Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities are Changing the World
A powerful reappraisal of the role of cities and their inhabitants in solving global problems, from a leading expert in urban development. In the second half of the twentieth century, revolutions reshaped our world—the civil rights movement in America, the fall of the shah in Iran, the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the end of apartheid in South Africa. All of these revolutions were fundamentally urban. They were the revolutions of Detroit, Gdansk, Berlin, Tehran, and Johannesburg, uprisings of city dwellers intent on ending their marginalization and securing their place in the world economy. In Welcome to the Urban Revolution, internationally recognized urbanist Jeb Brugmann draws on two decades of fieldwork and research to show how the city is now a medium for revolutionary change. Not just political upheaval but technological, economic, and social innovations are forged in our cities. We may think of cities as hotbeds of crime or engines of globalization, but Brugmann shows how cities are becoming laboratories for solving major challenges of the twenty-first century: poverty, inequality, and environmental sustainability. Bridging urban studies, economics, and sociology, Brugmann gives us a new way of looking at cities, giving shape to the emerging practice of urbanism. His positive, unconventional analysis turns traditional ideas about the city on their head.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Initially Brugmann seems to offer a thesis about how the logical outcome of combining an ever-increasing urban majority worldwide with globalized technologies, information networks, and commerce will result in a comprehensive “Citysystem.” “The City” is no longer that place with the Empire State Building, hot dog vendors, and a large Christmas tree, but the place with the Empire State Building, Gherkin, Petronas Towers, and contorted CCTV tower. It also includes Dharavi, Chicago’s Uptown, and whatever hutongs remain after CCTV. Basically the future of The City must interweave the issues and energy found in emergent slums as well as the more pedigreed power-structure represented by governments, corporations, and the elite. We should hope for a workable fusion of bottom-up and top-down strategies in pursuit of an integrated world city. As much as one is willing to believe the US currently sports a Bos-Wash, or San Franjuana or whatever, this sort of seems like a reasonable, if not creepily idealistic prophesy. As the narrative unfolds, however, Brugmann delves into specific examples and never really returns to the big idea. He discusses some examples of faltering urbanisms – Detroit as the obvious red-headed poster child - and some middling cities (those that have much going for them yet lack a comprehensive, even-keeled organizational structure) like his hometown of Toronto. Then he praises the recent success stories of Curitiba, Barcelona, and Chicago as exemplars of a consciously pluralist approach to building a powerful urban realm. It’s all very interesting yet all very specific. Whereas the strategies and organizational networks developed in these cities (as well as such hyper-shanties like Dharavhi) can inform the way other cities might successfully develop or regenerate themselves, it’s all still rooted in individual places within the last few decades. “You have to keep sucking water up from your own roots,” he quotes the ex-Mayor of Toronto just at the point where I assumed he would return to his master-narrative. He does make a few concluding global references but it seems that he’s satisfied with the earlier inclusions of such worldly things as the internet, the global spread of SARS, and international crime organizations to impel the reader to understand Delhi and Seattle as mere antipodal neighborhoods of the [same] City. Needless to say, I’m not particularly convinced. This is all predicated on the well-documented influx of rural migrants to urban locales. Obviously this has been a trend for many centuries, with a startling uptick recently in the developing world. One wonders, however, if there might possibly be a reversal. It’s an inquiry that I can’t dive into here, but it never seems to cross Brugmann’s mind as a possibility despite the fact that Detroit, and Ancient Rome for that matter, might serve as precedents for such a potentiality in some distant or near future. At the very least one could begin to question urban population trends. Obviously Mumbai, Guangzhou, Sao Paolo et. al. have grown tremendously over the last few decades, but I don’t know that forecasts for 2030 or beyond can be deduced from such recent population explosions. Not everyone is going to leave the farm and I’m certain another historical trend is that families in urban milieus tend to have fewer offspring than their rural counterparts. Most Chinese apparently abide by the one-kid-per-couple mandate so how much larger could that nation really grow? A century ago experts were absolutely certain that New Haven, Connecticut would house over a million people by something like 1950. So who knows. Conversely there’s this nagging statistical problem within the US that, while perhaps not overly-germane to this book, is also not addressed clearly. For instance, where the author can easily speak of tumbleweed-strewn Detroit’s alarming loss of a million inhabitants, one can look at the “Statistical Metropolitan Area” of Detroit in 2000, and find there are well over four million Detroiters! The...
Review: Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities are Changing the WorldUser Review - Goodreads
I thought this book was great. It was an easy read and the author lays his points very out in a very easy to comprehend manner.