Occidentalism Оf and Beyond the City Model

The ideal type of the European city was extensively theorized in Max Weber’s model of the Occidental city and subsequently bequeathed to several generations of urban sociologists. Key to this model’s foundation is the separation of the city from the countryside. While the city in Weber’s analyses is an Occidental city modeled after Italian city states, the countryside is reduced to a residual category, the nameless non-city. The resulting binary opposition contrasts a metonymical West to an undifferentiated Rest – with momentous consequences for how both were subsequently theorized in the social sciences, and for Occidentalist understandings of modernity to this day. In this paper, I argue that, rather than opposite ends of a continuum ranging from tradition (associated with the village, the periphery, and the past) to modernity (associated with city, the present, and core power), both the rural and the urban are inherent to and heirs of imperial, colonial and post imperial/postcolonial matrices of power and of the particular configurations of national spaces derived from them. On a conceptual level, therefore, our understandings of these concepts are shaped by power/knowledge mechanisms that also structure fundamental hierarchies of class, gender, race, religion, and nation and create artificial binaries. On the other hand, as variegated and concrete historical phenomena, both the rural and the urban have been configured by global asymmetries of power, uneven processes of socio-economic development, and the struggles for rights of those excluded and racialized from either context.