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Urban Studies


Urban Lifestyles: Diversity and Standardisation in Spaces of Consumption

Sharon Zukin
Urban Stud 1998 35: 825
DOI: 10.1080/0042098984574

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Urban Studies, Vol. 35, Nos. 5 6, 825 839, 1998

Urban Lifestyles: Diversity and Standardisation in

Spaces of Consumption

Sharon Zukin
[Paper rst received, September 1977; in nal form, December 1997]

During the past 30 years, the meaning of economic growth (Molotch, 1996). Attention
`urban lifestyles has changed from a fairly to lifestyles has given rise to new, highly
stable prerogative of social status (Weber, visible consumption spaces, such as nouvelle
1946) to an aggressive pursuit of cultural cuisine restaurants, boutiques, art galleries
capital (Bourdieu, 1984). For individual men and coffee bars. It has also generated new,
and women, this pursuit encourages various complex, retail strategies, combining adver-
forms of cultural consumption. For cities, it tising, sales, real estate development and
stimulates the growth of both for-pro t entertainment. Finally, attentiveness to urban
culture industries and not-for-pro t cultural lifestyles on the part of city governments has
institutions. These shifts relate to a number encouraged strategies that `aestheticise , or
of structural changes: the rise of post- focus on the visual consumption of, public
modernism as an art form, a post-industrial space although this has been accompanied
mode of production and a concern with by an increase in private groups control over
identity markers; the growth of service speci c public spaces.
industries; and the coming to maturity of the These changes in the material and sym-
`baby boom generation, whose demographic bolic fabric of cities alter previous concep-
weight and generally high expectations of tions of consumption as a residual category
amenities have fostered consumer demand of urban political economy. Cities are no
for distinctive, high-quality goods. Attention longer seen as landscapes of production, but
to urban lifestyles also re ects other changes. as landscapes of consumption (Zukin, 1991;
As immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities Hannigan, forthcoming). While most urban
and gays and lesbians have become more consumption still involves the satisfaction of
visible actors in both public spaces and everyday needs, many new urban consump-
cultural elds, they have made a variety of tion spaces relate to new patterns of leisure,
`alternative lifestyles more visible, travel and culture. This raises several ques-
especially in the big cities where they are tions. First, how do we assess the economic
concentrated. Both at work and at leisure, viability of urban redevelopment policies that
these groups have had a singular effect on encourage stores, hotels and not-for-pro t
de ning `urban cultures (Zukin, 1995; Mort, cultural institutions? They aim to attract a
1996). Further, industries based on designing mobile public that could easily go elsewhere.
and producing goods for speci c lifestyles Further, these institutions create mainly low-
are now seen as contributing to a city s wage jobs, which may be ne as entry-points

Sharon Zukin, Ph.D. Program in Sociology, City University Graduate Center, 33 West 42 Street, New York 10036, USA. Fax: 00l-212
642-2420. E-mail: szukin@email.gc.cuny.edu.

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0042-0980/ 98/050825-15 $7.00 1998 The Editors of Urban Studies

for a low-skilled, especially immigrant, privatism that are assumed to surround `new
labour force, but often remain dead-end jobs. urban lifestyles and many urban residents
The new emphasis on urban consumption professed devotion to such traditional urban
also heightens competition between cities values as social and cultural diversity
that serve as `branch nodes for the inter- (Caul eld, 1994)?
national distribution of the same standard- There are no data to answer such questions
ised, mass-produced, consumer goods such conclusively. Merely to pose these questions,
as clothing and movies as well as the same however, suggests that it is necessary to
generalised `aesthetic products, such as art think about urban lifestyles in a larger struc-
works and `historic buildings. At the top of tural and institutional framework. One possi-
the urban cultural hierarchy, in New York, bility is to relate urban lifestyles to gender
London and Paris, this sort of urban con- dynamics, family and household structures
sumption intensi es competition among `cul- and sexual politics (see, for example, Rose,
ture capitals for tourist dollars, high-price 1984; Chauncey, 1994). Alternatively, we
boutiques and rms, individuals and media can relate urban lifestyles to models of
events that have an effect on cultural inno- modernity, strategies of urban redevelopment
vation. and urban politics and cultures. This dis-
Cultural strategies of economic redevelop- cussion takes the latter path and is limited to
ment take many forms, from the encourage- cities in the advanced industrial economies.
ment of historic preservation (the `heritage Although these cities suffer from material
industry ) to creating new museums and inequalities, inadequacy and disrepair of
tourist zones. Partly, these strategies re ect public goods and perpetual evictions of so-
an absence of traditional resources for com- cial groups (Deutsche, 1996), they have a
peting for capital investment and jobs. Partly, different frame of reference from cities in
too, they represent a `cultural turn in the less developed economies. To the degree that
advanced industrial societies and a corre- cities in those economies now cater to inter-
sponding in ation of image production. But nationally mobile and culturally eclectic resi-
cultural strategies of redevelopment also dents, both rich and poor, this discussion is
re ect the growing importance, in all mature also relevant to them.
