Urban control and changing forms of political conflict in Uitenhage : 1977-1986

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Swilling, Mark
  • Subject: DT

The central question posed in this thesis is as follows: why did the apartheid\ud urban system change over time and in space during the 1980s? Based on a case\ud study of Langa Uitenhage, the changes in this local urban system are\ud explained in terms of the complex and irreducible relations of power that\ud exist within the urban system between three primary sub-systems that\ud interacted at the local level, namely the state agencies (especially local\ud governments and the security forces), community- and workplace-based\ud social movements, and formal business sector, particularly the local branches\ud of large-scale national and multi-national corporations.\ud The primary findings of the thesis are as follows:\ud (i) Uitenhage's urban system changed over time and in space as a result of\ud the complex interactions and transactions between the elements of this\ud local urban system and as a result of the dynamic interplay between this\ud local urban system and the wider non-local urban, socio-economic and\ud political systems within which Uitenhage's local urban system was\ud embedded.\ud (ii) Local urban politics can be explained as the organised expression of those\ud interactions and transactions that resulted from conflicting conceptions of\ud urban meaning and the corresponding urban functions and urban forms\ud that flowed from different urban meanings.\ud (iii) The dynamics of local urban politics cannot be explained as the\ud epiphenomena of underlying structural contradictions. There were key\ud moments when certain interactions occurred that decisively changed the\ud qualitative nature of the relationships between the elements of the local\ud urban system as a whole. Herein lies the importance of such occurances as\ud police massacres of peaceful demonstrators, violent crowd attacks on\ud representatives of the state, local-level negotiations and mass detentions.\ud (iv) This local case study contributes to an explanation of urban system change\ud and the dynamics of urban politics. However, the case study has not been\ud designed to generate another general theory of urban sysem change or\ud urban politics. It only demonstrated the usefulness of systems theory as a\ud guide for case study research.
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    20 references, page 1 of 2

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