From the beginning of the article:
The first thing that meets the observer who takes the airport coach towards a city centre somewhere in Europe is the sight of monotonous suburbs, run-down factory areas, slum housing and the ruined remains of small companies that the market created. It is still possible to decipher posters on fire- and brick walls that illustrated a time of special emphasis on the few texts displayed in the public space. The city erodes and is exposed to stresses and strains that can’t be repaired, neighbourhood social safety disappears, cars take over the streets and the district crumbles. Symbols and monuments are not replaced. The city expands into the suburbs and beyond and the suburbs devour the city centre.
Scholars looking for perspectives have often chosen to investigate the city as an expression for the processes of civilisation. The city was seen as a homogenising force and transformed incomers from the countryside into modern citizens. The power of the city crumbles and homogeneity amongst its inhabitants is no longer preserved. It cannot control all the cultures, interest groups and organisations that spring up, and it can’t manipulate its inhabitants and sustain the myth of an immediate disintegration. The city crises of the 1990s were mainly enacted at institutional and government levels.
In the new heterogeneity, inhabitants established their districts and recreated ways of life that should really have vanished somewhere along modernisation’s straight line of development. Even during the 1990s, the city was on the frontline in this continuous revolution; a centre of tourism and information and communication technologies. The city continued to be the physical coating of desire. Nothing of the playful and unpredictable disappeared just because homogeneity and the concept of the city proved to be impossible. The city has always held a fascination both as a landscape and for its unplanned encounters between people. New innovations in our time include the architecture and the idioms of global culture that are developed in conflict with those national and local cultural hegemonies that also make claims on the city. The global economy’s centres of glass and concrete convey sweeping changes in the city’s appearance. The modern city has changed and industrial premises stand empty. The dwindling labour market makes its mark on the city. Life is condensed in new forms, places are given new meaning and the old is dismantled. The European city is born and dies at the same time.
This anthology focuses on European cities. It’s about how new worlds of life have been developed and how people’s experiences of the city have been dictated by change and mobility. While it is mainly the last half century that has captured the authorsinterest, a longer time perspective is often essential to an understanding of today’s debate on the city.