doi 10.4067/S0718-83582013000300001


Urban development: an open debate


Carlos Lange Valdés


Over the last three decades, urban dwellers have been taking part in a series of rapid and accelerated transformations, chief among which is the transition between different urban development models. Such a transition is marked by the regression of Keynesian-Fordist models and their equity and redistribution principles, the consolidation of competitiveness and growth criteria (supported by neoliberal post-Fordist models), and the emergence of third generation models serving as an alternative and a critical reaction to previous models, the former promoting efficiency and sustainability criteria in the use of productive resources.

The relation among these three development models places us in the middle of the debate on the problems and challenges of each of these paradigms. The uncontrolled growth of large urban centers, their fragmented, diffuse and dispersed structure, the demands for greater sustainability and quality of life, the increase in inequality, social exclusion and the emergence of new forms of civic participation aimed at challenging institutionalism through the support of inclusive urban and housing policies suggest that this debate can be addressed and confronted by way of the multiple perspectives, tensions and paradoxes of urban social actors.

Apart from being an agent whose participation in this debate is unavoidable, the academic world should face an additional challenge: approaching the type, production forms and the dissemination and impact areas of the knowledge involved in this discussion. Such a task requires the constant commitment to explore new theoretical and methodological approaches, the promotion of shared learning and the advocacy of new reflection forms about urban development processes intended to contribute to the understanding, social visibility and political awareness of urban-housing problems whose obviousness prevents them from being clearly identified.

This issue of Revista INVI invites not only to verify the different manifestations of current urban and housing development, but to explore the alternatives produced by different areas of knowledge to understand, give visibility and recognize such a development. The papers presented in this number, apart from contributing new empirical and theoretical knowledge on their respective domains, raise questions on the promotion of urban development.

The first article presented in this issue, The Role of Housing Policies in the Systemic Efficiency of Developing Countries: Analysis Applied to the Uruguayan Experience, written by Altair Jesica Magri Díaz, addresses the transformations experienced by housing policies in Latin America, especially in Uruguay, from the universal nature of traditional social policies on housing to the consolidation of the low-cost housing concept, whose systemic character embodies a competitive element that affects the economic production, employment and public welfare. The inclusion of this systemic consideration in housing policies raises questions regarding the real capacities and possibilities of the State to control and regulate the housing markets supported by this approach.

In her contribution Socioeconomic Residential Segregation in Córdoba (Argentina): Trends and Spatial Patterns, Florencia Molinatti analyzes the progression of social segregation in the city of Córdoba, Argentina. The paper highlights the contrast between the increasing number of exclusive gated communities and the Provincial Government-promoted relocation processes of low-income communities in the periurban areas of the city. This situation has increased the social gap between the city dwellers and raises questions about the real political willingness to address such a problem through the use of current public policies on housing at local or national level.

The paper Collective Action and Citizen Opposition Movements as Comptrollers of Governmental Decisions: An Overview from an Analytical Sociology Perspective, authored by Francisco Alberto Báez, analyzes the emergence of opposition movements of urban social nature (NIMBY and NIABY) and its non-cooperative mechanisms as a response to the implementation of projects for collective use or public goods. The author points out the importance of these initiatives in the way they reveal growing discrepancies among important sectors of society concerning confronting governmental decisions that infringe citizen rights. These movements challenge the capacities and resources of the absent State promoted by liberalism and stress the convenience of a State more active in the promotion of spaces for socialization, enabling progress towards a more inclusive conception of public good, implicating the capacity of State agents to develop planning, coordination and negotiation instruments aimed at different urban social actors.

The next paper Tensions and Convergence: Contemporary Urban Design as an Alternative to Urban Sprawl, authored by Constantino Mawromatis, reveals the progressive importance gained by urban trends which, despite their differences, call for a more integral and sustainable urban growth as a critical response to the current dominant of a disperse and diffuse city model. In this sense, the author highlights the constant search for new alternatives which, from the standpoint of urban design, aim at promoting more inclusive approaches, focused on the development of urban life at human scale.

As a corollary of the proposals mentioned above, this issue of Revista INVI includes Three Pernicious Premises in the Study of the American Ghetto, written by Loïc J.D. Wacquant originally published in 1997; the Spanish version of this paper was authorized by the academic during a visit to the University of Chile in October, 2013. Along with a revision of different approaches to the notion of ghetto in the United States, the author proposes a stimulating debate about the object of study to be constructed in social sciences, which may be applied to the notion of ghetto and other social problems. The paper highlights the importance of field observation, empirical analyses and the capacity to explain and provide details on how social relations and representations are structured emerge as essential factors, thus superseding moralizing points of view and analyses based on the reproduction of stereotyped, superficial and popular depictions.

Finally, Rodolfo Jiménez reviews the book Learning from Popular Habitat: A Pedagogical Experience at the National University of Córdoba FAUPD: 1991-2011, co-authored by Aurelio Ferrero and Germán Gustavo Rebord. This book is an interesting and recommended opportunity to learn about a teaching practice that has sought to introduce pedagogical proposals to address the interdisciplinary theme of popular habitat for 22 years, thus becoming a reference point for Argentina and the rest of Latin America.

We hope the contents of these pages contribute to the work of different social agents engaged in current urban-housing development models. This issue also offers an invitation to explore new knowledge and reflection ways about this topic.