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Political Science 252

Introduction to the Politics of the City

Credits: 3

Length of Course: 14 weeks

Classroom hours per week: 4 hours

Prerequisite: PSCI 100 (Introduction to Political Science) or PSCI 202 (Introduction to Comparative Politics)

Corequisite: English 100

Texts:  Tindal, C. Richard et al. Local Government in Canada. 9th Ed. 2017. Nelson Education: Toronto.

Davies, Jonathan S, and Imbroscio, David L. Critical Urban Studies: New Directions. 2010State University of New York: New York.

Brunet-Jailly, Emmanuel. Vancouver: The Sustainable City. 2008. Journal of Urban Affairs

Sassen, Sakia. The Global City: Strategic Site/New Frontier, 2000. American Studies

Course Description:

Cities are vital spaces, economic engines, cultural hubs and, increasingly, where we live. Since the 1950s urbanization has accelerated rapidly worldwide and today more than half the global population and over eighty percent of Canadians live in urban areas. Given this trend, the political structures and processes of cities are becoming increasingly important. This course introduces students to the politics of Canadian cities. It explores the responsibilities of city governments, the ways they make policy, and their relationship with other levels of government. Further, it investigates the quality of democratic governance in cities as well as how city spaces construct relations of equality and inequality and the ways city living shapes our interactions with different individuals and social groups.

At the end of this course, students will understand the basic institutions of government within Canadian cities and how city governments fit in to the broader institutional structure of the Canadian state. They also become familiar with some of the key policy challenges facing Canadian cities in the 21st century. Further, students will understand key theories of urban governance and policy making. Finally, this course will equip students with analytical writing and speaking tools that will help them to effectively intervene in, and assess, urban politics.   

Course Outline:

Week 1

Introduction – Why study city politics and governance?  

Week 2 Multilevel governance 
Week 3 Municipal leaders, decision making processes and city regions   
Week 4 Urban regime theory and growth machines 
Week 5 The policy making process 
Week 6 Policy Challenges: Housing, climate change and transportation 
Week 7 Elections and representation
Week 8 Urban Social movements and community activism 
Week 9 World cities 
Week 10 Planning the city 
Week 11 Gentrification and the Spatialization of Inequality 
Week 12 Democratic governance and public space  
Week 13 Difference in the city  
Week 14 Final Exam


Participation 10%
Assignments 30%
Project 10%
Midterm 20%
Final Examination



Matt Wadsworth, PhD (ABD); MPA

Transferability: see