urban centres, of a symbolic economy based
on such abstract products as nancial instru-
Urban Lifestyles and Models of Modernity
ments, information and `culture i.e. art,
food, fashion, music and tourism. The sym- Of all the social sciences, urban studies have
bolic economy is based on the interrelated been in uenced most by cultural interpreta-
production of such cultural symbols as these tions of modernity. Such analyses draw on
and the spaces in which they are created and literary and artistic texts to create an under-
consumed including of ces, housing, standing of the modern city. They combine
restaurants, museums and even the streets the methods of art historians, literary critics
(Zukin, 1995). Thus urban lifestyles are not and sociologists. Like Charles Baudelaire
only the result, but also the raw materials, of and Walter Benjamin, contemporary writers
the symbolic economy s growth. who work in this vein (for example, Berman,
The rapid spiral from a spontaneous prolif- 1982; Clark, 1985) usually connect descrip-
eration of urban lifestyles, in the 1960s and tions of urban architecture with observations
1970s, to inter-urban competition by means of forms of sociability in the city (Simmel,
of cultural strategies, in the 1980s and 1990s, 1950, as discussed by Shields, 1992), in or-
raises questions about urban cultures and der to depict new urban `types i.e.
politics. In what sense are urban populations lifestyles that represent both structural
now divided by lifestyle rather than by race, change and adaptation. This methodology is
ethnicity and social class? Is there not a useful for sketching models of the institu-
contradiction between the individualism and tional contexts that underlie epochal changes
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in urban lifestyles with the understanding liminal zones that develop around theatre
that these changes occur in different districts, Times Square also developed a
sequences, in different time periods and in reputation for promiscuity and vice, es-
different localities (Appadurai, 1996, pp. 71 pecially when the better theatres closed down
73). For each ideal type of modern city, during the Great Depression and the better
nonetheless, there are correspondences be- restaurants were closed by Prohibition (Tay-
tween the built environment, forms of socia- lor, 1991). The diversity of `low-class and
bility and urban lifestyles. `popular entertainment around 42nd Street
and Broadway gave rise to a concentration of
urban lifestyles or social types: from the
Modernity (1880 1945)
gamblers and chorus girls described in the
Commercial culture has greatly shaped the short stories of Damon Runyon, to impres-
public life of modern cities. Between 1880 sarios of the Broadway stage chronicled in
and 1920, signi cant urban spaces were gossip columns of urban newspapers and
formed around department stores, restau- tourists who came to Times Square for
rants, theatres, hotels, public parks, pro- pleasure rather than culture (Harris,
fessional ball parks and amusement parks 1991, p. 75).
(Barth, 1980). Despite owners and man- Modern cities were also marked by new
agers efforts to maintain an air of exclusiv- shopping spaces, notably, department stores
ity, in terms of both social class and race, and shopping arcades or galleries. As Walter
these spaces were fairly `popular or demo- Benjamin (1973) famously described the ar-
cratic (Nasaw, 1993; see also Hannigan, cades of Paris, that were built in the early
forthcoming). Some, like Central Park in 1800s, these shopping spaces embodied in-
New York City or seaside resorts like Coney novations in the mass production of con-
Island or Brighton, lost their initial upper- sumer goods, in technologies of building and
class patrons as they became more accessible display and in strategies of creating and sell-
to and more frequented by, lower classes ing `dreams . Similarly, department stores
(Rosenzweig and Blackmar, 1992; Zukin et placed before the public, in a great big
al., 1998; Shields, 1991). Entry prices were `bazaar , goods that previously had been
low enough to attract a working class with con ned to small, specialised, elegant bou-
money to spend and time off from work, and tiques for a custom and luxury trade. The
norms that previously limited women s pub- new availability of consumer goods to cus-
lic appearances gradually diminished in im- tomers sight, touch and smell democratised
portance (Peiss, 1986). Women and men desire and made the exotic familiar. Yet ur-
customers mingled openly in the demi-monde ban consumers also confronted disturbing
of bars and vaudeville houses and at race- new longings for goods, new freedoms in
tracks. Commercial culture districts also pro- strolling around the city to browse and new
vided discreet meeting places, such as incursions on their native grounds by things
tearooms, for women and teetotallers who and people that were culturally strange
wouldn t patronise saloons (Thorne, 1980, (Leach, 1993; Shields, 1994; Fritzsche,
pp. 244245). Other districts provided dis- 1996).
creet meeting places for encounters that were The expansion of the urban retail trade
still considered illicit, immoral and illegal created many new jobs for women and places
especially when they crossed racial and sex- perceived as safe for women shoppers and
ual lines (Chauncey, 1994). New York s children (Benson, 1986). But these opportu-
Times Square was developed around this nities presented women with special prob-
time by entrepreneurs who specialised in the lems. Like the wages of actresses and
distinctive nexus of the modern city s sym- nightclub performers, salesclerks salaries
bolic economy: real estate, newspaper pub- were so low that these occupations often
lishing and commercial theatre. Like the recruited young, unskilled, but attractive
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women who migrated to the city. Faced with Benjamin and quite a few contemporary crit-
poverty, some of these women despaired and ics) focused attention on the lifestyle of the
either tried to marry or turned to prostitution. aneur, an independent but impecunious sin-
Meanwhile, women customers, af uent or gle man who strolled the city s streets and
not, were persuaded by merchants and fash- frequented the consumption spaces of cafes,
ion commentators to buy increasing numbers nightclubs and shops, on the lookout for the
and styles of things (Auslander, 1996). Thus new, the exciting and the unfamiliar. Al-
the varied delights of department stores and though there is no corresponding literary
arcades comprised morally dangerous `dream gure of the aneuse (Wolff, 1985), such
worlds for both women and men (Williams, novelists as Theodore Dreiser and Edith
1982). Although merchants created an archi- Wharton created a female urban type in
tecture of modern urban landmarks and Sister Carrie (Dreiser, 1917) or Lily Bart
greatly expanded access to the urban public (Wharton, 1984 [195l]) who appeared in
sphere, the civility and publicity of shopping public spaces, but whose public role was
spaces were founded on the desire for money tragically limited by gender and social class.
