6 Acting on urban issues
In Section 5 we looked at the spatial processes through which people come to see themselves as sharing an interest in particular issues with people they may never have known or met. We saw how Iris Marion Young suggested that urbanisation processes play two roles in this process: throwing people together so that they may come to see each other as sharing certain concerns, and also recognise their dependence and affinities with others; but also providing the mediums through which people can address and be addressed by others as potential members of a wider public.
The framework of critical spatial thinking leads us, however, to a third analytical question. Once people have identified themselves as members of wider collectives – perhaps as members of a public with shared interests, or perhaps as members of an interest group with specific grievances it wants to redress – what is to be done about their concerns? Who is responsible for taking action and who has the capacity to do so?
And, more to the point, at what spatial scale does effective power to do something about issues lie?
Does the answer to this question vary according to the issue involved, between, for example, toxic air pollution, inadequate housing, or the imminent threat of flooding?
In short, who can and should act in response to urban problems: to pre-empt them, reconfigure them or respond to their consequences?