Tuca Vieira, São Paulo Swimming pools that overlook streets with no sewers. Endless City (2008)

There is much ado about cities being unrivalled centres of creativity, trade, financial might and as somehow natural think tanks and centres for democracy; ‘City Means Innovation’ or ‘cities are good for you’. Cities are however, and perhaps more importantly, the product and enduring site of inequality. Would it be more helpful/truthful to understand ‘city’ as spaces and sets of social relations that continually perpetuate inequality; ‘City Means Inequality’?

Cities, for example, in the United Kingdom, including London, Manchester and Liverpool were forged out of a combination of factors that depended upon the exploitation of citizens. People were forced into them as a result of rural land enclosures. As the first mobile work force their labour was subsequently exploited as and for the machines of the industrial revolutions. Resulting surpluses helped fund the Transatlantic slave trade and the adjoined imperialist projects. The citizens of these cities would re-package the expropriated resources and send them back to the colonial cities.

These same cities, despite breathtaking technological advancements, scores of think tanks, countless professors, universal suffrage, local democracy and urban festivals, are as unequal today as they were in the 1850’s, in the peak of the ‘industrial revolution and at the height of the imperial theft’.

Such statistics are present today in cities right across the globe. They can also be seen in most cities of the past. One of the most populist perspectives of cities, much championed by the academics, charities and governments, is the belief that cities are centres of ‘entrepreneurism’; of potential. No doubt this is true for them as individuals and as a class; however has this entrepreneurialism, employed through capitalism, required and demanded the exploitation of urban citizens? What can be done to challenge the status quo ideas of cities and make apparent the real statistics, real impacts on people’s lives? Why has ‘city’ become linked to modernity, progress and innovation? Who is doing this and what benefit is there? What can be done to redress the poverty and inequality? 

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Last updated on July 15, 2014 by This Is Not A Gateway