The Police + The City: Paris, 1660-1750

Architecture PH.D. Program Thesis

Cesare Birigani, candidate

Mary McLeod + Robin Middleton, advisors

Since antiquity the term “polis” has captured both the idea of city as physical settlement and that of city as community state. This thesis explored this constituent ambivalence as it took form in the early-modern period, tracing a series of historical shifts in the way the city was envisioned in France from the reign of Louis XIV until the Revolution. I proposed to study the urban imaginary of this period by comparing the figures of the city produced by architects and utopian writers to the ideas formulated under the rubric of police science, the theory of the government and administration of the city. The thesis examined two historical phenomena and their mutual relation: first, the emergence of a new rationality of the city, as it developed in the discourse and practices of the police, the institution that most controlled urban transformation; and second, a profound cultural change in the way the city, in both its material and political sense, was conceived. My hypothesis was that the new ideas and representations of the city that emerged in the eighteenth century involved a fundamental rearticulation of the relation between State and civil society – the police offers a critical means to understanding that rearticulation.