The post-political trap: reflections on politics, agency and the city

Beveridge, R. and Koch, P. (2017) The post-political trap: reflections on politics, agency and the city. Urban Studies, 54(1), pp. 31-43. (doi:10.1177/0042098016671477)

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This commentary reflects on the influence of the post-political critique on urban studies. In this literature (e.g. Swyngedouw, 2014), the default position of contemporary democracies is post-politics – the truly political is only rare, random and radical. The ‘post-political trap’ refers to the intuitively convincing, yet ultimately confining account it provides of contemporary urban governance. We identify three shortcomings. First, the binary understanding of the real political/politics as police negates the in-betweenness and contingency of actually existing urban politics. By so doing, secondly, political agency is reduced to the heroic and anti-heroic. Thus, the plurality of political agency in the urban sphere and multi-faceted forms of power lose their political quality. Third, the perceived omnipotence of the post-political order actually diminishes the possibilities of the urban as a political space of resistance and emancipation. On these grounds we argue not for a rejection of the notion of the post-political per se but for a more differentiated approach, one more alert to the contingencies of the political and of depoliticisation in the urban realm.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Beveridge, Dr Ross
Authors: Beveridge, R., and Koch, P.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Urban Studies
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):1360-063X
Published Online:25 October 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 SAGE Publications
First Published:First published in Urban Studies 54(1): 31-43
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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