The Political Geography of Berlin

In order to analyse the character of Berlin and the extent to which the city is divided, a focus on social ordering and manipulation of the space is required which creates a material reality of the place. The postmodern social constructions of reality are connected with Foucault’s model of society shaped by the exertion of power. Berlin as a place provides a context for the formation of political identities and an identification of political interests all situated in the history. However, it is interesting to see how power was organized and mobilised around place in order to crate societal division.

The marginalization of place within political research is largely associated with Marxist political economy approaches to urban politics which conceptualized the city as a geographical entity produced and reproduced through capitalism. Marxist theories reconceptualised the city as a site of capitalism oppression, where the agents of capital acted to produce favourable conditions for capital accumulation but also as a site of conflict which is both produced and helps to sustain capitalism. Berlin as un urban space is defined by reference to the processes of labour reproduction such that contrary to the theories of Marxist geographers like Harvey and Cox who argued that the arrangement of social objects in space can have an effect in wider social relations. This is observed in the mix of classes in Berlin.

The characteristic of the dominant community (such as ethnicity, religion, class), as much as the characteristics of the place, constitute the politics of the place. The post- communist transition in East Berlin provides an interesting example of how the local politics of communities both reflect and shape individuals’ perceptions of wider change, not least because these processes occurred in parallel with the social construction of a new local scale of political action. The discursive understandings of ‘place’ that people map on these social configurations can influence both the structure of power relations and the way in which residents engage politically with the wider world. The symbolic meanings of urban spaces are not mixed but change over time as societies change around them. An example is the meaning of statuses of communist leaders in Eastern Berlin. From being symbols of absolute power of the Communist party, these monuments became sites of contest during revolutionary uprising and are now relic landscapes symbolizing a power that has passed or whose original meaning has been lost.

The political geography of the Berliners in West and East Berlin as a society are sharing different historic territory, common myths and historical memories and public culture. Although they share common economy, legal rights and duties of all members, the older generations’ historical memories are different which engenders a sense of loyalty towards the nation.

Sources: Jones, M.; Jones, R.; Woods, M. (2004) “An introduction to political geography: space place and politics”

New York: Routledge

Hall, T. (2006) “Urban geography”

London: Routledge

(By Eva Spirova)


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