Global Cities and the Neoliberal Hegemony

An Introduction

In this paper there will be a discussion of the importance of global cities in today’s post-fordist climate. I will talk about how cities operate as organizing principles and are at the sites of the most stunning change and innovation. What I’m most interested in is an analysis of the part that neoliberalism plays. I discuss neoliberalism in order to clarify why nation states are no longer the most integral units for understanding. Neoliberalism is very useful in understanding what’s happening in some key cities like New York City. Also, the tension between democracy and corporations situated against the backdrop of neoliberalism is addressed.

I would not disguise that what I’m researching on plays on a lot of insights but does not strive for a stern systematicity. The inchoate nature of empirical data and less empirical examples makes it almost impossible to develop a theory of everything that will give you all the answers. I make it clear that I don’t have all the answers and this serves to leave space in the reader’s imagination that could in some later time come into fruition with a true theory, a true answer that would break us out of the box.

Why Global Cities?

Today we talk about global cities because global cities operate as the organizing principles in our increasingly disorganized world. As organizing principles they operate on a partial degree and never fulfill their ambitions to carve the world into meaningful pieces. Instead of talking about world systems it is perhaps more correct to talk about regional subsystems. These regional subsystems could be the “northern Atlantic system(western Europe and the United States-Canada), the Pacific rim (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.)”(Abu-Lughod, 1989, 32) These subsystems are linked together in a substantial and singular level. They are connected and drive deeply into each other’s transactions and markets.

Regional Subsystems vs. The Nation State

It has become even more important to focus our discussion on regional subsystems because nation states are no longer the primary articulators. “One of the key properties of the current phase is the ascendance of information technologies and the associated increase in the mobility and liquidity of capital. There have long been cross-border economic processes-flows of capital, labor, goods, raw materials, tourists. But to a large extent these took place within the inter-state system, where the key articulators were national states. The international economic system was ensconced largely in this inter-state system. This has changed rather dramatically over the last decade as a result of privatization, deregulation, the opening up of national economies to foreign firms, and the growing participation of national economic actors in global markets. “(Sassen, 2005, 27) With a generalized global peace that will encourage flourishing like the Pax Romana we’re living in a time when history still operates but much more fluidly and largely without those contractions that bring us back to a primitive barbarism. While it has almost always been the case that there is international trade and with that an international presence it’s accelerated to a never before seen pace and all the wide corners of the world are seemingly involved.

While in the past, thinkers like Peter Hall attributed world cities “primarily as national centers that channeled international forces and influences towards national interests. Hall’s conception of a “world city” is flawed because it’s arguably a product of a period in which cities operated primarily as nodes within national urban system. By contrast, contemporary notions of the world city emphasize the embeddedness of urban centers within an emergent system of global capitalism; this may entail their partial “delinking” from the territorialized economic spaces regulated by national state institutions.”(Brenner&Kiel, 2006, 2007) As an emergent system of global capitalism urban centers have a certain municipal freedom. Freedom is often wrongly used however; it’s at times outside companies engaging in almost a colonization of a city by making all good for business without too much regard for the people involved or what their concerns should be. However, as is the case with all hegemonic influence, there isn’t complete dispossession and those from below often can and do make their feelings heard, even if it’s only a whimper without any strength at all.

Single cities like New York, Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles are becoming “jurisdictional boundaries.”(Smith, 2001, 49) By becoming jurisdictional boundaries what is happening is that they’re being bracketed away from their nested nation state and that they have more in common with each other than a geographical neighbor. It’s no argument to say that New York looks more like Tokyo than Ithaca. It’s no argument that the professional, cosmopolitan, jet-setting crowd is found in New York City and not in Ithaca. Global capital situates itself in certain places and in these places the global elite also sets up camp. Although often without firm loyalties for any particular country or even city they are drawn like the 19th century Flaneur to the lights and action of the brilliant metropolis.

