“Urbanism, geography. In Dear and Flusty’s postmodern urbanism ,As

“Urbanism, has not
just evolved but has been fundamentally transformed.”
Looking to the millennium, all is new—time and space recalibrated and redrawn,
the economy restructured, technology transmogrified, modernism repudiated—all
supplanted by modes and forms separated from the old by irreversible cracks and
invincible gaps.

Dear and Flusty’s repudiation
of the Chicago School, and of Chicago as an urban prototype, is entirely
implicit. Dear and Flusty (1998) in the Annals of the Association of American
Geographers. “Have we arrived at a radical break in the way cities are developing?”
they ask rhetorically. “Is there something called a postmodern urbanism,
which presumes that we can identify some form of template that defines its
critical dimensions?” (Dear and Flusty, 1998, p. 50). The uninflected
title of their article, “Postmodern Urbanism,” unambiguously
announces their affirmative reply: “This paper is an initial step toward
deriving a concept of ‘postmodern urbanism'” (Dear and Flusty, 1998, p.

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I announce my position
without any postmodern haziness. Although Dear and Flusty (1998) present some
interesting points, their paper fails to present a set of clear and convincing
arguments. Not only are numerous arguments in their paper self-contradicting,
but the paper’s main theme—to establish the Los Angeles School of postmodern
urbanism—is problematic. Does a postmodern theory for a postmodern city justify
rejection of the Chicago School and do Dear and Flusty provide such a theory
from their Los Angeles vantage point?. I hope this review will blow away the
dense smoke that Dear and Flusty have generated in urban studies. In this explanation,
I will first remark on Dear and Flusty’s postmodern urbanism, followed by brief
remarks on postmodernism in general. I do not believe we can get  a clear understanding of Dear and Flusty’s
postmodern urbanism without touching on Dear’s larger agenda: to promote
postmodern geography.

In Dear and Flusty’s
postmodern urbanism ,As a bombastic strategy, the announcement of a new
paradigm, theory, or intellectual construct often rests on rejection of
something old, a hinder against which to establish the new by comparison. I do
not believe we can gain a clear understanding of Dear and Flusty’s postmodern
urbanism without touching on Dear’s larger agenda: to promote postmodern
geography. Dear and Flusty’s key argument is that most 20th-century urban
analyses have been predicated on the Chicago School’s model of concentric
rings. By synthesizing recent studies on the current form of Southern
California urbanism, they aim to develop a new concept, called postmodern
urbanism, under the notable of the Los Angeles School of centreless “keno”
capitalism. The fundamental features of the Los Angeles model include a
global-local connection, a universal social polarization, and a
reterritorialization of the urban process in which the hinterland organizes the
center. This is, indeed, an ruthless undertaking. And yet, in the conclusion,
we are told that their notion of keno capitalism is not a metanarrative but
rather a micronarrative awaiting dialogical engagement. If the argument to
shift our understanding of cities from the Chicago School to the Los Angeles
School (if indeed such exists) is not a metanarrative (which most
postmodernists oppose), I really do not know what a metanarrative is? This is
not a new problem in Dear’s writings: critics pointed out 10 years ago that
Dear seeks to have his own cake and eat it too (Scott and Simpson–Housley,
1989). The most serious problem of the postmodern urbanism thesis, as I see it,
is that the argument is premised on the doubtful assumption that our society
has been transformed and has moved from a modern era to a postmodern era—an
unproven argument that has been hotly contested among social scientists, as the
authors acknowledge in their first footnote. Following this assumption, the
authors present only those studies that seem to support their argument. We are
told, for example, that the Los Angeles School has emerged and replaced the
Chicago School of urban studies. As the authors describe this change, readers
get the impression that there has been a huge vacuum in urban research between
the development of the Chicago School in the 1920s and the Los Angeles School
in the 1990s. The authors lead the reader to believe that no meaningful or substantial
urban studies were conducted in the intermediate years. I believe that this classification
of the urban literature is neither fair nor accurate. Ironically, the three
pillars used by the authors to construct their postmodern urbanism—the
world-city hypothesis, the dual-city theory, and the edge-city model—are
concepts that emerged in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. As another example, the
global-local connection thesis is built on what economist Paul Krugman has
called pop internationalism (Krugman, 1997). New trade theories based on
increasing returns (rather than comparative advantages) have clarified many of
the confusions of the globalization process—for example, recent research
findings tight-fitting that globalization has minimal impact on local
employment (Krugman, 1998). No wonder Krugman refers to many of the
global-local connection arguments based on pop internationalism as “globaloney”
(Krugman, 1998). Yet another example is Joel Garneau’s edge-city model, which
Dear and Flusty employ to support their idea of centreless keno capitalism.
Although Garreau bagged some interesting characteristics of urban development
in the United States, his journalist’s intuition and speculation have not stood
up to scholarly scrutiny. Garreau’s ideas have been discredited by most urban
scholars. According to Beauregard (1995), the edge-city thesis is a seriously faulty
bombastic move to mitigate the urban sting of society’s contradictions. Abbott
(1993) regarded edge-city as an updated version of suburban mythmaking. The serious
flaw of looking at urban development via the edge-city lens is that it tends to
lead us. to “take the shell for the whole oyster.” Even Melvin Webber, one of
the earliest urban scholars to speculate about the emergence of a post-city age
(Webber, 1963, 1968), has admitted that cities are persistent and that his
previous speculations have not obtained strong empirical support because of the
persisting power of propinquity (Rusk, 1995; Webber, 1996). If Dear and Flusty
had paid attention to numerous studies of recent trends in the gentrification
of American cities (Smith, 1996), they would not have proclaimed the argument
that the hinterland organizes the center in a centerless keno capitalism. How
does the hinterland organize the center that does not exist? And if the center
does not exist, do Dear and Flusty mean to imply that gentrification is a legend?
As for the dual-city thesis, it is problematic to use it to describe American
cities, whether the dualism be Black versus White, rich versus poor, or haves
and have-nots (van Kempen and Marcuse, 1997). The complexity of reality simply
defies this kind of binary characterization. Marcuse (1989) has provided
appropriate evidence to illustrate the muddiness of the dual-city argument.
Despite these devastating and credible criticisms, Dear and Flusty have
relabeled the dual-city thesis as the new world bi-polar disorder, based on
which we are told that cyburbia versus cyberia and cybergeoisie versus
protosurps are just the continuation of the dual-city phenomenon in the
postmodern age. If the Los Angeles School of postmodern urbanism does exist, as
the authors claim, I am not sure what the common threads are that tie such a
diverse group of scholars’ work together. If I understand Soja, Scott, Davis,
Wolch, and Dear’s writings correctly, these Los Angeles–based authors are
really talking about quite different things under very different theoretical
premises using very different methodologies. The so-called Los Angeles School
is at best a unsystematic cannibalization of existing theoretical frameworks
or, worse, a hodge-podge of ideas that happen to be developed by people living
in the Los Angeles area. In contrast, scholars pursuing research under the
banner of the Chicago School share a common theoretical framework (urban/human
ecology) and generally accepted methodological procedures to confirm and duplicate
their claims. That is why the Chicago School has contributed enormously to our
understanding of how cities work and has exerted far-reaching influences in
numerous branches of the social sciences.

