Urbanization as an Economic Sector

Replacing the services sector and three-sector theory: Urbanization and control as economic sectors

Published together with colleagues Conor McDonald, Ernesto Lopez Morales, Nihan Akyelken
and Michele Acuto, this long-simmering article in Regional Studies is both a fresh look at the economy as a whole, and urbanization as an economic activity. Below is the abstract. I am very interested in building partnerships for further work in this area, so don't hesitate to contact me for a copy of if you are interested in discussing the core idea.


Developed during the Second World War, ‘three-sector theory’ popularized the notion of the ‘services’ sector. It has quietly underpinned understandings of economic structure ever since. The limitations and influence of this basic breakdown have led to many critiques and extensions, but no replacements. Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s The Urban Revolution (1968), we develop a four-sector model that replaces services with sectors focused on urbanization and control. We argue that this
model is a better reflection of material economic life, and a more useful way of approaching the 21st-century economy. It also offers scholars of urbanization and regional development a creative new way of seeing urbanization.

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