and material things. The unsettling character of a pervasive, mass
The measured order of department stores consumer culture matched the unsettled na-
may, in some sense, have represented mer- ture of these gures lifestyles. And often
chants desires to instill a `bourgeois re- these lives were played out against a back-
spectability into an unruly and growing drop of social and demographic change of
urban public (Miller, 1981). But, overall, mass migration to cities and the rise of en-
these consumption spaces fostered a new trepreneurs from ethnic minorities. These
urban culture based on different types of marginalities female, im-
migrant, ethnic, commercial combined in a
acquisition and consumption as the means
different way in different urban political cul-
of achieving happiness; the cult of the
tures. In all cities, for a time, they encour-
new; the democratisation of desire; and
aged both spectacle and tolerance as
money value as the predominant measure
common cultural denominators. But they
of all value in society (Leach, 1993, p. 3).
often gave rise to a heightened sensibility to
The architecture of department stores and marginality, even to a sense that marginality
arcades had much in common with that of was an urban norm. Berlin s Potsdamer
the new commercial entertainment districts. Platz, for example, which included highly
Both shopping and entertainment spaces used popular restaurants, cafes, department stores,
new materials and technologies plate glass, hotels and shops, seemed visibly to encour-
cast iron and steel construction and coloured age urban cultures that brought outsiders in
electric lights to display their goods dra- (Ladd, 1997, pp. 110119) eventually, with
matically, especially at night. (For earlier tragic results.
uses of glass and lighting in urban consump-
tion spaces, see Schivelbusch, 1988.) Depart-
Late Modernity (1945 75)
ment stores and shopping arcades embodied
the sense of ux, of kaleidoscopic motion, The period of late modernity that began in
and of unceasing changes of images that the mid 20th century shifted the growth of
many people found unsettling in modern `consumer society from the great metropo-
cities. They also institutionalised the lises to the suburbs and to a suburban type of
identi cation of urban and commercial cul- decentred, automobile-bound city, especially
tures. The sociability these spaces fostered in the US. This period s archetypal consump-
was thus highly compatible with, and depen- tion space is the shopping centre a multi-
dent on, the growth of the modern market purpose, green elds development that
economy. maximises rentable retail space in large clus-
Writers such as Baudelaire (followed by ters of stores surrounded by fairly homoge-
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neous residential communities. Like early social status of suburban shops. Exclusivity
20th-century urban shopping districts, subur- was reinforced by locating many suburban
ban shopping centres rely on innovations in malls far away from bus lines and train sta-
transport, building and display. Their growth tions, surrounding them with gigantic park-
is predicated on systems of highways for ing lots, and turning the shops inward,
distributing goods by truck and commuting effectively walling them away from the out-
to work by car. Evidence indicates that shop- doors. Until the 1950s, however, shopping
ping centres were rst developed, in Kansas malls were not covered by a roof. Eventually,
City, Missouri and Los Angeles, as amenities designers of shopping malls utilised plate
to attract af uent residents to buy homes in glass, electric lights and air conditioning
new communities (Longstreth, 1997). But esssentially the same materials as the great
they soon became highly pro table in them- department stores to enclose malls and
selves, and sparked both new highway con- make shopping in them more comfortable.
struction and residential development. Designers also landscaped malls with giant
Similarly, department-store owners who built potted tropical trees and waterfalls. But they
suburban branches may have initially in- also incorporated such traditional urban ele-
tended these stores to supplement rather than ments as quasi-`streets of shops and benches
replace their downtown `mother stores or `street furniture . And, like the designers
(Longstreth, 1997). But suburban locations of the great department stores, they strategi-
soon drained investment that would other- cally placed escalators to lead shoppers
wise have modernised and expanded the among displays of goods (Leach, 1993;
downtown, and drew both urban and subur- Goss, 1993). They added such amenities as
ban residents who previously shopped in the post of ces and restaurants (or `food
city. The suburban synthesis of mass con- courts ), as department stores had done
sumption and family-oriented lifestyle pro- around 1900, to keep customers shopping
vided a cultural context for ever more rapid longer.
