The Fallacy of Urban Globalization

Similar cautions exist in the field of urban theory. For example, Smith (2001) claims that neo-Marxism always reduces culture to "deeper political-economic determinism." Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen make the same criticism. Universalism is conflated with progressive rationality. The general public is assumed to be passive in the face of "the sea change in cultural production ushered in by aesthetic and cultural elites" (Smith 2001: 46). The vibrancy of migrant social networks is not recognized by Marxism, since it argues that capital has commodified culture. Cultural and religious movements, not based on class, are dismissed as local, partial, and ineffective. Smith lays emphasis rather on local, social movements, which hold to a politics based on ethnicity, religion, sexuality, environmental issues, and gender. These are "the myriad transnational practices of politics and culture that now criss-cross the landscape of transnational cities throughout the world, inexorably irrigating their politics and social life" (p. 188). Such cultural forces have been well charted by Castells (1997), Bauman (1998), and Sassen (2000). They are also the context for urban mission. We shall return to this point in the next section.

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