Marcuse and Van Kempen, eds., Globalizing Cities: A New Spatial Order?, 2000

Have the economic, political, and social forces buffeting cities finally alerted their fundamental spatial order. “What is new about cities today?” ask Editors Peter Marcuse and Ronald van Kempen. A collection of essays from numerous scholars, Globalizing Cities: A New Spatial Order? explores how several broad categories (race/racism, globalization, migration, new demographics, changing role of public sector, changing and patterns of choice) have affected the formation of six basic “spatial divisions” citadels, gentrified neighborhoods, suburbs , working class areas, ethnic enclaves, and exclusionary ghettos. Contributors studied cities from around the world including Singapore, Tokyo, Calcutta, New York, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Rio Di Janeiro. As a sum of its parts, the work embraces a transnational comparative approach.

The book puts forth a general hypothesis regarding the development of urban metropolises since the 1970s. Acknowledging that cities have always illustrated divisions along cultural, functional and economic lines, the current pattern “is a new and in many ways deeper going combination of these divisions”. No uniform model exists such that each city manifests these changes differently but in general the new spatial order’s basic features “included a spatial concentration within cities of a new urban poverty on the one hand, and of specialized “high level” internationally connected business activities on the other, with increasing spatial divisions not only between each of them, but also among segments of the “middle class” in between.” Social and physical boundaries providing the separation have proliferated and hardened. Thus, settlement develop in the clusters discussed above in a relational hierarchy. Though many of these developments are market driven the state plays a significant and key role. If it can create these conditions, it can also erase them.

The contributors provide numerous key insights into global urban development. First, significant differences exist between Third World urban development and that of the U.S. and Western Europe. Racial spatialization in the form of “ghettoes of exclusion” have been thought to be a U.S. phenomena but Western Europe’s infusion of immigrants, retreat of state welfare capital, and structural economic changes point to a similar future. In contrast, Third World cities exhibit a very different spatialization. For example, Sanjoy Chakravorty’s essay on Calcutta revealed that though ghettoes exist, they “are not large … and this spatial pattern is not confined to the poor …” Moreover, the historical contingency of post-colonialism re-oriented the organization of city unlike its Western counterparts. Divisions rest more on class than race.

Second, though globalization remains important, its presence changes overtime. Its scale, depth, and shape do not remain static. Moreover, the effects manifest themselves differently according to city. Globalizing Cities suggest scholars eschew assigning cities levels of globalization since “all cities are touched by globalization and that involvement in that process is not a matter of being either at the top or bottom of it but the nature and the extent of the influence of the process.” Additionally, the authors remind the reader that globalization remains one process among many others.

Third, the conceptualization of the city as an organic whole entity fails to impress the editors. Rather they argue the cities remain layered entities that remain spatially and temporally divided. Residents of different classes, races, and ethnicities may use the same spaces but not at the same time and not for the same purposes. Marcuse and Kempen use the layered city metaphor noting that each space has residential layer, a work layer, a transportation layer and so on. This reality requires greater attention to the conceptualization of urban environments, “a given individual occupies different spaces for different activities. Every metaphor of the city be it the divided, the dual, the fragmented, the quartered or the divided city must reflect these dynamics.”

Fourth, geography and built environment influence the nature and growth of a city. Geography often helps to form the built environment which in turn casts its own influence. As illustrated by the Calcutta example, historical contingency plays a role this seems especially true when discussing differencs between developing nations and those of the U.S. and Western Europe. Former colonial cities exhibit markedly different spatializations due to the built environment established under colonial and the retreat of colonizing powers, thus opening up areas previously denied to the general population. Slum growth in the Third World often occurs on the edges as metropolises sprawl outward. One imagines postcolonial economic flows of labor and capital also affect these arrangements.

Marcuse and Kempen encourage the state to become more intimately involved. The example of Singapore illustrates that state intervention can alter isolating spatialization’s, of course the editors caution the development of negative ghettoization, in which the state forces residents “to live where they do not wish [in some cases] away from those with whom they would like to be near.” The weaknesses of Globalizing Cities approach lay in the fact that 1) spatialization occurs as result of many factors that are not spatial (as the editors note this means policies must be aimed at more than spatial factors, land use and geography are not adequate, scholars and policymakers must adopt a new broader framework) and 2) the numerous contingencies between examples in a comparative approach complicates generalizations.

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