Book Review Essay: The Unequal CityThe book review essayison Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State. The essay ask s you to evaluate the book while drawing on readings and lectures from weeks 4 through 6 Students are required to answer the four prompts below. Answers should be two pages long (double space, 12 point font, 1 inch margins). We are assessing your knowledge of course materials (lectures and readings). MLA or APA formats are acceptable. Submit in Word or PDF format only Do not submit in Pages format. The book review essay is worth 50 points. 5 points will be ded ucted for papers turned in within 24 hours after the deadline. Essays will not be accepted more than 24 hours after the deadline. Submit your papers at least two hours before the official deadline. This will help prevent last minute glitches.THE NEOLIBERAL CITY
Govenzance, Ideology, and Development in
Ame1’ican UrbaniS77z
Camel! University Press
Ithaca and London
Chapter I
Tbe Place, Tinze, and Process
of Neoliberal Urbanisnz
During his largely symbolic quest for the 2004 Democratic Party presidential nomination, Dennis Kucinich became an iconoclast for the economic justice Left in the United States. After entering the race, he
immediately separated himself from the rest of the candidates by calling for
the abolition of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the
unilateral withdrawal of troops in Iraq, and the creation of universal health
care. Soon he became featured in .Motber Joues and Tbe Nntiou and began
appearing at ftmdraising outings in Hollywood that were remarkably successful-at least compared to other candidates with his politics. One of the
central narratives he used to promote his candidacy was an experience that
he had as the youngest mayor in the history of Cleveland, Ohio, nearly
thirty years earlier. Already !mown for his confrontational style after a few
months in office, Kucinich faced a financial crisis that threatened to bankrupt the city. Banks were willing to continue extending credit to the beleaguered city on the important condition that Kucinich privatize the city’s
electricity provider, Muni Light. Vhen he refused to agree to this condition, the banks cut off the city’s credit, and Kucinich was ignominiously recalled, ironically for doing what he was elected to do in the first place.
Largely because of this episode, many considered Cleveland the classic
prototype of municipal mismanagement in the United States. The city’s industrial base was eroding, its coffers empty, and, for a brief while, its river
ablaze. Kucinich took the fall for most of it. The local press deemed him a
The Place, Time, and Process of Neoliberal Urbanism
The Neoliberal City
“vain, yappy, little demagogue,” ~nd a panel of historians later rated him
the seventh worst mayor in the lustory of the country (Bowden 2003).
Considering such bad publicity, it is initially difficult to understand why
someone running for political office would advertise his involvement in the
af£,ir. Mter all, his political career was side lined for nearly a decade because
of it, and Cleveland still lives \~th the stigma of being a mismanaged city.
But, as Kucinich points out in the denouement of his vignette, the city’s
power supply is still publicly owned, and service is more widely available
than would be the case had he acquiesced. He had won a small battle against
tl1e recldess rollback of public subsidies but was simply underappreciated
for it at the time. Yet while vindicated enough to use tl1e e>:perience to garner votes now, it is uulikely tl1at he (or anyone in his situation) would be
treated any differently if the same situation were to occur today. The no”
tion that city officials should do everything in their power to placate corporate financial interests that threaten to leave or penalize the locality has
become so unquestioned tl1at it is considered common sense by public adIninisttators and the popular press. Though the collectivization of public
resources was once held sacrosanct in American cities, l(ucinich was judged
a fool by critics for trying to apply such principles in such an ostensibly different era.
IVhat changed to make the privatization of erstwhile public resources so
axiomatic? Was it something structural or a sinlple matter of populist backlash? Is it long-lasting or more ephemeral? This book attempts to answer
some of these questions by e:qJ!oring tl1e physical, political, and economic
changes experienced by large American cities in the past thirty years. The
book is titled Tbe Neoliberal City because it is my contention tl1at much of
tl1e shift reflected in the vignette above can be traced to the utterly astonishingrise and reproduction of”neoliberalism” as an ideology, mode of city
governance, and driver ofurban change. As Anderson points out, the scope,
power and extent ofwhatwas as recently as the 1960s considered little more
tl1an the workings of a “lunatic right fringe” (Girvetz 1963) is nothing short
of remarkable:
For tl1e first time since the Reformation there are no longer any significant oppositions-tl1at is, systematic rival outlooks-within the
tlwught-world of the West; and scarcely any on a world scale either,
if we discount religious doctrines as largely inoperative archaisms, as
the experiences of Poland or Iran indicate we may. vVhatever limitations persist to its practice, neo-liberalism as a set of principles rules
undivided across the globe: the most successful ideology in world his-
wry. … VIrtually the entire horizon of reference in which tl1e generation of tile sixties grew up has been mped away-tile landmarks
of reformist and revolutionary socialism in equal measure. (2000,
p. 17)
But just what is neoliberalism and what does it have to do with American
cities? This chapter attempts to address tl1is question in order to better situate tl1e exploration of examples of “actually existing” neoliberalism in
American cities. 1
The Time and Place ofNeoliberalism
Genealogy of an idea
The language of neoliheralism is quite common mtl1in contemporary social tl1eory, but because so little time is spent defining tl1e term and associated tenus, tl1e meaning of me ideas tends to be unmoored and somewhat
variable. This section attempts to clarify tl1e way that liberalism and neoliberalism have recently been conceptualized by briefly revisiting tl1e evolution of botl1 ideas. Understanding the evolution of the wider liberal
tradition (see Girvetz 1963) is the first step toward a workable definition of
late twentieth-century ueoliberalism and its policy framework, the “New
gr.,Iitical Fcononw” (Chang 1997; M•ier 1 9vitl1in countries.
Given all of tl1is geographical specificity, it is reasonable to ask why ilie
inn_er city-particularly ilieAmedcnn inner city-is a useful space tl1rough
wh1ch to evaluate tl1e process of neoliberalism. After all, much ofthe liter~ture on neoli~eralism is neither particularly urban nor particularly AmerIcan-onented m nature. Much of the work iliat uses this concept looks at
ilie impacts of neoliberalism on developing countries, particularly iliose
viili a large agricultural sector tl1at has been absorbed by ilie capitalist
economy. Furtl1ennore, tl1e meaning of liberalism is complicated in the
The Place, Time, and Process of Neoliberal Urbanism
context, wh.ere the egalitarian variant of liberalism became asso-
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