 22.1
Founding Editorial Statement
Michael Harloe (1977) Volume 1.1
© 2017 THE AUTHOR. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN AND REGIONAL RESEARCH, PUBLISHED BY JOHN WILEY & SONS LTD UNDER LICENSE BY URBAN RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS LIMITED
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