Cities After... connects capitalism to the neighborhood

“I always like to say that the city is the perfect mirror of capitalism...”

Capitalism interferes with our built environment, just like all other markets. But cities are not like other commodities. “They are spaces where most of the contemporary human activity is concentrated, where social relations are produced, where we sleep, eat and fall in love. And consequently, any exploitation of these spaces as markets has a byproduct of directly transforming the livelihood of city's residents.”

Democracy at Work has been sharing episodes of Cities After… with Prof Miguel Robles-Durán for 3 months now. Today, you can listen to this cutting-edge podcast that connects the abstract forces of capitalism to our day-to-day lived experiences and invites us to imagine an urban future after COVID, colonialism and capitalism.

Cities After… keeps an eye on the future but starts where we are today. While the COVID-19 pandemic requires millions to self-isolate, an abundance of urban space and housing remains empty. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t making money off of them.

“This is an externally imposed creative destruction,” said David Harvey on the show, caused by the housing market working for profiteers and capitalists. And the destruction doesn’t stop there.

Luxury-driven development skyrocketed while millions fell behind on housing payments during the pandemic. It begs the question raised by Leilani Farha on the show, “Who are cities for? Why is the rent too damn high?”. On Cities After…, we learned that real estate and financialization do not provide homes but are actually driving homelessness & creating the dystopian reality of our urban environments. Who is supposed to be shaping these landscapes instead of financial firms?

In two episodes on the architecture and urban design fields, Prof Robles-Durán asks  “What can we learn from the histories of architects designing for the wealthiest patrons or our urban design principles that aim to attract businesses to a city?” Cities After… argues for a revolution in our education system to solve the urgent social and environmental problems we face today.

One of greatest urban tragedies of the last years of the twentieth century... is the pervasive naturalization of private property rights over the housing rights of most of the world’s population.”

In an era of extreme wealth inequality, urban societies are forced to rely on the wealth of international corporations and finance. Prof Robles-Durán teaches us that there is a dogma of inter-urban competition between cities for the crumbs of capital. Pervasive privatization wreaks havoc on our public spaces, and designing for the wealthy misplaces needed resources, all for the chance to attract investment from financial powers without responsibility to people. 

Cities After… allows us to understand the socio-spatial consequences of late capitalism and therefore, hope that we can change it- starting in our lived experience, right in our own neighborhoods. And this show is just getting started.

“I always like to say that the city is the perfect mirror of capitalism. Capitalism today is showing a much more dramatic face than it did before the pandemic.” 

Cities After… reveals the ways capitalism dominates our lived experience more than ever.
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  • Eric Halvarson
    published this page in Updates 2021-08-31 09:31:26 -0400
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