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The State and the City

Many of the oldest and largest Western cities today are undergoing massive economic decline. The State and the City deals with a key issue in the political economy of cities—the role of the state. Ted Robert Gurr and Desmond S. King argue that theoreticians from both the left and the right have underestimated the significance of state action for cities. Grounding theory in empirical evidence, they argue that policies of the local and national state have a major impact on urban well-being.

Gurr and King’s analysis assumes modern states have their own interests, institutional momentum, and the capacity to act with relative autonomy. Their historically based analysis begins with an account of the evolution of the Western state’s interest in the viability of cities since the industrial revolution. Their agument extends to the local level, examining the nature of the local state and its autonomy from national political and economic forces.

Using cross-national evidence, Gurr and King examine specific problems of urban policy in the United States and Britain. In the United States, for example, they show how the dramatic increases in federal assistance to cities in the 1930s and the 1960s were made in response to urban crises, which simultaneously threatened national interests and offered opportunities for federal expansion of power. As a result, national and local states now play significant material and regulatory roles that can have as much impact on cities as all private economic activities.

A comparative analysis of thirteen American cities reflects the range and impact of the state’s activities at the urban level. Boston, they argue, has become the archetypical postindustrial public city: half of its population and personal income are directly dependent on government spending. While Gurr and King are careful to delineate the limits to the extent and effectiveness of state intervention, they conclude that these limits are much broader than formerly thought. Ultimately, their evidence suggests that the continued decline of most of the old industrial cities is the result of public decisions to allow their economic fate to be determined in the private sector.

252 pages | 5 line drawings | 5.50 x 8.50 | © 1987

Economics and Business: Economics--Urban and Regional

Geography: Social and Political Geography

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
1. A Theory of State-City Relations in Western Societies
The potentially autonomous state
The national state’s primary and expedient interests in cities
2. The Autonomy of the Local State in a Period of Fiscal Crisis
The local state in advanced industrial societies
The local state: epistemological status and definition
Dimensions of the local state’s autonomy
Economic transformation and the local state in advanced industrial societies
3. The Political Salience of Urban Decline: Why and How the State Responds to Urban Change
The extent and nature of urban decline
The political salience of urban decline
Dimensions of the state’s material presence in cities
Growth of the public sector in declining American cities
4. The Political Salience of Urban Crisis in the United States: The Federal Response
The evolution of state interests in municipalities in the United States: federalist ideology versus national state interests
The realisation of national state interests in municipalities: an empirical analysis of the determinants of federal aid to cities, 1960-80
The distribution of central state aid to cities
5. Urban Decline and the Politicisation of Central-Local Relations in Great Britain
Local state autonomy Type I: urban decline and the policy responses of the central state
Local state autonomy Type II: the centralisation of local government
Conclusion: centralisation and local autonomy
6. Conclusion: Futures for Post-Industrial Cities
Processes of urban change
Alternative futures for Western cities
State power, state interests and urban decline
Appendix to Chapter 4
Notes and References

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