The Fragmented Politics of Urban PreservationBeijing, Chicago, and Paris

The Fragmented Politics of Urban PreservationBeijing, Chicago, and Paris

Yue Zhang

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816683680

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


The practice of urban preservation has become increasingly controversial in modern cities. In some places, historic monuments dismantled decades ago are rebuilt in exactly the same fashion, whereas centuries-old urban dwellings are demolished and replaced by new structures with historic appearances. In other places, heritage status becomes the equivalent of tax benefits, which encourages the renovation of historic houses but leads to the displacement of longtime residents. Based on extensive fieldwork and archival data, this book explores how the joint force of policy discourse and political institution shapes the policy process and creates distinct patterns of urban preservation in Beijing, Paris, and Chicago. It argues that the policy concept of urban preservation has become a strategic device for political and social actors to frame their propositions and promote their favored course of action. At the same time, the fragmented urban power structure serves as a filter that constrains the implementation of the preservation initiatives. In particular, the book developed a typology of political fragmentation (i.e., functional, intergovernmental, and territorial) to compare how different types of political fragmentation have shaped the policy process of urban preservation in predictable ways. By wedding political science theory and method to the study of urban preservation, this book is one of the first efforts to reveal the political underpinnings of the topic. The cross-national comparative approach is not only critical to test the theoretical framework presented, but also depicts a richer picture of the modes of spatial and social governance in the urban world.