Logan, John & Molotch, Harvey. (1987)
Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place
Chapter 1: The Social Construction of Cities
Main Argument: The authors try to create a new political economy approach to cities—that
cities are socially constructed by the interest and needs of actors. This is based on the fact that
every place has (a) use value, people use locations for something, and (b) exchange value,
building owners rent them, etc. The conflict between use and exchange values by actors (both
individual and groups) dictates how the city is organized and shaped, spatially and socially.
Human Ecologists/Chicago School. This approach views the city as a “natural” result of free
market determinism: space in the city, through competition, will gain its maximum use value.
Exchange values are not examined directly. All human beings in the city find a natural niche—
thus, even segregation has a function in that it reduces competition for certain groups within that
niche area. Each sub-area takes on its own character from the type of role it plays—this is true
both within cities and between cities. Differences, both within and between cities, are functional.
This approach, leaves out agency especially those of organized groups within the city, such as
politicians, unions, home owners, etc. Markets and prices work through and are defined by these
actors. Need to understand physical and social space of cities by showing how social factors
shape prices of places, and the human Reponses to those prices. The shape of cities is the result
of a (market) equilibrium.
Marxist Interpretations of the City. Marx does not talk about space directly. Neo-marxists,
however, view the city as a consequence of accumulation. Residents are the source of labor for
that is exploited by the capitalist. Unlike the ecological approach, this approach adds agency to
Main Point: Logan and Molotch combine these two approaches by adding agency into a market
perspective of place.
Chapter 3: City as Growth Machine
Main Argument: While elite theory1 diverges as to whether the elitie are a unified front or a
pluralistic group (Dahl), the authors suggest that elites agree on one issue: growth—although
they may not necessarily agree on the means for achieving that ends. The Growth Machine is
comprised of those players that seek to maximize exchange values, with growth driving up these
values; those who invest the most time and money in local affairs have most to lose or gain in
land-use.2 While the machine claims that growth is good for all, it, in fact, generally only
benefits those individuals who profit from exchange values (banks, land owners, etc.). This is
true not only within cities but between cities—i.e. those cities with a more active growth machine
can better compete for federal monies, etc.
Historical Example: Ogden in Chicago, mayor, land-owner, and railroad chairman pushed for
growth in Chicago making it the “cross-roads” of America. While this was viewed as “good for
all,” Ogden and his business friends directly benefited tremendously. However, it did make
Chicago (a city that had poor geographical conditions) a major city player rather than other
Midwestern cities (St. Louis, Toledo, etc.).3 Transportation (water, highway, rail, air) as a means
of growth was one of the key factors in U.S. History.
Ideology and Culture. The growth machine use culture and institutions to portray “growth as
good business.” The growth machine uses cultural means to legitimate growth and thus make
growth activities seem a “public good.”
Key Actors in Growth are:
- Politicians. The machine sustains/supports politicians who participate in the growth
consensus (i.e. political contributions).
- Local Media. Benefit from expanded viewer/reader-ship. Contribute to growth by
presenting it as positive. Are active in politics.
- Utilities. Favor growth along routes. Help to create growth.
- Cultural Institutions. Museums, universities, sports teams, labor. Growth helps to
sustain these institutions.
Effects of Growth. In general, growth does not provide major benefits to the collective majority,
but only for the growth machine. Some examples:
- Tax bases are often exaggerated because businesses generally receive big tax benefits.
- Employment benefits are also exaggerated as growth does not really produce jobs, but really
only redistributes existing jobs. Furthermore, jobs that are created are often given to highly
mobile populations—immigrants/higher educated—and, therefore, the jobs tend to not be widely
- Population growth increases wages, but is off-set by increasing cost of living.
See Stratification literature—Useem, Dahl, Hunter, etc.
Similar to Dahl’s notion of the political stratum.
Richard J. Daley’s fight for O’Hare was a similar victory for the growth machine.