Scales of Political Life: Space and Power beyond the Polis
Denman, Derek S
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This dissertation considers how geographic scale shapes the theory and practice of politics. It develops a dynamic, relational approach to scale that finds folds and overlaps between micro- and macro-processes. The project asks how subjects negotiate non-concentric political domains: bodies, localities, cities, nations, the globe, and the planet. In contrast to hierarchically nested models of belonging, it emphasizes transnational, transversal, and eccentric forms of ethical and political interconnectedness. Attending to the elaborate interactions between the embodied, local, urban, global, and planetary complicates state-centric images of politics as well as those that present a flattened, reductive approach to globalization. By tracking an undercurrent in political theory through readings of Machiavelli, Michel Foucault, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, David Harvey, and Manuel De Landa, the project renders explicit a theory of scale that has remained at the margins of work on each of these thinkers. It connects this geographic formulation within political theory to bodies of literature focused on the polis, contemporary studies of cities, and urban interconnection. In contrast to predominant approaches to political theory and international relations that privilege either the national or global scale, this project takes the city as the starting point for an inquiry into the ethics and politics of a globalizing world. By selectively emphasizing the political space of the city and its complexities, it pursue the areas of overlap and intersection between multiple scales with rough edges. Urban theorists, such as Harvey and De Landa, have envisioned the city as a multiscalar space. This analysis locates similar tendencies in thinkers less frequently noted for their writings on cities. Machiavelli, Foucault, Hardt, and Negri reflect on the city as a site in which a people, a multiplicity, or a multitude is organized in a world of intersecting scales. The dissertation thus focuses on the city as a strategic point of departure in order to ask how shifts at one scale reverberate through politics elsewhere and how these relations are in turn reflected in the material and social composition of cities.