"Remaining the same or becoming another?": New critical commentary paper in Urban Studies
Stephan Leixnering and Markus Höllerer on adaptive resilience versus transformative change in cities
Structural change of cities has long been a central theme in urban studies. Recent manifestations of urban change have been described either as instances of ‘adaptation’, often associated with flexible adjustment and reorganisation, or of ‘transformation’, implying a deeper and more radical scope of change. The conceptual difference between these two ideas, however, remains surprisingly under-theorised and ambiguous in recent debates on ‘resilient cities’. In their critical commentary, Stephan Leixnering and Markus Höllerer focus on the structure–identity relationship, coupling resilience thinking with an institutional perspective. Through this prism, they conceptualise city identity as a distinctive set of socio-political values and the structure of a city as the means to realise such values. In consequence, they are able to offer a precise conceptual differentiation between what is dubbed ‘adaptive resilience’ and ‘transformative urban change’ as the two facets of change in city contexts: if structural change is accompanied by a shift in socio-political values (and thus a change in identity), they refer to this as transformative; if no such identity shift takes place, this is an instance of adaptive urban change, primarily on the level of structures. Illustrating their argument with the empirical case of the city of Vienna, their commentary adds nuance, clarity and conceptual precision to current debates on resilience in the city context.
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