IGU Urban Commission, Tel Aviv, 2010


University of Nanterre, France

Spatial Determinism and Territorial Public Action in France : Challenges and Evolutions

This paper aims to explore the relationships between urban space and politics. In 1973 Henri Lefebvre defined urban space as being a political space, which means not only a political product, but also a support, an instrument and a challenge for contradictory strategies and confrontations1. So I aim to explore the political contemporary space in France. I will take as a starting point the French case and some concrete examples of the “politique de la ville” implemented since the 80s and the political ideas that made it possible. Then I will focus on the status and on the exact place that space occupies in public action and in the thinking of the various actors – politicians, urban planners, architects... I will speak therefore about urban ideology2 and its consequences. To put it differently: Do the political contemporary representations consider space as a mere instrument – as a means – or rather as a real challenge for social change? I will therefore describe the way space is used as a tool in contemporary public action, starting from the representations of the relationships between space and society dating back in the 70s, that led to the “politique de la ville” from the 80s.

First of all, I have to say a few words about this French “politique de la ville”, about its history and the context that witnessed its birth, and to explain what it is. In a second step, I will speak about the stakeholders that defended this policy and about their ideas.

In a third step, I will present the transfer of these ideas into action. I will therefore concentrate on the study of the ideology underlying this public policy, on the evolutions and adaptations of these systems of ideas facing reality and, last but not least, on the identification of their social and spatial consequences.

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