Field of Research: Urban Politics

A view of the relationship between urban design, urban planning, and urban policy makes possible, firstly, within the context of policy analyses, an explanation of the content, objectives, and methods of urban policy as a field of real action that is divided into various subfields: urban development policy, urban planning policy, open space and environmental policy, urban design policy, and other relevant fields of urban policy (including social and labour market policy, education and cultural policy, health policy, and integration policy). Secondly, a view of the structural framework of the policy (urban polity analysis) expands this outcome-oriented policy analysis to the political organizational framework established between the district, the city-state, the region, and the state at the respective location. With this understanding, urban development can be conceived as an institution within the framework of the democratic state that is equipped with (sovereign) tasks, responsibility, and resources, and performs alongside a defined ‘public interest’. A view of urban design and planning history makes clear that these institutions are shaped very differently by specific actors, protagonists, and personalities with specialized modes of action, perceptions, and attitudes, with which the approach of actor-centered institutionalism is engaged, among others. Third, political (field) analysis and the institutional analysis of structural arrangements and the ability to shape political processes are complemented by the input-oriented investigation of the processes of urban development policy (such as ongoing projects), the actors involved, including their resources and interests, and the way political decision-making (conflict resolution, consensus building, addressing dissent, etc.). Here, the transfer of knowledge also plays a central role with respect to political cultures and political milieus. For a differentiated investigation of policies, polity, and politics in their interactions in urban policy, governance may be used as an analytical tool, whereby a critique of governance as an affirmative rhetoric of really existing neoliberalism is to be methodically reflected as well. In a broader sense, the field of urban policy deals with two perspectives of political action in the city: with institutionalized politics (parties, governments, administrations, political programs), and with ‘the political’ in the city (political parties in the public sphere, demonstrations, protests, social movements). Even in the interrelation of these two spheres of action, where representative forms of democracy encounter a fundamentally democratic understanding of the right to the city; emancipatory practices for different residents in the city arise (citizens eligible to vote as well as city dwellers without the right to vote, such as children, new arrivals, international residents, etc.); and there is the potential for a critical urban public, and hence the control of state action by many. However, this does not happen automatically, and sometimes public spaces and numerous conflicts in public spaces will show that they function as a seismograph of the social peace in the city and region. This field of research not only fulfils the task of coherently analysing the inner workings of urban design and city planning processes; it also illuminates the basic functions of these disciplines as well as their transformation.