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Rollison, Kay: Hugh Stretton remembered

Rollison, Kay

Book review: Ideas for Australian Cities, by Hugh Stretton‘, Australian Independent Media Network, 11 August 2015

Marks the death last month at 91 of Australian public intellectual, Hugh Stretton, author of the pioneering The Political Sciences (1969), Ideas for Australian Cities (1970), Capitalism, Socialism and the Environment (1976) and Australia Fair (2005). There are links to some other resources.

But Stretton has nevertheless left a major legacy – or at least he has left me one. This is the understanding that urban development is a site of power. He makes it very clear in his book that urban growth, and the planning – however much or how little – that shapes it, is essentially the result of political choices. In fact he calls the book a “political tract”. By this he means that planning choices – even the choice to do nothing – have differential effects on the rich and the poor. It is nearly always, he says, the rich that benefit when development is left to the market, but proactive planning can also have a bias in favour of the rich if it results in ghettos for the poor.

An academic article by Peter Gibilisco on Stretton and his work. An ABC interview by Amanda Vanstone with Stretton (on cities) from 2007. Here is an issue of Griffith Review on cities, including references to Stretton. Honest History has pithy quotes from Ideas for Australian Cities and Capitalism, Socialism and the Environment.

Update 20 August 2015: Another appreciation from Lionel Orchard.