Reviews of Globalization Books and Articles
by Jay Shuffield
In his observations on the transformations of city centers, Sigurd Grava identifies the elements which are coming to redefine downtown. The traditional downtown no longer exists in its former form; it no longer holds the central role in its citizens' daily lives. While retail has left, government offices, theaters and museums have remained, often expanding. Social services have located downtown, and restaurants and entertainment have begun to mark the new downtown structure. Office buildings also have remained downtown, and new buildings have been built during the eighties and nineties. Grava argues that while these new towers have been a source of civic pride for their contributions to the city skyline, the workers do not have ties to the city center outside their offices and add little to civic life. This is reinforced by the increasing internalization of the offices' needs. He also names hotels and cathedrals as continuing presences downtown, but explains that the hotels are multistory buildings which accommodate those on business, as opposed to tourists and notes that the smaller churches have moved out of the center following their parishioners.
For Grava, this largely boils down to the creation of a "virtual downtown" (emphasis his), which is increasingly marked by entertainment and a nostalgic recreation. People venture into the downtown on an optional basis for their amusement. Going straight to the point, he states:
Shopping is irretrievably gone, but a certain type of entertainment flourishes. The virtual downtown may become a principal ingredient of the core, together with a concentration of office buildings within their own self-contained cluster.
According to Grava, these changes occurred spontaneously across the country. They were not the result of planning, yet the resulting structure was the same. He notes that city structure has changed in the past, and ends by stating, "Perhaps the city of the 21st century is telling us what it wants to be."
While I agree that much of the transformation we see today was not intentionally driven, it is nevertheless largely the result of policy decisions which were directed toward cities, such as highway building, suburban home loans and the subsidized extension of public utilities. While Grava would probably agree with the importance of these factors, he makes it sound as if they were an inevitable outcome.
Industrial cities in the late nineteenth century, likewise developed simultaneously outside of any planning, becoming stinking, crowded, unhealthy agglomerations. And it is fair to say that the processes at work did, to a large extent, shape the forms of contemporary cities. Nevertheless, the development of planning controls largely tempered and redirected these forces, and has also become a major factor in the structure of the cities we see today. While I will agree that the tendencies for the restructuring of downtowns that we see today is largely irreversible at this point, I feel that we need to develop a new vision of what we want the city of the 21st century to become, and then tailor our planning methods to that end.
Saskia Sassen and Alejandro Portes consider the transformations in Miami which suggest to them that the city is developing into what Sassen calls a "global city." The trends Sassen and Portes identify in Miami are a growth in financial and specialized services for business, a concentration of headquarters for regional divisions for Latin America, an increase in the presence of foreign banks, and the exclusion of African-Americans from the economy.
They underline the role that Cuban immigrants have played in the Miami economy. The concentration of educated, bilingual labor attracted the headquarters for companies doing business in Latin America. Furthermore, many of the Cubans started their own businesses, often providing services for the international firms and thereby further increasing the attractiveness of locating in Miami. Sassen and Portes sum this up by saying, "Cubans were Miami's comparative advantage in the interurban competition for international business."
They also find a negative effect on African-Americans from the economic changes, stating, "Middle-class exiles did not so much take jobs away from blacks as transform the local economy in ways that relegated blacks to a permanently subordinate position." By controlling local politics, the Cuban community promoted the internationalization of the Miami economy, which ran largely counter to the interest of the black community.
While they speak at length about the means by which the Cuban community created an environment which was attractive for firms doing business in Latin American and foreign banks, it seems to me that it would have been productive to quickly situate Miami within the context of Latin America during this period. Without understanding the stability of Latin America during this period, I am left to wonder if this economic concentration in Miami might not be the result of a diversion of capital which would normally have been invested elsewhere in Latin America but was forced to find another outlet due to instability, instead of resulting from an increase in the global market that lead to a concentration of command functions in Miami.
They were also rather vague as to how the economic changes provoked by the arrival and organization of Cubans was restrictive to black inclusion in the economy. While there is an understandable frustration that African-Americans must feel as they watch a new minority group quickly ascend while they continue to be denied opportunities, the impression left by the article was that the actual actions of the Cuban community either inadvertently or intentionally worked to aggravate the exclusion of African-Americans. It is easily conceivable that by providing a large labor supply with more available skills they displaced African-Americans who would otherwise have obtained jobs, although they assert that this is not so much the case, without explaining by what other means African-Americans were excluded.
The point on the regional offices for Latin America could also use some closer attention. Does the presence of a regional office actually confer any appreciable level of control over the global economy, or is it simply a convenient location for expediting communication between actual decision makers and their markets? Do those in the regional offices actually exercise control over the markets in their global regions, or are they middle managers that could be relocated or replaced with little consequence?
I am impressed with the approach that they take on the problem, and it does yield some interesting preliminary results. The results will remain preliminary, however, until some of these questions are laid out more completely.
Janet Lippman Abu-Lughod examines the situation of the three largest cities in the United States to find what effect the global economy has had on each. She points out that the three cities, aside from being the largest, each developed during a different historic economic structure; New York developed as a "mercantile city," Chicago was an "industrial city," and Los Angeles matured as a "post-industrial city."
Instead of beginning with the assumption that the three largest cities in the U.S. would be global cities, she examines a number of different characteristics indicating the level of prominence in the global economy. Beyond the size of the population, she looked at ethnic diversity, foreign trade, shipping and air freight, the degree of control exerted by corporate headquarters, the role of producer and corporate services, presence of international markets and transnational investments. She feels that each of the cities demonstrated a global importance, although ascertaining the level of foreign shipment from Chicago was not possible due to transshipment through coastal ports, and Los Angeles position is somewhat underminaed, as it does not have any international market exchanges.