To further articulate the divide and division between nation states and global cities. Maszlish and Iriye write: “The new international forms of economic activity raise a problem about the relationship between nation-states and global cities […] I posit the possibility of a systematic discontinuity between what used to be thought of as national growth, and the forms of growth evident in global cities in the 1980s. These cities constitute a system rather than merely competing with each other. What contributes to growth in the network of global cities may well not contribute to the growth in nations. For instance, is there a systematic relation between, on the one hand, the growth in global cities and, on the other hand, the deficits of national governments and the decline of major industrial centers in each of these countries.”(Mazlish&Iriye, 2005, 120) What’s happening is that global cities are becoming the sites of an interlacing complexity. Industry can be moved anywhere but it seems that a new market and supply of highly specialized service firms are mushrooming in key cities that form the post-modern geography.

Space-Time Compression: Fact or Fable?

Because of space-time compression companies can opt for almost any location, what is a paradox is that investment still takes place in many of the same cities, world cities that have now become global cities. While there are “multiple locational options for such headquarters” in countries with well-developed infrastructure there is increasing investment in the same places.(Sassen, 2005, 29) Something that partially responds to this paradox is the observation that dispersal creates an even greater need for centralization. If centralization is itself dispersed then there is an increasing need for more centralization, fencing the company in to certain select cities that have the infrastructure even when other cities have similar infrastructure. Historical precedence becomes recent actuality and it becomes the case that companies are hesitant to move centralization functions because that creates chaos. While it may make rational sense to build a factory in some remote location in Tibet this construction creates extra stresses for the “brain” of the corporation. Movements in this regard emphasize the importance of centralization instead of numbing it. To follow this logic when centralization is already headquartered in a set of widely connected cities there is a stagnant tendency to remain there. This explains why so many of today’s global cities were world cities for much of the most recent acceleration of modernization. Where there has been a most expansive acceleration and development of modernizing tendencies, there remains a “disproportionate concentration” of investment “in cities of the global North. Indeed, the degrees of concentration internationally and within countries are unexpectedly high for an increasingly globalized and digitized economic sector. Inside countries, the leading financial centers today concentrate a greater share of national financial activity than even ten years ago, and internationally, cities in the global North concentrate well over half of the global capital market.”(Sassen, 2005, 33) Why it is the case that cities in the North concentrate over half of the global capital market is up to dispute but what I render from this is that there is a historical fixity to where investments are taking place. There is an intensification of historical precedence and this may sound odd in today’s world of freewheeling capitalism. London, New York and Tokyo dominate the global imagination and it seems unlikely that they’ll sink like Venice in importance to the global economy. When we discuss historical fixity we have to look at the importance of institutions. With that, there is a confrontation with the importance of the nation state. While authors are arguing that the nation state is no longer as important they cannot erase its importance. Certain countries have poorly developed institutions and most importantly, a poorly developed system of law. Law is central and this is paramount when one notes that people are hesitant to invest in any nation with poorly trained or incapable lawyer. The rapid training and supplying of lawyers in reform era China is perhaps as important as relaxing state control to explain why China is developing so successfully and rapidly.

Sassen and the other theorists we approached do not devote substantial attention to the importance of law and perhaps this is because it’s generally worked into institutional structures but this neglect does create a gaping hole in development theory in consideration of what was covered. Contractual obligations like GATT impose order in an uncertain world; contractual obligations with fixity and flexibility make free trade possible. A collapse of order imposing fundamentals like GATT would result in disorganization and fragmentation. Abu-Lughod discusses decline in the middle decades of the fourteenth century as the world system of that time “fragmented and many parts went into simultaneous decline.”(Abu-Lughod, 1989, 37) Abu-Lughod cannot adequately explain why this fragmentation happened. She talks about “modest alterations within and between subsystems undoubtedly [contributing] to a new weighting of the whole.”(Abu-Lughod, 1989, 38) This explains very little. Possible explanations for this decline include: population decline, a comparative decline in many urban populations across Europe, a deterioration of international relations, plague, over-monopolization of industries, and the inability of cities to provide critical functions of food and housing.

