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Innovative Milieus

Innovative Milieus

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Published by vivian augstin

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Published by: vivian augstin on Jun 25, 2008
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08/14/2010

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URBANIZATION AND ITS BY-PRODUCT THE POVERTY.VIVIANBackground.Urbanization is a mixed blessing. cities offer opportunities for business, arts andpolitical participation. On the other hand, raped growth often poses. unmanageableproblems. mega-agglomerations with several million inhabitants are never really undercontrol. Environmental hazards abound. The fact that cities serve as the nodes ofglobalization makes them particularly important. At the same time,. they haveprofound impacts on their hinterland. Nowhere is institution building more importantthan in fast expanding agglomeration.Cities provide the local bases for international linkages. This is where the virtual worldsof highly specified communication networks are anchored. Complicating matters,globalisation and urbanization have certain features in common. They challenge theexisting order, constantly frustrate planning and emphasize plurality. Tension is thenorm, cannot be avoided, and must, therefore, be handled constructively.Not coincidentally, however, cities possess civilizing qualities: their very existencedepends on reducing levels of violence. Globalization and urbanization are twotrends characterizing the present. These two phenomena are closely linkedbecause globalization means that global networks emerge, which have their nodesin cities. The networks are heterogeneous, frequently based on competition andprovide the stuff of which conflicts are made. At stake are cash flows, trans-national companies, international civil society, migrant groups, religiouscommunities, multilateral politics and cultural interdependencies. Nor should oneforget the challenges of organized transnational crime or global terrorism. As theUN Report of 2001 "Cities in a Globalizing World" cities are strategic sites and willbecome even more so. This is where global interests seek to maximize profits, butalso where local grassroots and civil society develop new claims to assert rights tolivable urban spaceGlobal cities.Global cities are defined as locations, which support internationalnetworking. They are under particular pressure and it sometimes even seemsdoubtful whether a global city can be treated as a single, coherent entity at all.There is a prevailing trend towards fragmentation because of the permanentcompetition of various norms and values, identities and social realities. This trendis exacerbated when populations organize in various local networks. On the otherhand, the global networks use virtual habitats with far-reaching rules of largelyhomogenous quality. In this sense, financial markets or the United Nations, forexample, command their own virtual cities-as do heroin or cocaine dealing. Suchvirtual contexts, are, in turn, locally embedded in real cities. They dominate someneighborhoods but hardly affect others. The traditional concept of "world cities" ispassé. The notion referred to command centers with transnational significance andcosmopolitan culture. However, the hierarchy of various urban functions is nolonger stable or permanent. Whereas the world city was viewed as control centreof the modern world system, the global city is integrated in distinctive globalnetworks, none of which can automatically be assumed to be dominant, structuring
 
