Urban Addendum

City planning finds its validation in the intuitive recognition that a burgeoning market society can not be trusted to produce spontaneously a habitable, sanitary, or even efficient city, much less a beautiful one. - Murray Bookchin, The Limits of the City (1986).

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Global cities and economic polarization...

The global city represents a strategic location at a local-regional level where global processes are taking part within national territories and the global dynamic is organized through national institutional arrangements. This is a highly specialized and diversified institutional process, a very different process than the type homogenisation or convergence that exists in consumer markets and the global entertainment industry (Brenner, 1998).
While some cities are upgraded, a large number of other major cities have lost their role as the main export center for industrial production (e.g  Detroit, Manchester). The "world production line" - the production and collection of goods from factories and warehouses around the world - takes place and creates the need for increasing concentration and complexity of management and programming. The massive expansion of international trade, integration of stock markets in a global network and develop international markets for productive services have become part of the economic base of many major cities. Moreover, local mega-projects product of para-state agencies and public-private partnerships, such as the London Docklands and La Defense in Paris represent the local state's capacity to mobilize and coordinate transnational capital investment. In that way cities like New York, London, Tokyo or Sao Paulo concentrate a disproportionate share of these transactions and markets and contribute to the economic and spatial polarization.  But if in the globalization era, cities are more important than the countries and we play in the global economical chess in the terms of the "competition of the cities", do we end to just reinforce the regional  inequalities inside these cities or between the different cities of the same country? 

Tuca Vieira, Paraisópolis Favela in Sao Paulo, Brazil 2005

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The spatial fix and the urban growth.

According to Harvey in a global economy a frequent movement of the investments and industries in new and different places can “fix” the overaccumulation capitalistic crises that arise from the tendency of capital to accumulate over and above, which has as a result the surpluses of capital and labor to be left underutilized or even unutilized. By relocating the investments to new places the surplus that existed in the old locations can now be reinvested profitably in the production, reinforce the supply chain and help the restructuring of commodities.  This circle process of the movement of capital in new or old markets that got temporarily out of the production processes, can help to maximize the profits and increase the efficiency. At  the same time new "space" is being produced and upgraded with physical and social infrastructure,  helping the surpluses of labor and capital to be absorbed in the new productive aggregation, that is now profitable because of the spatial enlargement of the system of accumulation. However, to attract private capital to new places that are not regarded as profitable, the local officials of these new markets are using incentives that can have many negative consequences, such as growth inequality or declines at the welfare of the society.  The state or the local government becomes entrepreneurial and capitalistic and prefers new investments rather than equity.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An explanation of the Central Place Theory

The Central Place Theory was proposed in 1933 by Walter Christaller. In his attempt to see if there are rules that determine the size, number and distribution of towns, he developed this model of how cities are spaced out in relation to each other.  In order his model to be valid he made three assumptions: 1) the towns have similar purchasing power n all directions and  are located in an Euclidean, isotropic way 2) there is a well developed transportation network that connects the smaller cities with the central place (a central city that serves the rest cities of the network with goods and services) 3) The products are been purchased from the nearest central place and all the central places have similar demand and none is making any excessive profit. An example f this model can be a central located city that supplies with goods the satellite cities that are located around. These cities do not consume all the manufacturing goods but distribute them  locally, to retail distributors  in smaller towns that are hexagonally located around them. However, the CPT theory  has been criticized as it does not take into consideration the temporal aspect in the development of central places and it doesn't give any information about the market's structure. According to Krugman (1995) is more a way to organize data about the urban systems in space rather and not an integrated economic theory based on location. 

Krugman, Paul (1995) Geography Lost and Found Ch 2 in Development, Geography and Economic

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The horrors of industrial urbanism 02/07

At the "Great Towns" (1845),  Friedrich Engels gives a vivid description of the living conditions of the working class in Manchester in 1844. By using the peripatetic method he describes this industrial city as " a true impression of the filth, ruin, and uninhabitableness, the defiance of all considerations of cleanliness, ventilation, and health..." and he succeeds to make the "invisible" problem of poverty, "visible". Instead of developing a model for the perfect "utopian" city, he prefers to ask questions for the existing  urban environment. The "Urban" becomes a question as the cities started been shaped by processes of industrialization, economic and politic changes occur and there is a huge population shift from rural to urban areas.  The class segregation of urban industrialism becomes a significant problem and In cities like Manchester and Liverpool mortality from smallpox, measles, scarlet fever and whooping cough is much higher than in the surrounding countryside. This spatial chaos and the problems of the industrial cities that are being described by Engels and other scholars have been the main concerns that lead to the development of the urban theories during the pro-modernism and modernism era.