What is relevant to our contemporary discussion is why and how subsystems organize themselves within the whole. Sassen talks about a “new geography of centrality and marginality.”(Sassen, 2001, 5) This new geography “partly reproduces existing inequalities but it is also the outcome of a dynamic specific to the current forms of economic growth.”(Sassen, 2001, 5) Places are processes but these processes are energized or retarded by certain factors. The ascendency and hegemonic status of neoliberalism needs to be analyzed for the contortions of this new geography to make sense. While it’s a hoary and difficult concept, or rather, a challenging set of policies and guidelines. Neoliberalism simplified is antithetical to protectionist economic policies.

An Introduction to Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism simplified supports the “breaking down of protectionist economic policies” and proponents believe that it is that breakdown that promotes “an acceleration and densification of world trade.”(Davis, 2005, 98) Neoliberalism offers an organizational and thematic coherence that explains in way, why there is a new geography of centrality and marginality. Neoliberal politics is a national and international phenomenon, it’s a top-down reformulation for how governments should run and not run. Neoliberalism encourages the freeing of flows of capital and of labor.

For neoliberals the market is the main source of identification and it is the main engine of change. While Keynesian policies also placed this view on markets, Keynesian policies created over-borrowing and produced inflation that created a crunch in the housing market and an out-right fiscal crisis in cities like New York City of the early 70s. When this fiscal crisis happened what took place “amounted to a coup by the financial institutions against the democratically elected government of New York City, and it was every bit as effective as the military coup that had earlier occurred in Chile.”(Harvey, 2005, 45) The investment bankers of New York City essentially took over and relied on the weaknesses of a more social-welfare oriented system to make their agenda known. “The creation of a ‘good business climate’ was a priority. This meant using public resources to build appropriate infrastructures for business (particularly in telecommunications) coupled with subsidies and tax incentives for capitalist enterprises. Corporate welfare substituted for people welfare.”(Harvey, 2005, 47) When corporate welfare substituted for people welfare a diminishing of state authority took place and to some degree accounts for the de-nationalization that Sassen addresses.

Neoliberalism and its Threat to Democracy

Democracy no longer has a place when the political coup of investment bankers curtailed social benefits and made class a focal issue. When people are organized on class lines but also treated as individuals who bear personal responsibility a fissure occurred in New York City and many other cities when the civic culture gives way to the corporate culture. When local politics and individual needs and requirements are thought of as less important to the monolith of market requirements for specialization. Influences and impositions of neoliberalism created an orthodoxy that made it impossible for new politicians to tilt strongly toward social progressivism. Neoliberalism by becoming an orthodoxy threatens democracy because it invalidates the search for social justice and focuses always on the pragmatic campaign towards development oriented initiatives that benefit the financial elites most of all and concentrates this benefit until it’s almost absurd how big the divide is between the top 1% and the remainder of the population. These costs for the poor majority manifest themselves in different ways, what remains the case in every situation is that consent itself is undermined and is manufactured for ideological permeation.

Corporations, once more obedient to the state, have usurped the state and this is one reason why globalization is on everyone’s minds. Capital is always roving and wandering, it looks for investment in the most effective of ways and it dominates local practices in ways that infringe upon the basic statute of freedom and the promotion of individual needs. Nationalism itself becomes attacked as transnational companies take over. It should be noted however that this decrease in nationalism may also be the main reason that there is no widespread war. Where McDonalds situate themselves, there is peace for our time. A limited peace in a time of war against an impermeable terrorism but because few people are actually involved in this never ending war it’s not perceived as war per say but rather as another newsworthy distraction.