suburbanisation. After 1945, the dense, mor- Suburban shopping centres depended on a
ally ambiguous and socially heterogeneous cultural `package of family privacy, urban
consumption spaces of cities were replaced employment and automobiles. Since many
by the suburbs clean, sprawling, socially women in the suburbs, especially in the US,
and visually homogeneous shopping centres. were non-working mothers, this arrangement
These shopping centres were called, in an isolated them in the `private spaces of home,
unintentionally ironic homage to the city s car and mall. In this sense, too, malls re-
historic consumption spaces, `galleria and versed modern urban lifestyles, notably, the
`malls (Kowinski, 1985). freedom of ease in public space some women
Despite the intentions of some of the ar- had attained although often `in drag
chitects who designed malls especially the (Wilson, 1991). Yet the private, or even iso-
in uential Victor Gruen these shopping lated, lifestyle associated with shopping
spaces reversed modern urban patterns. In- malls con ated private roles and public
stead of being placed at hubs of mass trans- spaces. We cannot presume to `read the
port, shopping malls were accessible thoughts of women we see in shopping malls
primarily by private transport. They replaced (Morris, 1988). They may be there to `check
the ef ciencies of collective modes of trans- out what is happening in society to enter,
port and varied clusters of shopping with the rather than retreat from, a public sphere
inef cencies of the automobile and limited (Shields, 1992). Moreover, with a rapid
selections. Yet shopping malls drew cus- growth of visitors passing though shopping
tomers in droves. Most people found cars malls, the privately owned, privately policed
more convenient and more `modern than consumption spaces become at least, in
buses or trolleys and, since people needed most people s minds, if not in law a public
cars to get to the malls, they liked the higher space.
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On closer examination, it seems that the older malls were refurbished, notably, by
sociability fostered by shopping malls often enlarging food courts, to become more `en-
depends on groups rather than on individuals. tertaining .
Non-working women arrange to meet at Thus, as suburban shopping malls as-
malls to go shopping with their friends. Eld- sumed traditional entertainment functions,
erly people exercise in malls, especially in they became more heterogeneous consump-
the mornings when business is slow. They sit tion spaces. They attracted racially and ethni-
in the food court or on the benches to watch cally diverse groups of shoppers, who often
others and meet with friends, bene ting from drove out from the city in search of high-
the climate control and security guards. Even quality goods in a clean, safe environment.
teenagers who `hang out at the mall social- Higher divorce rates and the proliferation of
ise in groups. Whether they are `subverting single-person households, even in the sub-
the lure of the `neon cages (Langham, urbs, also contributed to the malls growing
1992), as some social critics would have it diversity. Far from remaining a `local con-
(Shields, 1989), or merely replacing urban sumption space for a homogeneous residen-
`street corner society (Whyte, 1981 [1943]) tial community, malls have developed new
with a more uid network of friends, forms superstores, `regional malls and out-
teenagers demonstrate the malls usefulness let malls that attract urban residents look-
as public space. The increasing social diver- ing for bargains, suburbanites out for a good
sity of groups who use shopping malls brings time and tourists from other regions.
its own problems. Security guards routinely
interrogate all teenagers and pay special at-
Postmodernity (1975 )
tention to minority group members, es-
pecially young men. The guards of ces and To some degree, after 1980, there was a
even police sub-stations are often placed cultural and geographical shift from subur-
prominently at the entrances to malls. Al- ban shopping malls to urban, mixed-use
though some courts have held that protestors complexes including of ces, shopping and
and people who hand out political lea ets entertainment. Although this renewal of in-
have the right to do so in shopping malls, terest in urban consumption spaces may just
mall owners can and do control access to the have corresponded to a new investment cy-
space sometimes, by imposing curfews on cle, it also re ected institutional changes.
youths. During the early 1980s, as nancial institu-
During the 1970s and 1980s at what tions expanded on their existing urban base,
was, perhaps, the end of late modernity they took advantage of proximity to the
shopping malls developed two new spatial city s cultural amenities to satisfy the needs
forms. On the one hand, increasing compe- of professional, high-income wage-earners,
tition from discount chains inspired some both male and female, for amusement. Many
novelty and department stores (for example, in this workforce, especially in the newer,
Wal-Mart in the US, Auchan and other more entrepreneurial jobs, were young. Un-
chains in Europe) to create even larger units like corporate CEOs who lived in the sub-
featuring a wider array of goods at lower urbs, these men and women liked living near
prices. These large units include free-stand- work and near other single people, and
ing superstores, supercentres, warehouse seemed to be enthused about the vitality of
stores and hypermarkets. On the other hand, urban life. Their salaries and bonuses, more-
declining sales in shopping malls led owners over, enabled them to pay high prices for
and developers to devise new strategies to consumer goods and consumption spaces
keep customers shopping longer. New, larger for urban apartments, restaurants and enter-
malls incorporated such entertainment ele- tainment. Their lifestyle, as young, single
ments as theme parks, rides and amusements people living in urban centres, was widely
and multi-screen or multiplex movie theatres; caricatured with the acronyms Yuppie
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(young urban professional) and Buppie lic image of gentri cation was one of aes-
(black urban professional). Yuppies did not thetics and an `artistic lifestyle (Zukin, 1989
have many endearing traits. They spent [1982]). In another sense, however, the indi-
freely and conspicuously on high-status vidual resources of gentri ers and their abil-
goods and services (Thrift et al., 1987). They ity to mobilise politically as did the urban
were presumed to be as single-minded and critic and author Jane Jacobs, who was a
self-centred as the speculative investment resident of New York City enabled them to
strategies in which, as investment bankers, protect and expand their urban base. By es-
stockbrokers or corporate lawyers, they were tablishing an ensemble of urban consumption
involved. They were also blamed for raising activities in housing, in shopping and in
rents and restaurant prices, since landlords supporting cultural amenities from restau-
and restaurant owners tended, with their pa- rants to art galleries they laid the ground-
tronage, to price accordingly. Thus, although work for yuppies and for a private-sector-led
mobility into this new workforce was limited model of urban renewal.
