Perspectivas Urbanas / Urban Perspectives

Mark D. Bjelland *
Peter Marcuse and Ronald van Kempen, eds.

A New Urban Geography for a New World Order?

The cover illustration for Marcuse and van Kempen's new edited volume is none too subtle in hinting at what lies inside. A black and white photograph depicts abandoned New York tenement buildings with the sleek World Trade Center towers rising in the distance. The cover illustration suggests the central concern of this book: the way that globalization leads to increased spatial concentrations of both poverty and wealth, and deepened spatial divisions between the winners and losers. In the first chapter of this collection, the editors set forth their hypothesis that a new urban spatial order has emerged as a manifestation of the new world order of global capitalism. Marcuse and van Kempen propose a set of questions for the remaining essays to address: has globalization had a visible effect on the internal structure of cities and is there a generalizable urban form associated with globalizing cities?

The editors were careful in titling their book Globalizing Cities rather than global cities, reflecting their concern with the processes of globablization in diverse cities located in both the core and peripheral regions of the global economy. In the following ten chapters, an international group of scholars drawn from urban studies, geography, sociology, and urban planning explore the new spatial order of "globalizing cities" in the context of specific cities. In the concluding chapter, the editors re-assess their hypothesis in the light of the detailed and extensive theoretical and empirical contributions and offer a revised version of their model of the new urban spatial order.

Marcuse and van Kempen work within the political economy approach that dates the emergence of new spatial order to the 1970s when crises in the Fordist mode of capital accumulation precipitated a move towards flexible modes of production, internationalization of the financial sectors, and a new global division of labor. Within western societies, these post-Fordist changes have included the rise of "high-level" international business services, the decline of manufacturing, and a retrenchment of the welfare state. According to the hypothesis, the new post-Fordist spatial order exhibits increasing spatial divisions or "quartering" of the city between elite citadels, new locations of the gentry, a suburban city, a tenement city, and an abandoned city.

The second chapter, by Robert Beauregard and Anne Haila, serves as a corrective to those who would quickly proclaim a new post-Fordist or postmodern urban form. To suggest that a new spatial form might emerge in a quarter century neglects "the inevitable continuities of the city." The inertia of human attachments to place, embedded social relationships, and the physical environment, do not allow a one-to-one correspondence between current processes and urban form. Instead, they see a complex patterning of old and new, with the effects of globalization being seen in key areas: hollowed-out manufacturing zones, revitalized waterfront sites, edge cities, and increasing internationalization of urban real estate markets.

In the next chapter, William Goldsmith provocatively argues that U.S. hegemony in the new global political and economic order will lead to the widespread reproduction of the racially segregated, hollowed-out urban form characteristic of U.S. cities. Goldsmith sees the deep-seated racism of the United States as the key to understanding the truncated welfare state and uncritical embrace of the market mechanism that have together shaped U.S. politics and the globalization process. Hollywood images of demonic inner cities and pastoral suburbs combine with market deregulation, writes Goldsmith, to reproduce the U.S. urban form around the globe. While the argument has merit, the remaining chapters suggest that it underestimates the importance of local culture and historical contingencies and neglects significant differences in urban form and urban attitudes between the United States and the rest of the world.

The next eight chapters are devoted to detailed empirical studies of the spatial structure of a broad collection of cities: Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, Tokyo, New York, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Australia's major cities. These rich empirical studies offer a wealth of historical geographical information, with a special focus on spatial structure and patterns of inequality. Put together, the effect of these eight empirical studies is to reinforce Beauregard and Haila's statements about the complex interweaving of old and new and the "inevitable continuities" of the city. Several of the contributors stated that their particular city is unique and does not easily fit the theoretical framework or paradigmatic post-Fordist urban structure model. The remarkable differences between the cities studied in this volume resurrects the old debate about the nature of comparative geographic inquiry-does it produce universal laws of spatial organization or is it limited to essentially idiographic descriptions of unique places?