Neoliberalism and the Matrix of Power

That, however, is a side preoccupation. What is most relevant for this discussion is the matrix of power in today’s neoliberal regimes. How are world cities influenced by neoliberal dominations of ideology and actual effect? What should be noted is that neoliberalism clearly didn’t spout from nowhere and that it imposes something alien and nonfunctional. Neoliberalism is a very intelligent reaction to the looseness of capital and the possibilities of movement in a less and less regulated environment. To some extent neoliberalism has helped create this environment but once it comes into being it develops an internal logic as well as an internal momentum. This internal logic and internal momentum creates or rather re-creates the geography of the world in ways that will be expanded upon. Neoliberalism, as much as it may be chastised, could not have become such a phenomenon if it did not conform to human nature as written by Adam Smith and the audacious and revolutionary spirit of capitalism itself. As Harvey writes: “The motilities of capital and labor power could not be controlled-this was, after all, the essence of free-market capitalism-nor could the context of wage or profit opportunities elsewhere.”(Harvey, 1989, 32) Capitalism is amoral not immoral. Neoliberalism however is its own morality because it imposes a strategy for success. Neoliberalism attempts to rid the world of poverty through privatization, the liberalization of tariffs, and the diminishment of the public sector.

Neoliberalism attempts a kind of economic imperialism that could be for the good or ill of the nation. In his chapter on The Construction of Consent Harvey talks about how “The word ‘freedom’ resonates so widely within the common-sense understanding of Americans that it becomes ‘a button that elites can press to open the door to the masses’ to justify almost anything.”(Harvey, 2005, 39) These impositions on the popular classes are not only the case in America but in other countries where the “Washington Consensus” holds sway. This free market, free trade ideology permeates so deeply that it is seem as a “necessary, even wholly ‘natural’, way for the social order to be regulated.”(Harvey, 2005, 41) In New York City this ideology became more than an ideology, it became a guideline for common practice. From common sense to common practice the matrix of neoliberalism expands like a firm cocoon.

As the following story illustrates, what happened in New York was brutal yet firm, doing what conformed not to niceness or equality or protection of the people but doing what sufficed for the moment, doing what allowed the budget to remain constrained and limited.

“As the recession gathered pace, the gap between revenues and outlays in the New York City budget (already large because of profligate borrowing over many years) increased. At first financial institutions were prepared to bridge the gap, but in 1975 a powerful cabal of investment bankers (led by Walter Wriston of Citibank) refused to roll over the debt and pushed the city into technical bankruptcy. The bail-out that followed entailed the construction of new institutions that took over the management of the city budget. They had first claim on city tax revenues in order to first pay off bondholders: whatever was left went for essential services. The effect was to curb the aspirations of the city’s powerful municipal unions, to implement wage freezes and cutbacks in public employment and social provision(education, public health, transport services), and to impose user fees (tuition was introduced into the CUNY university system for the first time). The final indignity was the requirement that municipal unions should invest their pension funds in city bonds. Unions then either moderated their demands or faced the prospect of losing their pension funds through city bankruptcy.”(Harvey, 2005, 45) What stands out about this is the reversal of trends and tendencies. By officially limiting the right of unions the elite fought to push forward their agenda, not the agenda of the people or even representatives of the people. When the businessmen gained control everything became about business and “City government was more and more construed as an entrepreneurial rather than a social democratic or even managerial entity. Inter-urban competition for investment capital transformed government into urban governance through public-private partnerships. City business was increasingly conducted behind closed doors, and the democratic and representational content of local governance was diminished.”(Harvey, 2005, 47) Yet some may say that this was a necessity, because the times they were changing and above all, one had to always keep pace.

Neoliberalism and Necessity?

In time the unions were destined to become less and less the speakers of the people as manufacturing jobs dwindled and service jobs flowered. So it’s worth arguing that by depriving unions of power the neoliberals were simply doing what would have been encouraged by the process of a selective history. Furthermore, one can argue against Harvey’s contention that neoliberalism somehow sells the people’s right to vote and right to decide to some nasty cabal littered with investment bankers of the same stripe. When people vote sometimes they vote neoliberal.