In Tables 1 and 2, I have
listed some sample terminology and announcements from “Postmodern Urbanism.”
Dear and Flusty used these new words and phrases to describe the postmodern
world (Table 1). It becomes even more challenging when these ill-defined words
are used to construct complicated sentences to make sweeping statements (Table
2) regarding emerging urban forms and processes.


Bipolar disorder,  Citidel, 
Citistat , Commudities , Cybergeoisie , Cyberia,  Cyburbia ,Deep-time ,Dreamscapes,  Disinformation  superhighway, 
Flexism,  Global  latifundia ,Heteropolis  ,Holsteinization, In-beyond
,Interdictoryspace, Keno capitalism, Leitmoti,f Memetic contagion, Neologistic
pastiche,Pollyannarchy , Praedatorianism ,Privatopia,  Proto-postmodern , Protosurps,  Telegraphy.


 “As the scope and scale of, and reliance upon,
globally integrated consumption increases, institutional action converts
complex ecologies into monocultured factors of production by shortening nature
into a global latifundia” (pp. 60–61).

“Resistance is discouraged by
means of praedatorianism, i.e., the forceful interdiction by a praedatorian
guard with varying degrees of legitimacy” (p. 60).

“The global latifundia, holsteinization,
and praedatorianism are, in one form or another, as old as the global political
economy, but the overarching dynamic signaling a break with previous
manifestations is flexism, a pattern of econo-cultural production and
consumption characterized by near-instantaneous delivery and rapid
redirectability of resource flows” (p. 61).

“The inevitable tension
between the anarchic diversification born of memetic contagion and the
manipulations of the holsteinization process may yet prove to be the central
cultural contradiction of flexism” (p. 62).

“Yet what in close-up appears
to be a fragmentary, collaged polyculture is, from a longer perspective, a
geographically disjointed but hyperspatially integrated monoculture, that is,
shuffled same set amid adaptive and persistent local variations” (p. 63).

 “Citistat’s internal periphery and repository
of cheap on-call labor lies at the in-beyond, comprised of a shifting matrix of
protosurp affinity clusters” (p. 63).

 “Thus the DSH also serves inadvertently as a
vector for memetic contagion, e.g., the conversion of cybergeoisie youth to
wannabe gangstas via the dissemination of hip-hop culture over commudity
boundaries” (p. 64).

These sentences are, in my
opinion, syntactically correct but semantically meaningless. If Dear’s 1988
article served as a birth announcement for postmodernism in geography, Dear and
Flusty’s Annals piece properly should be read as an obituary.