City’s success derives from its distinctive mission. What other urban studies journal is able to appeal to researchers, activists and policy makers in equal measure? City has somehow managed to build much needed bridges between these communities. It enables conversations to occur between all those committed to a socially just and ecologically sane vision of city life. If City did not exist, you’d have to invent it.”

(Professor Noel Castree, Professor of Geography, University of Manchester, UK)

Message from the Editor

City was originally founded as a journal with the distinctive mission (see Journal) that Castree defines – to bridge the gaps between urban researchers, activists and policy-makers – but also to reach a wider audience. The latter mission was to reach out beyond these three groups on its ‘home’ planet, in terms of the language of space travel, to ‘intelligent life outside.’

The conventional view in publishing was that this further step was ‘a bridge too far.’ The opinion was that there were two distinct audiences, the academics, perhaps including the relevant professions, on the one hand, and, on the other, the general public. (This already leaves out the activists). A journal could find a market in one or the other direction but not in both.

The conventional view seemed to prove correct. Though much praised and with an increasing readership, City ran out of money. Accordingly, it retreated (apparently) to one base, and was relaunched in 2000 as an academic journal, now bearing a heavy load of learned prose, bibliographies and endnotes (almost without end).

The retreat, such as it was, was only apparent. City held on to its commitment to activists (in the form of an occasional but frequent section on Alternatives*), and genuinely visionary perspectives (as distinct from the cosmetic cover-ups of gentrification and much urban regeneration), and returned bit by bit to the qualities that characterised its pre-academic form, its visual presentation, and sense of  intellectual adventure. All in all, even in its new academic form, it became evident that here was a strange light shining in, on and beyond the staid world of academic publications.

Most of all, City has held on to (and developed) its concern with and commitment to what Castree calls a ‘socially just and ecologically sane vision.’* It has also become more explicit about recent changes in the global North arguing that (despite the smooth blandishments of some of its leaders) measures talked up as ‘progressive’ are in fact regressive*, literally reactionary rather than ‘radical’ (if the meaning of radical is allowed to continue to point to roots rather than to symptoms). 

City confronts the established pieties of the left as well as the right with critiques from the global South*, and with a planetary view that points to the impending collapse of urban life under the encroaching forces of accelerating climatic change and of ‘peak oil’*, and to the urgent need for action and plans for the chaotic and dangerous world that will emerge.

City has for sometime been explicit about its ‘critical’ rather than ‘mainstream’ orientation* in its approach to academic and professional work but has also indicated that it is open to, and indeed welcomes, debate between proponents of these two positions (most evidently of late in the debate about gentrification* between Tom Slater and Chris Hamnett with a concluding, for the time-being, comment from Peter Marcuse). Senior Editor Paul Chatterton has been playing an increasing part in articulating the work of activists and linking it to research and policy.

Cities for People, Not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City, 2011

Cities for People, Not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City, 2011

In geographical coverage,  increasing attention is given, as already noted, to the global South, and, within the North, particularly to the United States. Of two major schools of thought in the US, there has for some time now been a major commitment to the combined socio-spatial and planning research – particularly associated with Peter Marcuse and Neil Brenner in New York – from a special issue (13. 2-3 (2009), see here >>), to the book Cities for People, Not for Profit (also published by Routledge), and now, with his active involvement, to that of Ed Soja in California, particularly his recent book Seeking Spatial Justice.

At this point and with this history behind us, the website is more than a mere addition to the journal; it is the basis of a transformation. Two prime concerns of the website are that 1) it should showcase and analyse (indicating its holistic concerns, which are not evident from the now dominant academic practice of selective downloading) the full range of the work of City in an interesting and accessible manner; and 2) that it should provide a wide-ranging and lively commentary and a source of largely current material from extra- as well as intra-mural voices. In launching the website, City is resuming its bridge-building mission of reaching out to and establishing dialogue with ‘intelligent life outside’, a task that is crucial in potentially terminal times.

Bob Catterall,
Editor-in-Chief and founder of City