by far fewer barriers of social class, ethnic Gentri ers generally worked as teachers,
origin, race and gender than ever before, lawyers, artists, writers, creative staff in ad-
Yuppies as a consumption group were vertising rms or retail stores and govern-
blamed for displacing older, poorer, urban ment or corporate managers. Many of them
residents. were interested in good food and the arts
Although Yuppies became a cultural the types of cultural consumption that grew
phenomenon in the 1980s, in many ways so rapidly with gentri cation. Unemployed
they merely assumed an older position that artists and underemployed performers often
of gentri ers in the urban consumption hi- found jobs in new gourmet food stores,
erarchy. Beginning in the late 1950s and restaurants and art galleries. Writers, who
gaining wide publicity in the 1970s, educated were also urban residents, wrote reviews of
middle-class men and women and artists be- these facilities for newspapers and
gan to renovate and occupy dilapidated hous- magazines. Thus gentri ers provided a ma-
ing in commercial, industrial and terial base for both new cultural production
working-class neighbourhoods. Their move- and consumption. By exemplifying and writ-
ment into these neighbourhoods where ing about new cultural trends, they became a
some of their grandparents had been born or `critical infrastructure for the city s emerg-
worked represented a generational move- ing symbolic economy (Zukin, 1991).
ment `back to the city and an endorsement One of the virtues of gentri cation, how-
of the city s social diversity. It also repre- ever, is that it made urban neighbourhoods
sented a cultural movement away from the interesting, again, to a broad middle class.
alienated, private lifestyles of the suburbs; a By supporting historic preservation, it res-
negation of the historical separation dating cued a signi cant number of old buildings
back to the l9th century of home and work; from destruction. Together with other social
and a desire for `authenticity in terms of and aesthetic movements, gentri cation
hand-made work, large residential spaces and helped cause a sea change in architecture and
stately homes at prices these young, mid- urban planning away from modernism. Gen-
dle-class men and women could afford. tri cation also made visible and `naturalised
When newspapers and `lifestyle magazines a variety of household structures. Gentri ers
featured stories about gentri cation, they em- were both single and married, with children
phasised the aesthetic values of historic and childless, straight and gay. A negative
homes and lofts. They glamourised the aspect of gentri cation is that it did encour-
lifestyle of people who lived in either brown- age privatisation. Gentri ers often rely on
stone townhouses with their original panel- family savings rather than bank loans or
ling and wood-burning replaces, or in large government grants to renovate their homes.
factory lofts. To some degree, then, the pub- Their demand for high-quality education for
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their children leads them to send their chil- than Disney World, they also dramatise the
dren to private rather than to public schools. presumed advantages of privatisation. The
In this way, gentri cation often reinforces an casino-dominated, laissez-faire governments
abandonment of public institutions. More- of Las Vegas and Clark County accept a
over, gentri ers endorsement of social and mode of urban development that maximises
cultural diversity is frequently transmuted privately owned consumption spaces (golf
into an aesthetic demand for visual coher- courses, gated residential communities), in
ence (Zukin, 1995). Institutionalised in which residents, especially pensioners with
coherent consumption spaces, this demand few ties to public institutions, take care of
effectively displaces lower-income urban their own needs. These consumption spaces
residents, who cannot afford higher rents or depend on a mainly low-wage labour force,
taxes, and do not want latte bars serving an with relatively few immigrants and Blacks
exotically wide variety of coffees with milk. compared to other North American cities;
The near-universality of latte bars suggests they have managed to delay racial integration
that many consumption practices related to (Parker, forthcoming). But most residents
urban middle-class lifestyles have become consider the social costs of these consump-
widespread. But forms of sociability associ- tion spaces less signi cant than the bene ts
ated with gentri cation the sociability of of their new, super-suburban lifestyles. These
streets and shops (Jacobs, 1961) are only lifestyles maximise values of individual
part of post-modern urban consumption. In a autonomy and civic pride within communi-
highly mobile world of tourists, shoppers and ties limited by age, social class and de facto
gamblers, the newest forms of sociability are lack of social diversity. Thus, in Las Vegas
inculcated by Las Vegas and Disney World. and Orlando, urban consumption regimes
Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida, based on mass tourism coexist with priva-
are two of the fastest-growing metropolitan tised urban lifestyles. In this way, the post-
concentrations in North America. It is not modern characteristics of contradiction and
accidental that they are also major tourist disjuncture are institutionalised in urban life.
