Marginalization Of Space And Politics Cultural Studies Essay

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The increasing material and ethnic inequalities taking place in the modern urban environment often take the form of concentrating social problems in certain districts. This dynamic is aggravated by the tendency of those who can to move out of these residential areas. The neighborhoods they leave behind are distinguished by growing rates of long term unemployed and a rise in households dependent on social benefits. This concentration of social problems often coincides with a growing density of ethnic minorities and migrant households. As migrants become an increasing presence in such neighborhoods, the financially better off native residents tend to move away. An emerging migrant population not only suggests that natives have lost interest in that location, but that the housing quality is low. The case is especially true for Istanbul.

Istanbul, where once middle class habitus generated a successful social integration at economic, political and cultural levels, and in which state-sponsored provisions created rather stable and sustainable urban environment, is now a place, where neoliberal transformation of post-1980s and globalization tore down once homogenous into layered and mutually exclusive spatial and temporal web of networks. Those who enjoys globalized networks and have relatively high volume of cultural capital, especially young professionals, has differentiated themselves from and has marginalized those who cannot enjoy the same privileges (Keyder, 2005).

This residential location dynamic tends to undermine economically integrated neighborhoods and intensifies the concentration of social problems, initiating a downward spiral in neighborhood development. Local urban policies are either trying to focus on the problems of neighborhoods with a particularly high density of social problems, or are neglecting them, thereby pushing these neighborhoods even further to the margins of society. Behind this argument lies the assumption that marginalized neighborhoods carry little weight in the city's political decision-making processes. On the one hand, if many inhabitants lack the right to vote and few of those who are eligible actually participate in elections, it seems likely that local government will not place much priority on their needs in the political struggles for resources. On the other hand, the residents of these neighborhoods may have turned their backs on politics and lost confidence in the likelihood of local authorities being responsive to their concerns.

A reasonable initial hypothesis might therefore be that a growing subjective distance between the residents of these neighborhoods and city government would reinforce their objective exclusion. The large political parties may turn their backs on these marginal areas and provide them with resources that are not sufficient to cover their needs. Accordingly, the lack of political representation would aggravate neighborhood problems, yielding the exclusion of entire city districts. Putting the question more generally: Is the underrepresentation of deprived areas in political and administrative decision-making processes aggravating the social divide in urban areas? Therefore, in order for a functional analysis of modern urban environment, my research plan is to develop Turkish urban regime theory.

Literature Review

These empirical questions may be classed as a case study in traditional community power studies. Floyd Hunter's (1953) study of the power structure in Atlanta and Robert Dahl's (1962) research counterpoint on dispersed power inequalities and pluralism in New Haven initiated a debate about the nature of urban politics. Hunter interviewed experts and key persons of the city of Atlanta and concluded that relatively small, homogeneous elite determined the city's political decisions. He was soon reproached that it was unrealistic to identify true power holders by asking those active in public affairs about how power was distributed. Instead of this "reputational" method, Dahl and his students advocated detailed empirical surveys of who participated in making specific policy decisions. They found that different groups were influential in different domains. As a result, they formulated a pluralist theory of the communal distribution of power.

While this view became predominant in political science during the 1960s, it met with increasing challenge as the United States experienced growing urban turmoil during the late 1960s and 1970s. A viewpoint that might be termed "urban political economy" argued that any decision-making outcome reflects an underlying structural power asymmetry between public and private actors (Stone, 1989; Mollenkopf, 1983). Thus, empirically identifiable power constellations range within margins that democratic decision-making processes cannot shift. In the meantime, "hyper-pluralists" reasoned that interest groups in local government affairs have become so diverse and fragmented that they are no longer able to form large stable coalitions, making local governments unable to make decisions and reducing political control over urban development (Yates, 1977). Such theories come close to the 1970's theses on the non-governability of cities (Stone, 1989).

Local Governance

The question about a district's political representation rests on the assumption that districts which are not represented by a member of the city council or have weak links to policy-makers will be at disadvantage when city administrations distribute benefits and will not be able to assert their interests as well as those who are better connected. To assess how neighborhood interests are represented, however, one must look not only at the distribution of formal power positions, but also at informal communications processes. A power structure is so tightly linked with the general ability to control local processes that it is better to speak of local governance when referring to the system of municipal decision-making. Governance is a term that goes beyond formal political institutions to consider how elected officials, agency administrators, and line service providers achieve coordination and control within complex structures, thereby including matters of legitimacy as well as power. Governance is a regulating structure, which embraces informal and formal elements while paying particular attention to confidence-based networks and to how key players communicate with each other. This is the only way to adequately map the complex decision-making processes of a large city involving a multitude of players.

