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Strategy frames the contemporary epistemological space of urbanism: major cities across the globe such as New York, London and Sydney invest time, energy and resources to craft urban strategies. Extensive empirical research projects have proposed a shift towards a strategic framework to manage cities. This theoretical curiosity is reflected in the rising interest in urban strategy from practice. For instance, the World Bank regularly organizes an Urban Strategy Speaker Series, while the powerful network CEOs for Cities lobbies for a strategic approach to urban development. Critical scholars such as Zukin diagnose not a shift in but a shift to strategic thinking in the contemporary city. This article poses the question: what makes strategy such an attractive ‘thought style’ in relation to imagining and managing cities? How can we understand the practice of urban strategy? And what are its intended and unintended consequences? The objective of this article is to analyse strategy as a socio-political practice that shapes cities, and by extension, society at large.