ABSTRACT

The modern city, as many analysts have pointed out, was based on the principle of industrial capitalism; its social structure reflected the constitutive social classes under capitalism. As far as we can now speak of the contemporary city in the Global North as a post-modern city, this refers to its economic base, where industrial capitalism is no longer the key factor; and to the social features of the city, which are no longer derived from, or can primarily be understood within, a scheme of social classes. One may argue that the urban Global North has long displayed a vertical system of stratification: ranking on the basis of possession of assets, with the higher social classes-the rich-on the top, and the lower social classes-the poor-at the bottom. This vertical system of stratification presumes that the social hierarchy of the society is primarily, if not solely, based on economic assets, measured by their value. For Bourdieu (1984), a habitus, a set of cultural practices and attitudes, continued to be linked, primarily, to class positions. As such, they were fixed and could be mapped on, and explained by, social class. The social stratification system was, of course, not just objective, but clearly linked to a morality, where the poor, those who did not make themselves economically productive, were looked down upon and were subjected to various laws and regulations that taught them their moral unworthiness. However, class, more than any other distinction, determined the social order of the city and the interpretation of its inequalities. When, at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, labor organized to request rights for the working classes, such claims were primarily based on an understanding of social justice that challenged the social inequalities that capitalism produced, and pleaded for the development of the welfare state.