“The neoliberal governments of Fernando de Melo and Fernando Henrique Cardoso came to power in Brazil by popular vote.”(Boito , 1998, 71) There is a puzzle to this and Harvey also wrestles with this puzzle. Why did the masses acquiesce when social justice was being scaled out to the detriment of the masses and for the good of those in power blocs. The subaltern group was not given concessions that would make it rational for them to vote the neoliberal way. So one should ask? Are they being given anything or are they just behaving crazily in such a way that any social scientist would deplore.

It seems that social change happens not when one does what is right for the masses but for the elites. Across the world, elites are able to mobilize support from the masses and often through an elaborate framing of common or shared values.

Furthermore, Neoliberalism is a catalyst as it is catalyzed by change. In this post-fordist, post-keynesian age it may just have to be that the technocratic elite know better than the people how to forge forward. To return to a more general study of cities it’s important to note that neoliberal reforms are most heavily articulated in cities, and especially in today’s global cities. Entire national governments, “have largely abandoned the project of the modern infrastructural ideal with its ostensible goal of ‘equalizing life conditions on a national scale’. Instead, they have tended to shift to ‘the promotion of urban regions as the most essential level of policy implementation. Nation states have ‘substantially rescaled their internal institutional hierarchies in order to play increasingly entrepreneurial roles in producing geographic infrastructures for a new round of capitalist accumulation.'(Graham & Marvin, 307) Instead of everything being about the national everything has become about the international. Nation states in this new round of capitalist accumulation have to keep up by strenuously promoting a few key cities at the cost to less developed areas that are less attractive to international capital.

Corporate Takeover

It seems that corporations have taken over as “Mobile corporations are not slow to exploit the leverage they command to coerce entrepreneurial and ambitious municipalities and nation states to customize and configure infrastructural arrangements to their precise needs at little or no cost to them.”(Graham & Marvin, 312) Globalization has rendered nation states vulnerable to many factors that push them towards doing what’s best for business. Not only is globalization creating global cities but it is also creating global cheating, as multinational corporations bend rules to get ahead and nation states are slow to regulate them so that they are not forfeiting the public good.

While formerly corporations relied on the government for creating a good civil society and good institutions, today, the government is more the puppet of market forces than ever before. While a government should have jurisdiction to its territory it’s growing more the case that what’s international, that is, what is morally lax, is the best way to go. Governments have grown compliant towards transnationals that know no rationality and resist all borders. Transnationals have become the creators of space-time compression and mainly in the maneuverings of transnationals is this compression realized. It’s believed that the neoliberal good is the only good. That the common people, by sacrificing to elite interests that have become, oddly, popular interests, that the common people are doing what is best, what is the right thing. There is a consensus on the whole that the globalizing agenda is right, that what’s happening is what should or even ought to happen. So what is happening?

Globalization and Competition: More on Nation States

“In global cities the most sophisticated, diverse and capable electronic infrastructures even seen are being mobilized to compress space and time barriers in a veritable frenzy of network construction.”(Graham & Marvin, 313) As cities struggle to remain the hubs of economic traffic communications is of primary importance and fiber optics holds the key to wealth and success. It’s of little surprise that the greatest world superpower, the United States leads with 5 of its cities on the top 5 list of global cities in terms of the competitiveness of their telecommunications infrastructure. Global cities are on the whole concentrated in the most economic and politically dominant nations in the world. In Short and Kim’s book over “two-thirds of the cities they identified as global were located in the US and Europe.”(Davis, 2005, 100) This reworks our understanding of how and why discourse on nation states is still useful, despite extensive privatization and curtailing of the government. As Sassen writes: “One of the outcomes of a global city analysis is that it makes evident that the global materializes by necessity in specific places, and institutional arrangements, a good number of which, if not most, are located in national territories.(Sassen, 2005, 32) Because the geography of globalization “contains both a dynamic of dispersal and of centralization” it so occurs that centralization incurs less damage on leading countries and more on developing countries that lack the institutions to sustain extensive investment, especially in expensive areas like communications.

