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Sustainable Cities in Flux: Continuity, Comparisons, and Conceptions

From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Global Concerns and Urban Efforts

ISBN: 978-1-78441-058-2, eISBN: 978-1-78441-057-5

Publication date: 25 November 2014



Since the publication of the 1987 Brundtland Report, discussions about sustainable development have been nothing short of a buzz among politicians and academics. This chapter takes stock of an emerging strand of the sustainable city literature that recognizes local political dynamics, conflicts of interest, and power struggles.


The review is organized into three sections. The first section reviews how past studies have utilized sustainable urban development as an opportunity for advancing theories of urban politics, highlighting recent developments in the growth machine, regulatory state, and risk society theses. The second section examines a range of studies that place the questions of scale, unit, and boundary at the center of inquiry. The third section draws together a body of research that interrogates different meanings of sustainability.


The first section discusses the extent to which social and political processes in the sustainability age exhibit a pattern consistent with established theoretical accounts. The second section focuses on studies that address how urban sustainable development has brought challenges to existing configurations of spatial relations. These studies pose important methodological and epistemological questions for studying environmental politics. In the third section, the focus is placed on political implications of urban sustainable development, which is subject to multiple interpretations.


This chapter ends with a review of an emerging thesis – strategic urbanism, which draws attention to the patterns of change in urban politics. Much of the contributions to this thesis are based on urban sustainability politics in recent years.



Li, Y. (2014), "Sustainable Cities in Flux: Continuity, Comparisons, and Conceptions", From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Global Concerns and Urban Efforts (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 7-31.



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