A marked transformation as part of the worldwide regime of neo-liberalism, that is shaping the urban form, space and even the modalities of governance, is occurring in several cities of the world. They are getting remodelled as ‘world-class’ centres in order to function as modes of circulation of global capital.
This book is a collection of articles which discuss issues at cross-country level to focus on the ‘unstable’ nature of cities as a contemporary problem. Nearly all the papers focus on the instability of the ‘urban’ in the contemporary globalised scenario at both discursive and empirical levels.
David Harvey focuses on people’s right to the city in the face of increasing capital accumulation and heightened dispossession. According to him, urbanisation has played a crucial role in the absorption of surplus capital at the price of a burgeoning intensity of ‘creative destruction’ that entails dispossession of the urban masses and rejects their right to the city in all possible forms.
Saskia Sassen focuses on the processes of hyper-mobility and neutralisation of place as master images of economic globalisation. She stresses that large cities reflect the multiplicity of the economies and the work culture of the global society. Cities in the contemporary era not only express the claims of global capital over the urban space that uses the cities as an ‘organisational commodity’.
Heinz Nissel examines the process of transformation in Vienna while in Chapter 5, Nazrul Islam and Salma A Shafi depict the nature of transformation that is taking place in Dhaka city of Bangladesh. Because of Vienna’s location as Europe’s gateway to it eastern parts, the most challenging task for the city first is to tackle the influx of immigrants from Yugoslavia and Turkey. In contrast, Dhaka has become a seat for cheap, flexible labour serving transnational corporations that operate primarily in the global sector.
Solomon Benjamin focuses on the diverse efforts of the Indian elite to reshape the urbanscape according to their own class agenda in Chapter six.
Umesh Varma Pakalapati presents a critique of the projects of the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority, especially the programmes that are pushing out the poor from the city’s development orbit.
Sharit K. Bhowmik, taking Mumbai as a case study, argues that various slum improvement and re-development programmes, beautification and recreational projects have pushed out the poor from the domain of public space, reaching a crucial state in recent times. He calls for re-casting of urban planning.
Swapan Banerjee-Guha criticises the contemporary urban planning vision where the poor are excluded from current urban planning agenda. She exposes the disturbing truth that residents of all the cities are negotiating a game of simultaneous destruction and reconstruction. The most disturbing aspect of this is the widespread erosion of public sympathy for the citizenship rights of the dispossessed.
This book despite tackling a very burning problem, will, however, have a limited readership.
((Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, B-1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi – 110044; www.sagepub.in)