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Sustainable Urbanism. Green Engagements and Compromised Conventions in the Twenty-First Century

Anders Blok (2022)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. As the problem of (un-)sustainable urbanism has gained practical and intellectual prominence from the 1990s onward, scholars affiliated with the economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) have responded via new avenues of inquiry. Broadly speaking, these represent the meeting-point of two wider strands of questioning, one concerning the justification of ecology as a possible new order of worth, the other concerning the conditions of shared inhabitation and public-political coordination in the city. Since around 2010, these strands have merged in a concerted questioning of life, activism, and politics in and of the (un-)sustainable city, drawing mostly on Boltanski and Chiapello’s diagnosis of a new spirit of capitalism and Laurent Thévenot’s sociology of engagements and commonalities. This chapter reviews the resultant contributions and places them within a wider interdisciplinary landscape of studies into contemporary urban change. First, the text places issues of (un-)sustainability in the context of wider attempts by EC/SC-informed scholars to reframe widespread diagnoses of the “neoliberal” or “entrepreneurial” city, including by way of theorizing the rise of a so-called certified city. Based on this overall conceptualization, the chapter reviews in turn EC-/SC-based contributions to the study of sustainability-oriented urban planning, urban green activism, and new translocal regimes of urban sustainability benchmarking, the latter representing a still-emergent research domain. The chapter concludes by summarizing key EC/SC contributions to understanding strivings for sustainable urbanism in the twenty-first century and locates avenues where further inquiry will prove fruitful, based in part on reconnecting with broader strands of EC/SC.

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