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A New Light on American Cities and Territorial Processes

(p.1) 1 Capitals
American Capitals
Christian Montès
University of Chicago Press

This introductory chapter frames the study. A first approach searches for the models throwing light on the processes at work and for the theories explaining the formation, evolution, and image of urban America that help in understanding capitals. The process of capital selection is understood as a revealing moment of crisis. The approach is incremental, the progressive building of an explanatory model, without predetermining its components. Capitals are symbolic places that participate in the territorial construction, along with interactive adjustments with other ways of territorial structuring. Capital cities were and are the embodiment of power. A second approach deals with the position capitals have in the American urban system: Are state capitals more than simply symbolic towns? Do they form a parallel system, disconnected from the classical one, largely based on economic criteria? Do state capitals express an imbalance between form and function? The developmental delay of many of them will be here addressed.

Keywords:   State capitals, Urban America, Capital selection, Developmental delay

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