Crisis and Resistance in the Neoliberal City

Crisis and Resistance in the Neoliberal City

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This foreclosure crisis, this financial crisis, has to be thought of as a crisis of the city, a crisis of urbanization – and if it’s a crisis of the city and of urbanization, then the solution has to be a
reconfiguration of the city and a redirection of what urbanization is about. The pattern of this crisis is not anything new; and one of the things that happens in the U.S., and on the left in general, is that we seem sometimes to suffer from amnesia as to what has happened in the past. I would like to recall that the last biggest crisis period of capitalism, from around 1973 to 1982, was a deep crisis of urbanization. It began with the collapse of global property markets in the spring of 1973, leading to the bankruptcy of several financial institutions, followed of course by the Arab-Israeli war and the oil price hike (which everybody remembers more than they remember the property market crash). This was followed by a crisis of municipal finance and the disciplining of almost all cities, not only in the U.S., but around the world, to a new regime of financial terror, what I’d also call “neoliberal politics.” Understanding what this regime was about is crucial because it was part of the solution to the crisis of the 1970s, a solution which underpins the nature of the crisis we are currently in. This is a terribly important point to make, because how we come out of this crisis is almost certainly going to define the nature of the next crisis down the road – unless we decide to say, “To hell with capitalist crises! To hell with capitalism!”

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