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Utopia tends to generate a bad press - regarded as impracticable, perhaps nostalgic, or contradictory when visions of a perfect world cannot accommodate the change that is necessary to a free and self-organizing society. But people from diverse backgrounds are currently building a new society within the old, balancing literal and metaphorical utopianism, and demonstrating plural possibilities for alternative futures and types of settlement. Thousands of such places exist around the world, including intentional communities, eco-villages, permaculture plots, religious and secular retreats, co-housing projects, self-build schemes, projects for low-impact housing, and activist squats in urban and rural sites. This experience suggests, however, that when planning and design are not integral to alternative social formations, the modern dream to engineer a new society cannot be realized.

The book is structured in four parts. In part one, literary and theoretical utopias from the early modern period to the nineteenth-century are reconsidered. Part two investigates twentieth-century urban utopianism and contemporary alternative settlements focusing on social and environmental issues, activism and eco-village living. Part three looks to wider horizons in recent practices in the non-affluent world, and Part four reviews a range of cases from the author’s visits to specific sites. This is followed by a short conclusion in which a discussion of key issues is resumed.

This book brings together insights from literary, theoretical and practical utopias, drawing out the characteristics of groups and places that are part of a new society. It links today’s utopian experiments to historical and literary utopias, and to theoretical problems in utopian thought.

Cities and Cultures is a critical account of the relations between contemporary cities and the cultures they produce and which in turn shape them. The book questions received ideas of what constitutes a city's culture through case studies in which different kinds of culture - the arts, cultural institutions and heritage, distinctive ways of life - are seen to be differently used in or affected by the development of particular cities. The book does not mask the complexity of this, but explains it in ways accessible for undergraduates.

The book begins with introductory chapters on the concepts of a city and a culture (the latter in the anthropological sense as well as denoting the arts), citing cases from modern literature. The book then moves from a critical account of cultural production in a metropolitan setting to the idea that a city, too, is produced through the characteristic ways of life of its inhabitants. The cultural industries are scrutinised for their relation to such cultures as well as to city marketing, and attention is given to the European Cities of Culture initiative, and to the hybridity of contemporary urban cultures in a period of globalisation and migration. In its penultimate chapter the book looks at incidental cultural forms and cultural means to identify formation; and in its final chapter, examines the permeability of urban cultures and cultural forms. Sources are introduced, positions clarified and contrasted, and notes given for selective further reading.

Playing on the two meanings of culture, Miles takes an unique approach by relating arguments around these meanings to specific cases of urban development today. The book includes both critical comment on a range of literatures - being a truly inter-disciplinary study - and the outcome of the author's field research into urban cultures.

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