destinations and the sites of the highest-
grossing branches of such consumption
Strategies of Urban Redevelopment
chains as Planet Hollywood and the Hard
Rock Cafe. Neither is it accidental that both Strategies of urban redevelopment based on
metropolitan agglommerations are heavily consumption focus on visual attractions that
oriented toward consumption, services and make people spend money. They include an
military production. These are, in short, array of consumption spaces from restaurants
archetypal postmodern urban spaces. and tourist zones to museums of art and other
I have written elsewhere (Zukin, 1991, cultural elds, gambling casinos, sports sta-
1995) about the visual appeal of Disney dia and specialised stores. In older cities,
World s consumption regime. This regime such strategies emerge in the absence of
creates a safe, clean, public space in which specialised alternative business develop-
strangers apparently trust each other and just ments. In cities whose economies are still
`have fun . The appeal of this accomplish- expanding, such as Orlando and Las Vegas,
ment is universal. It has inspired big city consumption spaces grow along with new
governments to `Disneyfy by sponsoring ur- of ces and homes.
ban `festivals and themed shopping districts, There is some disagreement about the ethi-
by cleaning up public space, by installing cal and social value of this new dependence
private agents of surveillance and control and on urban consumption. Gambling casinos, in
by turning over the management of public particular, are associated with serious social
spaces to private associations of commercial problems and place local governments under
property owners. While the gambling casinos the in uence of the gambling industry
of Las Vegas are a less benign environment (Goodman, 1995). Neither are these con-
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sumption spaces entirely pro table opera- risks of failure. But what alternatives do they
tions at least, not for the local governments have? These days, as of ce buildings prolif-
that subsidise construction. Sports stadia are erate in the suburbs and overseas, cities face
especially questionable as public invest- a dif cult choice between casinos, museums
ments. While owners of teams from the New and Hard Rock Cafes: truly, a `fantasy city
York Yankees to Manchester United reap (Hannigan, forthcoming).
pro ts from sales of box seats and products Economic factors, nonetheless, still motiv-
outside the playing eld for example, re- ate investors to create new spaces for urban
freshment franchises, television broadcasting consumption. Since the 1980s, they have
rights and sales of team paraphernalia all been pushed in two directions: by decreases
evidence shows that cities derive mixed in domestic shoppers willingness to buy
economic bene ts, at best, from subsidising ascribed by retailers, in the US, to shoppers
construction, operating and maintenance boredom with existing stores and by in-
costs (Shropshire, 1995). But team owners creases in consumer markets overseas nota-
are tough bargainers. They have been able to bly, in Japan, China and the city-states of
persuade local governments that, without South-east Asia. Under these conditions, de-
new facilities, they will relocate their teams. velopers have built elaborate, new shopping
(In the case of US cities, this often means centres in both Asia and the US from Canal
relocation to a new stadium within the metro- City in Fukuoka, Japan, to Las Vegas, Or-
politan area, but at a suburban site.) Rarely lando and New York City. These consump-
do mayors or voters reject their ultimata. tion spaces attempt to revitalise shopping by
Voters in San Francisco, who turned down dramatising the retail `experience . They try
the chance to build a new football stadium to capture shoppers imagination by inviting
several years ago, are a noteworthy excep- them to participate in simulated forms of
tion. non-shopping entertainment, such as sports
Neither are there conclusive data about the (Nike Town), interactive video installations
economic value of expanding resources of art (Viacom) or even `wilderness (REI trekking
museums and commercial culture, such as gear stores) and `nature (The Nature Experi-
theatres. Studies conducted by the Port Auth- ence). Although these spaces are described
ority of New York and New Jersey (1983, by the rubric `entertainment retail , they re-
1993) strongly indicated that many tourists ally sell an easily recognisable `brand
come to New York to see art works and name Disney, Nike, Sony, Viacom in
performances, and spend many times the cost many different product variations.
of theatre or admission tickets in hotels, So far, most of the prototype entertainment
restaurants and shops. These studies showed, retail stores have opened in the largest cit-
further, that the wages and operating costs of ies New York, Los Angeles, Chicago,
museums, art galleries, theatres and tele- Boston where they have become new land-
vision and lm production add up to a con- marks on the urban scene. They have re-
siderable sum. The city government s placed the landmarks of the great department
conclusion to capitalise on cultural re- stores, many of which went bankrupt or
sources in order to maintain New York as an merged during a wave of corporate buyouts
international culture capital and tourist cen- in the 1980s. Like the old department stores,
tre implied a rmly rational point of view. entertainment retail stores enjoy favourable
Yet not just New York, but almost every city coverage in local newspapers for their `en-
has decided to promote its art museums, and chantment of the urban landscape (see, for
convert old railroad terminals and power sta- example, New York Times Magazine, Special
tions to cultural complexes. Although it may Issue on The Store as Theater, Taste Ma-
make sense in New York or London to de- chine, Billboard , 6 April 1997). They exert
velop the synergies of an already-strong a magnetic appeal to tourists, especially more
symbolic economy, other cities face higher af uent foreigners. But their potential to spur
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economic development seems limited by the aters and other family entertainment fare.
usual market factors: higher prices than out- Indeed, the transformation is so complete
lets and chain stores, eventual overexposure that political gures and real estate brokers
and inevitable reproduction of the same have taken to touting the rejuvenated
shops in other cities. Entertainment retail block as the premier symbol of New York
complexes in Asia pose a special threat. Us- City s unquenchable vitality (New York
ing US architects, installing some of the Observer, 17 March 1997, p. 1).
