Volume 1, Issue 2, 2005
Capital accumulation is the driving force of urban economic development. Many contemporary urban problems—including rapid land price inflation, greater socio-spatial inequalities, and the stresses of middle-ring suburbs—are traceable to the forms that the accumulation process is taking. Changes in the relationships between industrial capital, financial capital, and property capital underpin these stresses. Changing consumption patterns and the impact of neoliberal economic policies also are accelerating urban economic restructuring. This article reflects on the challenges generated by these structural and spatial changes, drawing on Australian examples.
Long Island public schools became somewhat less segregated in the decade between 1991 and 2001. But, this is heavily the product of population growth among minority groups, especially Hispanics. White students are more exposed to minority students than in the earlier period, but black students are less exposed to white students and their population, and that of Hispanics, increased.
This commentary interprets the development of upscale American suburbs in terms of the changing political economy associated with distinctive phases of political-economic development. The current outcome, it is suggested, is “Vulgaria:” the emblematic cultural landscapes of contemporary American suburbia. They are landscapes of bigness and spectacle, characterized by packaged developments, simulated settings, and conspicuous consumption, and they have naturalized an ideology of competitive consumption, moral minimalism, and disengagement from notions of social justice and civil society.
These landscapes are examined as an expression of modernity, focusing on the interdependence of consumption and production within the political economy of modern urbanization, on the roles of suburbia in terms of consumption and, in particular, on the “enchantment” that is necessary to sustained consumption and capital accumulation under successive phases of capital development and waves of metropolitan growth.
The principles that underlie "Smart Growth" were born in urban spaces to respond to modern needs. Most of the growth around the world is taking place at the edges of development as greenspace transforms into housing tracts and where older suburbs redefine themselves as the metropolitan edge.
In January, the Edward J. Blakely Center for Sustainable Suburban Development at the University of California, Riverside, the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, and the Orange County District Council of the Urban Land Institute hosted a one-day conference on applying the principles of smart growth to suburbs.