More on Harvie Conn's Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City and the People of God (Leicester, Inter-Varsity, 2001).
Chapter 11, The City as Centre
This is an excellent chapter and hits on a key point I think.
Integral to the city as a center of power is its capacity for centralization and integration, for connecting. Power carries both a centripetal and a centrifugal force, drawing regions and systems into its orbit. ‘The big story of the city is bigger than the city itself’ (W. Flanagan 1993:83). (p. 205)
Conn cites biblical examples such as Tyre (2 Chron 8:18). The Hebrew banoth (‘its surrounding settlements,’ NIV) is often used with the name of a city (Num 21:25, 32; 32:42; Josh 15:45, 47; 17:16; Judg 1:27; 11:26).
The geographical signs of centralization are obvious: cities expand their borders past political and physical boundaries. An example of this is the urban sprawl of the US.
In last few decades of 20th century new spatial and social changes reshaped this sprawl: older suburbs began to connect with each other eliminating the need to connect with the city leaving behind a centre of social and economic (often racial) deprivation and creating ‘edge cities’ along the ‘growth corridors of highway and interstate’ (p. 207); what might be called the 'doughnutization' of the city. Malls spring up along these corridors and become substitute shopping areas.
Edge cities are privatopias where black and Hispanic minorities are more likely to be found employed as service workers than as residents. (p. 208)
The edge city is “a multimodal rather than a monocentric metropolitan region” (p. 208). Here Conn cites the Stockholm solution (p. 209) which is to create satellite communities in radiating lines around the city.
In the developing world the outer rim of the city takes on a very different character. The outer rim of the doughnut becomes squatter settlements – e.g. Rio and Lima with the poorest occupying ever marginal land on steep slopes (p. 212).
This all leads to urban-rural integration such that, even in Africa where urbanization is slowest, rural areas are becoming ‘peri-urbanized’ (p. 217).