The Entrepreneurial City

Formerly social divisions and rigid structures in modern cities have been reviewed and studied as technological advances have removed long-established industries, often conceived as symbolizing a shift from the age of industrial urban environment to post-industrial one, and have put forward significant questions to the way that "researchers conceptualize the urban, undermining the neat models of urban social structure and residential segregation that have dominated urban phenomenon for over 50 years" (S.J. Smith, 1994). The debate is fruitful in a way that urban researchers may see not only the changes of the nature of cities, but also the changes of the method of how cities are governed. Basically, the focus is on the way in which urban governance methods rely much on economic development and local growth, and less on fostering local welfare and service provisions. "These profound changes in the way that cities operate have seen the public sector taking over characteristics once distinctive to the private sector - risk-taking, inventiveness, promotion and profit motivation - leading many commentators to term such modes of governance as entrepreneurial" (Harvey, 1989:7).

The Regime Theory

Regime theory is a suitable way to describe and analyze these network relationships. It shifts attention away from a narrow understanding of power (as a problem of social control) towards comprehending it as a process of social production (Stone, 1989; Mossberger and Stoker, 2001). Given that urban governance systems have grown increasingly complex and fragmented, forming a regime or governing coalition enables certain interests to combine their capacities to achieve common goals. Regime theory identifies the different sets of arrangements of institutional players who strive, by division of labor, for common goals. It seeks to understand the feasible foundations for governing in a political system where players grow more heterogeneous and the problems more complex.


The empirical results of regime theory as carried out in the US, however, cannot be transferred to Turkish cities without a major shortcoming. Politics of the central government - not only in terms of financial aid and regulations, but also in terms of direct intervention - are decisively more relevant for local affairs in Turkey, than in the US. Hence, the most important players in Turkish local affairs are the mayor, city councilors who act as heads of departments, and the leader of the majority parliamentary party, although rarely do representatives of the private sector or other outsiders play important roles, as they often do as members of boards or commissions in American cities.


For analytical purposes, I will adopt two theoretical approaches. Firstly, I will apply a Schumpeterian analysis of entrepreneurial cities to Turkish context and to Istanbul. I argue that the concept of entrepreneurship can be applied to cities as strategic actors, which identify various objects of urban entrepreneurship, and refers to the important role of entrepreneurial discourses, narratives and self-images (Jessop and Sum, 2000). Both the institutional framework of communal autonomy in Turkey and the long historical commitment to a large public role in urban development and social policy, including abundant communal institutions and a large supply of non-market housing, constrain the tendency of Turkish cities to act like private enterprises. However, new forms of governance, including public-private partnerships, are emerging in response to the state's declining capacity to shape economic and social trends. Secondly, I find that Jon Elster's (1979:112) "two-filters-model" a useful way to look at how political actors behave in this setting. In a first filter, cultural norms, economic and technological conditions, and political institutions and rules set boundaries on the realms of possibilities from which local players eventually choose in a second process of filtering. While comparative studies of local politics within one society can reveal something about how the second filter works, cross-national studies shed more light on the first filter (Merkel, 1996). In newly industrialized countries, both the boundary conditions - the first filter - and the specific mode of interaction - the second filter - are quite different than those prevailing in the much more market-sensitive, much less state-centered environment of American urban politics.


This research will aim to verify the assertion that says following: Local governments have a good deal of experience with and long institutionalized relationships with marginalized neighborhoods in Turkey. They clearly consider themselves responsible for the entire city and attempt to mobilize resources for deprived neighborhoods. This institutionalized process of care provides any resources available without being able to address the structural reasons that have created social distress in the first place. Hence, the best overall characterization of the situation is managed marginality. Whereas the discourse on growth policies is the most visible part of urban politics, emphatically represented by a regime of landowners, entrepreneurs, economic developers, and executive consultants, supplemented by local political leaders and the media, it operates alongside a parallel regime of socio-political players, non-profit organizations, citizens' initiatives, the local media, and party representatives who work in a more hidden manner and try to perform social integration functions. Thus, Istanbul may well be characterized by a dual regime, not the classic power structure of the American city.