Neoliberal Urbanism, North and South

Urban development is shaped not only through planning and design strategies, but through broader processes of political-economic restructuring associated with the (il)logics of capitalism, modern state power and diverse forms of sociopolitical mobilization. This lecture course offers a broad overview of major approaches to the political economy of urbanization with specific reference to the forms of market-oriented restructuring and associated crisis-tendencies that have unfolded across the world economy since the 1970s. In addition to offering students a wide-ranging introduction to key topics in contemporary geographical political economy, the class will survey a variety of methodological strategies through which scholars have attempted to decipher the variegated forces shaping contemporary cities and city-regions under conditions of heightened geoeconomic volatility. These include contradictory forces of geoeconomic integration and fragmentation; an intensified financialization of investment processes; an ongoing reorganization of state institutional apparatuses, governance priorities, fiscal capacities and modes of spatial intervention; the widespread adoption of “austerity” politics and new forms of “fast policy” transfer to confront place-specific forms of crisis; and intensifying resistance from popular movements. After covering a variety of foundational readings on theory and method, and surveying some of the key positions in recent debates on neoliberal urbanism, we explore topics such as state restructuring, urban governance, the politics of housing, sociospatial polarization and mega-projects, and emergent social struggles over the “right to the city”. Throughout the course, we attend carefully to questions of local specificity and macrogeographical comparison, particularly across the North/South divide in the world economy.