Urban Politics II

The two articles I chose to read for this week are “Neoliberalism and the urban condition” and “The ‘Occupy’ Movement: Emerging Protest Forms and Contested Urban Spaces.”  The former was a very dense article, but it provided a couple of real-world examples that helped to increase the comprehension of the concepts discussed in this article.  A quote was embedded on the first page of this article that emphasized the overall fact that restructuring is a process that occurs when the existing social, economic, and political systems are ineffective and structural change is desired.  The article then goes on to list seven different aspects of neoliberalism to enhance understanding.  The first aspect was that neoliberalism is a continuous process influenced by social and spatial markets.  This makes sense because the world and the desires within it are constantly changing and neoliberalism attempts to keep up with these wider influences.  The fifth aspect was that neoliberalization is intensely contested, which is expected because the imposition of market-based regulatory arrangements and sociocultural norms are not desired by everyone, especially those who are of a more diverse background.  An example presented by the article emphasized this fifth aspect.  As wealthier urban residents move to the surrounding suburbs, more funding for public services is sent their way.  As a result, public service and/or public transit funding for poorer, inner-city residents is decreased.  This exemplifies the fact that neoliberalism is empowering to some groups, but disempowering to others.

Neoliberalism’s favoritism towards wealthier residents can cause resentment in those who are, as a result, socially marginalized.  This leads into the second article discussing the Occupy Movement.  When neoliberalism disempowers certain social groups, these groups react with protests.  The Occupy Movement is a great example of this.  The Occupy Movement was especially successful because of the utilization of technology, such as social media, and the alternative ways of organizing protesters.  The Occupy Movement is protesting global corruption, specifically with regards to a widening economic gap between the wealthy and the poor, often referred to as the 1% and the 99%.  This protest is an example of urban politics because the occupation of urban spaces by protesters was a strategy used to reclaim what was previously public property that should have belonged to the public and not to a private corporation.  This exemplifies the concept of gentrification by showing how public spaces are restructured into private spaces in an effort to increase wealthy residents in a city and to push out poorer residents.  Therefore, by Occupy protesters camping out in public spaces, the city governments and the media were forced to acknowledge their presence.  The media’s attention caused the entire nation to begin discussing this idea of growing inequality.  Economic inequality is not a new occurrence, but the protesters brought the situation to the front page and it was a situation that was therefore impossible to ignore.  Additionally, the protest was not only physical, but also virtual due to increased access to technological tools.

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One Response to Urban Politics II

  1. stevenradil says:

    That was very polite to call the neoliberalism paper dense. You’re right that there’s some good insight in the article as well, particularly the idea that shifting the provision of services within cities from city governments to private companies is actively resisted by some and that the outcomes are likely to benefit certain groups over others. Neoliberalism is also part of the growing gap between the so-called 1% and everyone else as neoliberalism has usually involved cutting services for the working poor within cities. The occupy movement used urban space as a strategy to advance their message about these issues but perhaps also as a response to how the use and understanding public space has shifted during neoliberalism as well.

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