Civil society is not necessarily undermined by globalization. The idea of a global civil society is very much in vogue as the dichotomies that we form are undermined. Dichotomies like local and global, dichotomies like the nation state and the world economy. All of that stands to be disturbed. Even though civil society has been seen to exist outside the market, with neither invading on the other, it is the case that the civil society of today is highly market oriented and structured thereby.

Hegel’s version of civil society does contain economic elements and Marx develops on Hegel’s preoccupation with civil society and the economy. One can almost argue that Marx equates the whole of civil society with its economic base. Building from this, one can pose that it is because the economic base has so changed that what was once in style can no longer be in style. That state dominated techniques to market dominance simply will not do. That because capital is so free-floating yet stuck nations need to curb their demands and serve rather than be served. When manufacturing can move almost anywhere then there is no longer much strength in trade unions. There is no longer a powerful strand of populist movements that draw strength from people working factories and finding commonalities and banding together for better working conditions. Maybe it’s that the conditions are no longer so bad or maybe it’s because by banding together corporations are scared off by so much brotherly behavior that they simply relocate manufacturing productions, elsewhere.

International competiveness, not a goal in many countries like Australia, as late as the 1980s has now become the dominant mode, the primary music. Rescuing the maiden in distress, the industry in distress, is no longer popular. State intervention is broadly and generally frowned upon, even when it happens. State intervention is really only thought of as good as it is guided by successful industries, or to be more precise, by successful corporations. “Finally, it is clear that corporate capital is increasingly intervening directly to encourage the production of the infrastructural network spaces that most suit its internationalizing and ‘glocal’ needs. Lobbying of states and providers perceived to be inadequate in opening up restrictions on the provision of customized corporate infrastructure, or of those who are deemed to offer inadequate infrastructural price, quality or reliability, is increasingly intense. Mobile corporations are also not slow to exploit the leverage they command to coerce entrepreneurial and ambitious municipalities and nation states to customize and configure infrastructural arrangements to their precise needs at little or no cost to them.”(Graham & Marvin, 311-312) This phenomenon of infrastructural construction only intensifies the dominance of center vs. peripheral divides and countries unable to modernize are more and more left behind.

Linking it All Together: Nationalism, Neoliberalism, Global Cities

Neoliberalism is today’s grand universal. Building on civilization, it expands its networks and transforms the way the people live and operate. There is sometimes a value to universality. According to Marx there is a value to universality as it liberates human beings from oppression, degradation, domination, and alienation. Unfortunately, neoliberalism may not be the right universal for our age. When people talk about the ills of globalization they are often talking about the ills of neoliberalism. Globalization is the international capitalist offensive and everyday people are on the defensive.

Pierre Bordieu talks about the “fatalism of neoliberal thinking.” What does he mean by this fatalism and is he truly being fair? It can be argued that this fatalism comes from the supposed irreversibility of neo-liberalism. Neoliberalism is a hegemonic power and it’s a hegemony that is built on precedence. According to Harvey contemporary leaders can only work within past established neoliberal contexts, that they can never extricate themselves from that entanglement. However neoliberalism was never really consensus bound. Plenty of people are against the almost inhumanity of neoliberal policies. Protections were disengaged and this disengagement lead to engagement as people took to politics and passionate activism.

It’s coercion not consensus that best describes what neoliberalism is and what it does. There are certain elements of both in operation but coercion is more widespread because it’s arguable that neoliberalism has its own ideology that successfully popularizes it and makes it comprehensible. That neoliberalism has an ideology is not up to dispute, there has been much work done “by intellectuals and community leaders [that] has played an important role in the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalist practices.”(Leitner, Peck & Sheppard, 118) This work, however, has been targeted towards the elites, not the people. It’s not apparent that neoliberalism could be classified as a mass movement and it side steps the issue of the importance of democracy by talking instead of freedom.