or even yielding to the national government. Rather, we are dealing with distinctrealities, which are compatible only to various degrees and sometimes evenincompatible. Global cities are characterized by confusion, because their variousrealities can no longer be integrated into a single system. Global cities, moreover,contribute to our planet's environmental crisis. The size of airports is a good indi-cator of how global any particular agglomeration has become. On the other hand,air travel is a major, unregulated source of greenhouse emissions. Petrochemicalfuels, on which most cities thrive, are the world market's core commodity. Inaddition, large urban agglomerations are often located on the most fertile landand thus there extension reduces agricultural production. Every urban centredepends on food from outside, stimulating not only traffic but also intensiveproduction in the hinterland, which, in turn, has also become international. Afterall, the pineapples on display in Frankfurt's supermarkets do not grow in Germany,nor can the citizens of Toronto consume domestically produced lemons andoranges. It must be considered, however, how sustainability of natural resourceswould be challenged, if instead of population concentrations, we had highlyoverpopulated rural regions in need of adequate infrastructure. Cities have alwaysserved diverse cultures as arenas for encounter and exchange and, accordingly,also as arenas of conflict. This applies to contemporary global cities more thanever before. Nevertheless, they are more than just articulation nodes oftransnational networks. In view of the fact that the world is divided into territorialstates, cities also belong to national political systems, for which they normally playdistinct and decisive roles. Fashion, trends and other types of societal change havealways originated from cities. Modern representative democracy was born of thecities - key historical events such as the Storming of the Bastille and the Boston TeaParty provide the evidence. On the other hand, state institutions are based in cities,from the national tax administration to judicial authority. A further aspect is socialstratification, because a nation's elite usually lives in the major cities.Of course, notall of a city's people and communities are integrated in global networks. Socialcontexts with specific local histories, which differ from the realizations of globalnetworks, are equally relevant. In the cities, local, national and global phenomenainter-relate. Executive managers with worldwide spheres of activity depend on theirmaids who-particularly, but not only, in poor countries-may hardly ever leave thehousehold. Traditionally, the urbanization debate revolved around the experience ofthose nations that industrialized early. Empirical research normally looks at theagglomerations in Europe, North America and Japan, where the respective historieshave national characteristics. In contrast, the development of Singapore, KualaLumpur or Jakarta resulted from colonialism. The dynamism of their growth was, fromthe outset, associated with global networks. To this day, Third World cities tend to bemuch more diverse than most OECD cities. While nationalism served as a centralmechanism to integrate the urban populations in Europe in the 19th century, similarefforts in the colonial cities were regarded as a threat and suppressed as effectivelyas possible. Consequently, it is still common to find urban cultures in which ruralplaces of origin define identities. People relate to their "homeland", which may bethousands of kilometers away and which some may not visit in their entire lifetime,rather than with the immediate neighbors they meet every day. All cities have their
 
own history resulting in particular features. Urbanization becomes specific in eachcity, but is likely to also affect other regions, because cities never exist in isolation.They always belong to systems of various corresponding centers, because populationgroups pursue the same interests, or, at least, related interests. This typically isexpressed in architecture, with the result that, even today, one can still find traces ofthe Northern Italian Renaissance in small town Germany. Moreover, urbanism implies acivilizing process. To exist in the long term, cities must curb violence, despite thediverse nature of their populations and their conflicting interests. Wherever that isnot done successfully, cities become irrelevant fast. The connection betweencivilizing and urbanism is based on two pillars. These are, firstly, the public sphereand political deliberation and, secondly, something I have described elsewhere as"locality" .Locality ensures social control through personal contacts and interlinking insituations. It is not about communities or districts, but networks of relationshipswhich are integrated through various activities. Locality arises from initiative andself organization and can hardly be orchestrated by administrations. Locality andpublic sphere complement each other. Otherwise, self-created and self-regulatedinteractions could not persist under the pressure of real estate speculation, officialtown planning, and other dominant societal forces. The World Bank holds a similarview. Its Urban Peace Programmer zeroes in on strategies to reduce violence. Thefocus is on supporting local communities in an effort to increase "social capital"(defined as mutual trust which enables co-operation). In a similar vein, the UNsays that violence erodes social capital, as it reduces trust and cooperation withinformal and informal social organizations that are critical for a society to function.
Planning paralysis
.The rapid growth of many cities makes building (rather than depleting) socialcapital particularly important. There must be scope for creative and cooperativeimprovisation, because local authorities are often strikingly overburdened. Theenormous size of mega-cities with several million inhabitants makes it clear thatcomprehensive control and even planning are impossible. In many cases, civilservants do not even notice that new slums have formed within a few years, whichmay easily have more inhabitants than large German towns. Such developmentsmake the demand for better planning obsolete from the outset. Too often, we donot really know what makes mega-cities tick. It is clear that private enterprisesteps in where profits are attractive. This applies to local businesses but also tomultinational corporations. Well-known examples are provided in the constructionindustry-building homes, offices, factories and roads. But schools and hospitals arealso operated privately. Without private bus, and in some places, even railcompanies, traffic would collapse completely. Lucrative mobile telephone marketsare expanding, where the conventional fixed line telephone network has beenoverburdened for decades. Electricity and water supply offer opportunities, bothfor multinational companies smelling profit and for slum dwellers attempting totap utility services for free.It is not uncommon for clashes to occur with city au-

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