Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Atlanta University (AU)

Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Larry E. Moss


This study is an analysis and critique of the epistemological foundations of the emerging political economy approach in urban studies. The focus on epistemology locates this project squarely within the realm of philosophy. Broadly speaking an epistemological discussion is a philosophical discourse on the conditions of the production of knowledge. It centers on the origins, methods and limits of knowledge and is concerned with how we come to know rather than what we know. An epistemological critique is a theoretical exercise whose aim it is to engage a theory in systematic dialogue. That dialogue takes place at the level of the author’s conscious discussion, but it also engages the messages embedded in the shadows. Hence, a critique involves an attempt to identify contradictions, strains, or dissonances to be found in a theory.

Urban political economy is here seen as a response to the shortcomings of discipline bounded urban studies and the crisis generated for urban studies by real world events. Those events generated conceptual and theoretical problems and ultimately led to efforts at transcendence. The works of Manuel Castells and David Harvey were selected to represent that transcendence because they more than any others attempt to provide urban political economy with philosophical substance.

This dissertation shows that Castells’ is a structuralist epistemology that flows from the works of Louis Althusser. Althusser’s epistemology provides Castells with a critical theory of reading but his structuralism is distainful towards historical analytical concerns and is problematical to the extent to which it eliminates the human factor and downplays the role of consciousness is social dynamics. Castells first embraces and then rejects this emphasis. Thus, his is in many critical respects a revision of the basic principles of structuralism.

Hervey, on the other hand, comes to urban political economy through liberal geography. His is an attempt to transcend his earlier liberal roots while appropriating key dimensions of structuralist Marxism. The result is an eclectic epistemology which is still bounded by liberal formulations. In both cases the conclusion is that without certain revisions these authors do not provide us with a epistemology that is philosophically sound and facilitative of unambiguous research.