Disassembling the city : a historical and an epistemological view on the agency of cities
Faculty of Arts. History
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Journal of urban history. - Beverly Hills, Calif., 1974, currens
, p. 1-19
University of Antwerp
Current ideas about the agency of cities are dominated by economists and economic geographers who point to agglomeration economies and the clustering of institutions, if not to creative classes and a tolerant and diverse cultural climate. In this article, such views will be historized and denaturalized. It will be examined how urban agency was fabricated in the late medieval and early modern period, stressing the role of political philosophy and epistemology. First, focusing on guilds and artisanal economic actors, I will describe the coemergence of specific types of skills and knowledge and the urban as a community and body politic. Subsequently, I will argue that the city as an assemblage transformed drastically during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, showing that the transformations concerning both the political and economic identity of guild-based artisans and the city as a specific political community were contingent on specific attitudes and practices related to matter and materiality.