Global cities, freed by neoliberalist tactics, are now the most useful and valid units of understanding. Economic globalization is recognized in the multiple localizations in global cities. The dynamic of change and the development of deregulation is mostly occurring in the most promising of international centers, the strongest competitors, the global cities. What global cities do is that the de-nationalize the national. They turn nationalism on its head and instead assert for a future of transnational identities and new types of political operations that focus on competitiveness as if that’s all there is. What this does is create peripherals and marginals. Many people are left out and get no riches, many areas are left out and get steadily more deserted. Development is incredibly uneven but based on the structure of the world economy this is unlikely to change.

There is and will be for some time a clash and commotion between the local and the global. Through the influx of diversity through the influx of immigrants there will never be the domination of a single voice, of a single ideology, of a single class. There are contestations made every day between the oppressed and the powerful. Much of this operates from a manipulation of culture and sometimes the voices of the oppressed are heard. There is potential for uprooting the malaise of neoliberalism and it may be impossible to deviate too strongly but the possibility of deviation is still there. In the city there is a loosening of ties and corporate domination is a firm reality but few people realize how entrenched it is. The stock broker goes home, takes off his tie, and prepares to be more than his occupation. Simmel writes extensively about the possibilities inherent in the city and he would say even more about the global city if he still lived. New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London all are cities where the future is still unknown. All are a component of national space but operate so independently in terms of the structure of municipal decision making that they have more in common with each other than their geographical neighbors. As we continue with neoliberal agendas perhaps people will advocate for hybrid-neoliberalism. A neoliberalism that is concerned about civic society in the Hegelian sense. A neoliberalism that is aware of the human, even in terms of human failings.

A neoliberalism that does not suppress democratic structure but rather advocates for it.

To conclude I’d just like to say that the new Neoliberalism needs to incorporate a positive and ethical view of what modern culture should be. It seems that neoliberalism is the outline that we must all follow but that this outline allows for many substitutions. In the city, and particularly, in the global city. There is no end of history and as much as space and time become compressed we’re still bound to state and city. Even in this time of rapid changes certain things stay the same. Immigrants flock in, carrying all they have in two suitcases. Staring deep into the horizon and wishing for a better life in subdivided apartments with cracked windows and peeling paint. The human aspect has been lost in neoliberal theories and many reports of globalization. The pain of this is that one loses a vision for what is truly happening as the dispossessed attach themselves and work unintentionally to improve the economy through hard work and thrift. In every modernizing nation there are outburst of protests from radical youth joined by community residents. Their rants are sometimes confused and hard to understand but they do need to be heard. The hegemonic status of neoliberalism needs to be challenged as one model for development can’t be right all the time and in all places.

Postmodernism espouses a radical distrust of master narratives but neoliberalism is such a narrative. Why is it so prevalent and why do so many elites feel that it is the best way to forge forward while ignoring the sufferings that it causes and the pathological conditions it encourages? This is a challenging question to answer but it points to where research can go. Are think tanks not being innovative enough or is neoliberalism just so big and so well tuned to the economic destabilization of today’s civilization that unless we revert back to a previous age it will be with us for some time and bring a limited peace in our time?

Against this talk of theories the practice of process is envisioned in today’s global cities most of all. They change. They are the locus for capital. They involve transnational actors in all shapes and forms of contestations; Sometimes fruitfully, sometimes through failure. Global cities and the neoliberal hegemony will dominate our world for some time. Alternatives spring up but they’re limited and local. Someday there will be social change that does not follow the current parameters. We can wait for that day, for that city yet to come.

Outside Cited Sources

Brenner and Kiel. 2006. The Global Cities Reader. New York, NY.:Routledge.

Mazlish and Iriye. 2005. The Global History Reader. New York, NY.:Routledge.

Neoliberal Hegemony and Unionism in Brazil, by Armando Boito, Jr.; Laura Randall
Latin American Perspectives © 1998 HYPERLINK “” Sage Publications, Inc.