same US store names and nancing elabor-
ate, clean and secure facilities (see, for exam- In return, when the Disney Company wanted
ple, Japanese Mall Mogul Dreams of to rent a large part of Central Park for the
American Stores , Wall Street Journal, 30 premiere of the cartoon movie Pocahontas,
July 1997), these super-shopping centres the Parks Department agreed, and when the
may eventually keep Asian tourists at home company wanted to hold a torchlight parade
as contented consumers, leaving American down Fifth Avenue to celebrate the opening
and European cities empty. of another animated feature, `Hercules, the
The future development of urban con- Police Department closed the street and pro-
sumption spaces is predicated on a continu- vided security. Many New Yorkers protest
ously mobile lifestyle. Neither `niche against the `Disney cation of Times Square,
shopping nor `entertainment retail fully ex- but the greater danger is that a single corpo-
presses both the standardisation and diffusion rate vision could dominate Manhattan.
of consumption spaces, and the incorporation This trend is deepened by increased corpo-
of diverse groups of consumers into them. rate investment in consumption spaces in
The common denominator of all the new low-income, minority-group areas such as
consumption spaces is a sociability depen- Harlem. Long ignored by major department
dent on visual coherence and security guards, stores, big chain stores and retailers selling
a collective memory of commercial culture high-quality goods, urban ghettos have only
rather than either tolerance or moral soli- recently attracted the interest of corporate
darity. The Disney Company pointed in this planners. They now realise that residents of
direction many years ago. Perhaps that is, at these districts represent large markets for
bottom, what makes them such a formidable standard, high-price brands to the extent
presence in contemporary urban redevelop- that, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, cer-
ment. As recently as 1990, New York City tain brands of athletic shoes (Nike) and
might have seemed immune to `the Disney trekking gear (Timberland shoes) became
touch ; now, however, the redevelopment of identi ed with `urban i.e. `ghetto cul-
Times Square depends mainly on three Dis- tural styles. An investment partnership with
ney projects: a Disney Store (one of several the professional basketball-player `Magic
in the city), a legitimate theatre for Disney Johnson has brought Sony Movie Theaters
stage productions and Disney s participation into low-income urban areas. In the past few
in a portion of a time-share hotel. Disney s years, with reductions in social welfare pro-
agreement to establish a presence in Times grammes, local governments and community
Square was suf cient to mobilise nancing groups have reoriented themselves toward
for other projects, and to encourage the city attracting mainstream retailers, including
government s support for the entire theatre supermarkets, in addition to demanding jobs.
district. As a critical New York newspaper Although these urban areas have always been
observes about 42nd Street, this area underserved by purveyors of basic consumer
goods, encouraging retail stores ts the gen-
has undergone a miraculous change from a eral social and political context of reducing
no-man s land of pornography shops and government s role and enlarging that of the
assorted criminal activities into a neon- private sector (see, for example, Porter,
drenched mecca of theme restaurants, the- 1995). The long-term political and cultural
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effects of bringing new stores and multi- at their most spectacular, exempli ed by
plexes into low-income neighbourhoods re- superstores and multiplex movie theatres.
main to be seen. An analytical framework of urban con-
sumption has to be posed in the broad terms
of social theory. Like critical interpretations
Urban Politics and Cultures
of modernity, this analytical framework
Ten or fteen years ago, urban lifestyles should make connections between the pro-
might have been analysed in terms of gen- duction of physical spaces and symbols and
tri cation and its effects on social class between the built environment, sociability
polarisation and displacement of the urban and urban lifestyles. Beginning with the vari-
poor (Smith and Williams, 1986). Consump- ous analytical frameworks of gentri cation
tion was viewed as a means of driving a (Zukin, 1987), attempts to think through
wedge between urban social classes and an these connections have generally focused on
indicator although never a cause of econ- the urban middle class, especially the edu-
omic and political realignments. By the end cated middle class tastes or preferences in
of the 1990s, consumption is understood to cultural consumption. As autonomous social
be both a means and a motor of urban social actors, this group thinks through, or is self-
change. The reorganisation of world markets conscious of, their lifestyle choices; their
has expanded the consumption functions of `re exivity (Lash and Urry, 1994) is
mature urban economies, creating new jobs assumed to indicate a new mode of collective
and new spaces of consumption. Many of consciousness. Certainly, there is a t be-
these jobs are low-paying jobs in stores, tween demands for more `aesthetic con-
restaurants, hotels and domestic and personal sumer goods and the reorganisation of some
services. While many of the new consump- consumer industries. To some degree, con-
tion spaces rely on a high level of skill and sumer industries have strengthened the role
knowledge, and provide cultural products of of design in the manufacturing process; they
beauty, originality and complexity, others are provide a large variety of goods and switch
standardised, trivial and oriented toward pre- production lines quickly; and they advertise
dictability and pro t (see Ritzer, 1996). their products in a tone of postmodern self-
At the same time, individual men and mockery. But these are not their only strate-
women express their complex social identi- gies. Standardisation and mass production
ties by combining markers of gender, ethnic- have not been relegated to the ash-heap of
ity, social class and for want of a better industrial history. The enormous popularity
word cultural style. Many of these markers of fast food, among all social strata, relies on
are created in, and diffused from, cities: on standardised products made in an assembly-
the streets, in advertising of ces and pho- line production system. Despite the choices,
tography studios, on MTV. Many of the peo- around the world, between beef burgers,
ple who create these markers live in cities, chicken llets and vegetable kebabs, fast
too. They are artists, new media designers, food belies the aesthetic awareness of
feminists, gays, single parents and immi- re exive consumption. Yet `re exive con-
grants some of the most visible protago- sumers, such as they are, do risk political
nists of `urban lifestyles . disengagement and even polarisation. The
Most women and men live in the spaces aestheticisation of their tastes implies stylisa-
between the images manipulated so promi- tion and detachment as well as pleasure
nently in the past 30 years by identity politics (Featherstone, 1991; Sennett, 1990). These
and `lifestyle magazines and the desire to attitudes may discourage sympathy with
live as good a life as possible in their own other urban groups, including fast-food
neighbourhoods. Yet the diversity of their workers.
