Lest power be forgotten: networks, division and difference in the city

Bridge, Gary and Watson, Sophie (2002). Lest power be forgotten: networks, division and difference in the city. Sociological Review, 50(4) pp. 505–524.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.00396


Over the last decade we have seen a notable shift in the urban sociology literature from discourses of division to discourses of difference. This shift has opened up new ways of understanding the complexities of city life and the formation of heterogeneous subjectivities and identities in the spaces of the city. There has been, we argue, a worrying tendency in this process to lose an analysis of the workings of power. While early Marxist, feminist and race/ethnicity debates were firmly located within a framework which highlighted power, post–structuralist debates have operated with a more fluid notion of power, which at times has become so fluid as to evaporate into thin air. Our intention here is to re–emphasise the significance of power while holding on to the concept of difference. We do this by using the notion of power networks that operate at different temporal and spatial scales. These give the city contrasting spatialities and temporalities that overlap one another. The city is seen as a palimpsest of time–space networks that capture some of the ‘presence of difference’ as well as suggesting its absences. These time–space networks of power are considered in the material, perceived and imaginary realms in relation to bodies, interests and symbols.

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