Thesis

Mass or class transportation? : an examination of urban power dynamics through rail transportation propositions

The increasingly problematic symptoms of the decentralized city such as suburban sprawl, poverty, geographic inequality, pollution and congestion have created an environment where political discourse surrounding the development and improvement of public transportation has become commonplace. In order to better understand the processes of political, economic, cultural and temporal power that shape the development of public transportation systems, I examined patterns of campaign support and financial contributions, newspaper articles and official California Voter's Guide information for California statewide Propositions 111, 108, 116, 156, 185 and 1A, providing an eighteen year period of analysis. To guide the investigation, I compared several different theoretical models of political power including the pluralist, elitist and class-dialectical in order to find out which would provide the best insight. Additionally I used theoretical concepts of political power such as Logan and Molotch's Growth Machine and Portes and Stepick's Ethnic Alliances to allow for the exploration of additional dynamics that my three major models of power may fail to uncover. After thoroughly investigating the six transportation campaigns, I found that a class-dialectical theoretical framework provides the best insight into the dynamics of California transportation politics. One could understand the campaigns within a pluralist or elitist framework but only at a superficial level. A more complete theoretical framework should situate the campaign dynamics within the historical constraints and contradictions of modern capitalist development as well as the politics of social class provided by a class-dialectical examination. Such an examination has major implications for future development of public transportation systems in the United States that truly benefit the disadvantaged groups and localities who need them the most.

Thesis (M.A., Sociology) -- California State University, Sacramento, 2010.

The increasingly problematic symptoms of the decentralized city such as suburban sprawl, poverty, geographic inequality, pollution and congestion have created an environment where political discourse surrounding the development and improvement of public transportation has become commonplace. In order to better understand the processes of political, economic, cultural and temporal power that shape the development of public transportation systems, I examined patterns of campaign support and financial contributions, newspaper articles and official California Voter's Guide information for California statewide Propositions 111, 108, 116, 156, 185 and 1A, providing an eighteen year period of analysis. To guide the investigation, I compared several different theoretical models of political power including the pluralist, elitist and class-dialectical in order to find out which would provide the best insight. Additionally I used theoretical concepts of political power such as Logan and Molotch's Growth Machine and Portes and Stepick's Ethnic Alliances to allow for the exploration of additional dynamics that my three major models of power may fail to uncover. After thoroughly investigating the six transportation campaigns, I found that a class-dialectical theoretical framework provides the best insight into the dynamics of California transportation politics. One could understand the campaigns within a pluralist or elitist framework but only at a superficial level. A more complete theoretical framework should situate the campaign dynamics within the historical constraints and contradictions of modern capitalist development as well as the politics of social class provided by a class-dialectical examination. Such an examination has major implications for future development of public transportation systems in the United States that truly benefit the disadvantaged groups and localities who need them the most.

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