Drawing on recent structuralist approaches in urban studies, the paper proposes a conceptual framework for cross-national research on societies, built enviromnent and the relationship between the,. It directs attention to the need for studying processes of change in enviroanent,- society and their interaction aM particularly, on the conditions of production. Two spheres of- research are proposed and related: the political economy of the built environment, and also, of social and cultural change. The emergence of a global system of production in the late -20th century requires that urban/building developments in 'first and 'third world' environments ('Westernisation'/'Modernisation'/'bourgeoisification'/ ' de-induatrialisation'/ 'counter-urbanisation') be seen in a single perspective. The ideological context of research in SPPS/MES -is examined in this framework.