Politics and the City

After reading chapter 5, I can say that it is my favorite chapter in the Political Geography textbook thus far.  This is due to the fact that the examples presented in this chapter are very illustrative of the concepts being introduced.  The chapter begins with a historical overview of cities and how the emergence of cities is a product of changing geographies of production and consumption.  This idea of ‘changing geographies’ is important especially when the term ‘urbanization’ is being discussed.  Urbanization is often talked about as a thing or as a phenomenon, but Painter points out that urbanization is an ongoing process.  This process of urbanization has no distinct spatial boundaries despite that fact that it is an ongoing process across and within a specific place.  Therefore, cities are thought of as discrete places, whereas urbanism is a much more generalized term that exceeds the boundaries of discrete places.  This is important to note, because during the last century, the world experienced a rapid rate of population growth.  With regards to urban populations, this dramatic population growth is causing the urban populations to exceed formal city limits.  This population growth also causes an increased level of diversity within cities due to migrant labor among other factors.  The urban labor markets are influenced by the inequality of wage distribution associated with different social groups, which causes a diverse mix of consumption patterns among urban residents.  

This brings up the idea of urban infrastructure and its’ struggle to keep up with dramatic population growth within urban areas.  Our daily lives are very dependent on infrastructure, but this often goes unnoticed until infrastructure fails in some way.  Also, infrastructures are very interdependent, which means you cannot have gas without electricity, and so on.  This unconscious reliance on infrastructure causes urbanites to be vulnerable.  However, those who inhabit informal settlements within an urban area live life without this reliance on infrastructure, because infrastructure is hardly present in these settlements.  Members of the informal populations are treated as if they are not ‘proper citizens.’  Members of the informal populations do not have the luxury of receiving the same public services that the wealthier urbanites receive without acknowledgement.  This idea reminds me of our discussion on ‘citizenship’ from last week, when we debated what exactly constitutes a citizen.  Also, this brings up the concept of de jure versus de facto citizenship.  Therefore, the informal population views gentrification as a negative phenomena, which is synonymous with displacement.  On the other hand, many middle class urbanites would view gentrification as a virtuous cycle, which rejuvenates and improves urban areas.  Sadly, gentrification is often strongly linked with gender and/or racial differences.  In the Australian example, the presence of indigenous peoples within the urban space was an obstacle to gentrification.  Resulting from gentrification, most cities are now shifting from public areas to private areas.  This forces low-income and/or homeless urbanites to relocate.  

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