Urban social structure: A focus on the development industry
Urban social structure or the spatial arrangement of social groups in cities has long been the subject of scholarly attention in urban studies from a variety of perspectives. Such attention has focused primarily on understanding the process and forces that give rise to structure, to some extent on the adverse consequences of socially differentiated or even polarised cities, and on policy to address these consequences or to socially engineer urban structure. Development firms are the key entrepreneurs who build the new urban fabric on which socio-spatial differentiation takes place. Through the processes of targeting specific market segments they play a pivotal role in shaping urban social structure by providing groups of specific types of residential development tailored to specific market groups in specific locations.
Yet despite the long history of study of urban social structure, existing approaches have afforded little and insufficient attention to the role of the development industry in shaping urban social space. This paper makes the case that an approach that focuses on the development industry role is needed to complement existing perspectives and because it is highly relevant if not necessary for effective policy making. Moreover, this focus is increasingly important and relevant in a contemporary context where the nature of urban development is changing and in which the decisions of private sector players play an increasing role in shaping structure. This paper outlines the desirable qualities of such an approach including the need to address both structure and agency.