Having established that each city exhibited enough concentration of global functions to adequately qualify as a global city, she ventured a look at the effects globalization has had on racial segregation. Her initial findings indicate that the trend of globalization to concentrate ghettos and upper income "citadels" is influenced by the historic conditions of each city. She notes that while Chicago and Los Angeles are sharply divided spatially along racial lines (African-Americans excluded in Chicago, Latinos in L.A.), New York is marked more by a checker board effect and has a more complex racial composition that is more resistant to polarization. Looking into the political history of the different cities, she speculates that their race relations follow from their political mechanisms. She suggests that New York's tendency toward "wheeling and dealing, pay-offs, and Tammany Hall politics" have applied to race relations as well, whereas Chicago's large unions generated confrontational politics, which might have been applied in racial and ethnic contexts as well. Meanwhile, she speculates that in the case of Los Angeles, the lack of political experience prevents the dominant class from disarming confrontations before they explode.
The relationship between the historic trajectory of the cities and the effects of globalization will be the most interesting part of this research as it takes on its final form. Since it is still largely in a preliminary and speculative form, a closer analysis will likely offer different results. Particularly, in Chicago attention should be turned to the growing isolation of African-Americans throughout the 1980's, despite the election to two terms of Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor, who served from 1983 until his death in 1987. My own suspicion would be that the role of federal programs, under the auspices of President Reagan, had a greater impact on the spatial attributes of the ghetto during this period than Chicago's own political historic development. It also seems too convenient to view Los Angeles' greater susceptibility to riots solely in terms of the local political approach, rather than delving into the structural differences between the inclusion into the mainstream economy of African-Americans and immigrants (primarily Latinos and Asians). In light of the attacks on Korean stores during the Rodney King Riots, I would not be surprised to find the answer to lie in a resentment on the part of African-Americans, as other minority groups are absorbed into the economy, while they are continually excluded. If this is indeed the case, it would seem that continued immigration without any structural change in the economy for the inclusion of African-Americans, an aspect of globalization and national political and social efforts, would be the cause of the reinforcement of the ghetto, while the local historical approach to politics would be much less consequential.
Unlike Janet Lippman Abu-Lughod, James Curry and Martin Kenney seriously
question Los Angeles' status as a world city. Looking into the debate as
to whether Los Angeles is the paradigm for the postindustrial city, Curry
and Kenney look into the structure of the Los Angeles economy and its role
within the global economy. In a rather biting contrast to the position of
those who would present Los Angeles as the model for postindustrial
geography, a group dubbed as the "Los Angeles School," Curry and Kenney
present an image of Los Angeles as a dependent city being forced into
changes, not producing them:
The 1993 riots, the turbulence in the military aerospace industry caused by the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the real estate market, the O. J. Simpson and Rodney King spectacles, the nearly simultaneous loss of two National Foortball League teams, and the recent sale of the Dodgers baseball team to Rupert Murdoch, to name a few, are events that count as at least circumstantial evidence of a city being buffeted by change, not driving it.
They concentrate largely on the aerospace industry, noting that the West in general did not generate its own industries, but rather depended on capital transfers from the East. They further point out that unlike Seattle, Los Angeles has not been successful in adapting its aerospace industry to commercial production and has been in decline since the end of the Cold War, rather than fueling the technological changes proponents of the Los Angeles School would have it generate. They likewise note that the automobile industry never established a base of control, but remained a branch operation of the Midwest. Thus as production is moved overseas, the automotive industry has diminishing effects in Los Angeles. The result of all this was that "[b]y most accounts, the California recession that began in 1990 was more than a cyclical downturn; there was a structural component that related to defense downsizing."
Pointing to a lack of top research in the computers, semiconductors, software, computer networks, or pharmaceuticals, they further underline the lack of key economic control based in L.A. To this they add the fact that San Francisco has retained the financial functions for the West Coast.
The motion picture industry is an important facet of the L.A. economy, and one which does capture a considerable share of global control. Nevertheless, they do not view this as sufficient to concede Los Angeles a global city status, and they point out that the more prominent multimedia graphics firms are locating in Northern California.
Finally, they observe that foreign investment in L.A. is tending more toward low paid, unskilled jobs, and underline the problems of middle and upper class abandonment, and the poor state of the schools. "Without education and with generally deteriorating social services, there is a possiblity that Los Angeles will become a megacity resembling Mexico City, rather than Tokyo, London, or even New York," they sum up.
While Curry and Kenney are correct in underlining the many shortcomings in the Los Angeles economy, they have likely underestimated the importance of the media firms. While they discount the importance of certain industries for being branches controlled elsewhere, they do not look into the growing prominence of corporations such as Disney, which are gaining control over other global cities by buying strategic real estate which enable it to shape their image, not to mention its purchase of ABC, giving it a large share of the television industry that has long been based in New York. The extent of their treatment of Disney is, in fact, to point out that most of the jobs it provides are low paying service positions.
They have definately raised substantial questions as to the degree of
control that Los Angeles has in the global economy, and these should be
investigated more closely. It appears, however, that a large part of their
objections to it being named as a global city lie in the low income of the
majority of its residents. While this is a social question of prime
importance, it is not inconsistant with theories on globalization that
hold that as cities concentrate global functions, there is a dominant
class which benefits from the profits of globalization, while the lower
classes become more stratified, working low paying jobs or are excluded
from the economy entirely in segregated ghettos.