lives is often submerged by the increasing In the current retreat from the welfare
standardisation of consumption spaces, even state, aestheticisation of the urban landscape
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is associated with a collective abandonment countries of origin. `Aestheticised com-

of the homeless and exasperation with public modity worlds are not rejected, but are irrel-
stewardship over public space (Zukin, 1995; evant in these streets. Here, `transnational
Smith, 1996; Mitchell, 1996). Streets, parks consumers interact and develop their own
and even entire districts have been derogated urban lifestyles. They are neither `detached
to control by private associations of property nor particularly `re exive . The interaction
owners and patrons. In New York City, for and juxtaposition among urban lifestyles
example, the largest parks Central and especially in spaces of consumption indi-
Prospect Parks are partly nanced and cate a `hybrid urban culture (Bhabha, 1994)
wholly administered not by the New York rather than domination by corporations or the
City Parks Department, but by private con- middle class. On these streets, diversity
servancies comprised of individual and cor- thrives.
porate patrons. Commercial districts all Questions of lifestyles, public space and
around the city, beginning with the most sociability return to the theme posed more
expensive, midtown business areas, are man- than 30 years ago by Jane Jacobs: How can
aged by Business Improvement Districts. Al- cities encourage trust among strangers? For
though these remain public spaces in the the private-sector managers of public space,
sense that they are open to all, the private the answer lies in aesthetic design and pri-
associations set rules by which entry can be vate security guards; for the private-sector
denied. Abandonment of collective responsi- managers of entertainment retail, the answer
bility for others also motivates the construc- lies in Disney cation, or selling the experi-
tion of gated residential communities ence of pleasure in shopping spaces that are
graphically connecting privatisation with both visually coherent (by branding and
aestheticisation of an anti-urban lifestyle themed entertainment) and physically con-
(Davis, 1990; Ellin, 1997; Judd, 1996). trolled (by cleaning staff, service representa-
Alternatively, the shopping streets fre- tives and private security guards). But on the
quented by immigrants and native-born mi- shopping streets in immigrant and ethnic
norities are avatars of new urban and ethnic neighbourhoods, trust among strangers is a
identities. On streets in New York City, Los result of social interdependence and neigh-
Angeles, Atlanta, or Toronto, shoppers, ped- bourhood solidarity. As in the classic visions
dlers, store owners, managers and clerks are of modernity de ned by both Georg Simmel
likely to be Africans, `Caribbeans , Koreans and Jane Jacobs, this is what urban lifestyle
and African Americans. These shopping is all about.
streets create a new African-American ident-
ity by interaction among, and fusion be-
tween, various traditions of the African
diaspora. Although Asians tend to live sepa-
rately from other minorities, and increasingly Cities hit hard by a long-term decline in
in the suburbs, they are active in these shop- middle-class residents and the erosion of
ping streets as merchants often with both commitment by business elites have gradu-
bad and good results (Min, 1996). Storefront ally begun to view the diversity of `urban
telephone and delivery services feature signs lifestyles as a source of cultural vitality and
in many languages, with prices of services to economic renewal. Elected of cials who, in
many lands. Newspaper stands owned by the 1960s, might have criticised immigrants
members of one immigrant group sell news- and non-traditional living arrangements, now
papers written in other languages. Store own- consciously market the city s diverse oppor-
ers stock distinctive ethnic goods that will tunities for cultural consumption (Lang et al.,
appeal to several different ethnic groups, and 1997). They also welcome the employment
some goods, such as clothing and cosmetics, offered by new culture industries and ex-
are re-exported to the same or even different panding cultural institutions as part of the
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cities new comparative advantage in the DEGRAZIA (Ed.) The Sex of Things: Gender
`symbolic economy . Yet the diffusion of and Consumption in Historical Perspective, pp.
79112. Berkeley, CA: University of California
new `urban lifestyles may pose problems for Press.
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These lifestyles bring more pressure on pub- ern City Culture in l9th-century America. New
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BERMAN, M. (1982) All That Is Solid Melts Into
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