Sanjoy Chakravorty notes that Calcutta does not fit easily within the analytical framework of the book's editors, because Third World cities do not fit into the two-stage Fordist/post-Fordist model. Instead, Chakravorty describes a three-stage model. Calcutta's economy and spatially divided urban structure were first shaped under the globalizing force of colonialism. During the post-colonial period, Calcutta's economy became more internally focused, lost part of its hinterland, and received a large influx of rural migrants. Only recently is Calcutta regaining its global economic connections and beginning to attract Fordist production. Unlike western cities, flexible production has always been the norm in Calcutta, and the informal sector has comprised more than forty percent of the labor force. One recent trend that parallels the new urban spatial order paradigm is the creation of industrial towns outside Calcutta. Chakravorty suggests that these new industrial towns might come to resemble postmodern cities in that they will be clean, spacious, and free of visible signs of poverty-thanks in part to the replacement of low-wage domestic laborers with domestic appliances.

Singapore is another city that does not fit the paradigmatic model of the post-Fordist quartered city. Leo van Grunsven argues that parts of the post-Fordist model "do not necessarily hold outside the realm of the traditional core areas of the world economy" (p. 125). In part, this is because Singapore has been a winner in the recent global economic restructuring. Further, Grunsven notes the Singaporean government's strong role in providing public housing and implementing policies aimed at breaking down spatial concentrations of ethnic groups and incorporating minority groups into the mainstream.

Paul Waley's study of Tokyo and John Logan's study of New York emphasize the continuities between recent developments and long established patterns. Tokyo has witnessed growth in higher-level urban functions and the unfettered corporate refashioning of the physical landscape. However, social controls and relative income equality across the region have mitigated change-for example, there is little foreign ownership of real estate, foreign immigrants are rare, and land uses and social practices tend to persist despite physical upheavals. Logan argues that social inequality in New York City is due not so much to the presence of global financial and high-level service industries, but to its traditional role as an immigration entry point. New York's role in international financial markets may be highly visible but has had "minor effects on the area's labor force and neighborhoods," writes Logan (p. 182). New York has long been a global city and "paradoxically the most 'global' metropolis is among those least affected by recent globalization."

Studies of Brussels, Frankfurt, and Australia reveal patterns more in line with the post-Fordist urban structure model. Christian Kesteloot describes the rising polarization that has accompanied suburbanization in Brussels. Blair Badcock notes that unlike their U.S. counterparts, Australian cities lack edge city development and are much less economically and racially segregated. Post-Fordism has, however, created a trend towards social polarization in Australian cities, with a centralization of wealth in revitalized core neighborhoods and a dispersal of poverty to vulnerable suburbs. In the end, Marcuse and van Kempen conclude that a new spatial order has not yet emerged, but that there is a heightened "quartering" of the poor and the affluent. Put simply, there are too many contingencies of history, geography, social relations, race relations, and political processes for a clear spatial pattern to emerge. One of the strengths of this book is the diversity of cities that are explored, which serves as a corrective to overly generalized models of urban structure. In the future, researchers working within the political economy approach will to pay more attention to the way processes of post-Fordist transformation occur out outside North America and Western Europe. While the post-Fordist transition may hollow out manufacturing zones in the traditional core, it may lead to increased industrialization and replicate Fordist patterns in the Third World. Thus, a more robust theory of globalizing cities must better account for the interconnections between places and the different positions cities occupy with respect to the global economy.

Overall, this is a highly valuable book, combining theoretical arguments with detailed empirical work. Each chapter is tightly focused on questions of globalization, social polarization and spatial divisions, lending the volume a cohesiveness often missing in edited collections. This book broadens the scholarly discussion of global cities and offers important insights into the interpenetration of local and global processes in a wide range of settings. This book would be a valuable resource for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in urban studies, urban geography, or urban sociology.

(*) Mark D. Bjelland, Department of Geography, Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, Minnesota. Published by H-Urban (August, 2001)

(**) Mark D. Bjelland. "Review of Peter Marcuse and Ronald van Kempen, eds., Globalizing Cities: A New Spatial Order?," H-Urban, H-Net Reviews, August, 2001.