At the beginning of this series we treated the subject of how a new politics is blossoming in cities in response to the “austerity years”. We discussed afterwards some of the traits of globalization, such as technification or the deep changes on the labor market, and what effects those traits can have on our societies. We have also outlined some strategies that cities may have to turn those challenges into local opportunities, such as nurturing local talent, or re-industrializing cities through urban manufacturing and “makers”. Let’s close the loop by talking about open source cities. Continue reading
Big corporations are much less innovative than they seem to a non-trained eye. Innovation often happens despite big corporations and sparks in new businesses fueled by ex-employees of companies that, combining top skills with a deep business knowledge, decide to part and implement their ideas on their own account. It is important that the city fosters these processes so these spin-offs can survive and succeed.
In her acclaimed book “The economy of cities”, Jane Jacobs cleverly explains the former process. Her understanding of the economic flows of a city implies that, only by means of innovation, cities can engine sustainable growth, since only innovation is able to create products and services to be exported and, consequently, finance decent life conditions for citizens, in the first place, and the capacity to develop new innovations, in second.
Where did industries go?
Talent, venture capital, knowledge and institutional support policies are essential in this process. However, new businesses, when their size increases, tend to abandon the city in what appears to be a mutual interest: they can get cheaper land to expand and better access to transport infrastructures, while cities avoid the disturbances of pollution, goods delivery and noise, and liberate urban land for higher revenue uses. Continue reading
We have addressed so far how cities are producing a new politics and are nurturing home-grown talent to tackle some of the threats that globalization poses. It’s about time to examine closer how this relates to changes in the global labour market.
Even social scientists do not agree on their interpretation of the effects that globalization causes over income distribution and polarization in cities. Saskia Sassen alerts against acute polarization as a consequence of globalization, while Chris Hamnett carefully refutes some of Sassen’s points about marginality, arguing that, instead, what is happening in western cities is a gradual shift upwards in terms of social position and opportunities. This thesis would essentially agree with the view expressed by Edward Glaeser in his work “The triumph of the city”, defining cities as our best creation and something that “makes us richer and smarter”. Undeniably, something works definitely well in cities that keeps attracting more and more people century after century (with the exception of the middle age ruralization period), something that has to do with what Glaeser and Hamnett have detected: the opportunities to live better. Continue reading
Innovation in micro-politics (a.k.a. new ways of participation, probably beyond open government) is often linked to progress in fields such as technology, learning, social economy, or organizational culture… and is mostly and urban phenomenon. Cities, by themselves, have good probabilistic reasons for being innovative just by the natural product of size, density and heterogeneity. But, is there anything that can be done to improve or (better) multiply this background innovative pulse? Continue reading
If we agree on the basics that new problems, such as those derived from globalization, require radical new approaches, then we should be able to agree on the principle that innovation should be the main axis to confront the new economic and democratic cycle.
It would be useful to understand which forms in cities this innovation may adopt. On the political side, for instance, cities are innovating both in macro and micro-politics. Continue reading
Western societies, especially in southern Europe, are facing a double crisis: on the one hand, an abrupt economic downturn that, as a consequence of the austerity agenda adopted by the European Union to fight it, has not only been technically aggravated, but has produced the collateral effect of undermining the confidence of the people in their institutions. This has led to a remarkable erosion of the legitimacy of otherwise solid public and private agents such as governments, politic parties, trade unions, banks, media, big companies, justice, etc.
This loss of legitimacy, alongside with the aforementioned economic and social problems, threatens the very foundations of our democracies and should be a primary concern for those who seek to renew our hibernated western societies to face the unstoppable challenges imposed by globalization, all without losing our identity of wide civil rights and strong democratic principles. Continue reading