Topic: BusinessAccounting

Last updated: April 13, 2019

Edward Soja has identified six characteristics in his vision of Los Angeles as a post-industrial/postmodern city.

These characteristics have been identified as restructuring trends (Dear 2002; Pacione 2009) which together have determined the urban processes of the city. These six ‘discourses’ as coined by Soja (2003) can also describe the urban processes of cities around the world. A description of these characteristics will be provided, and an attempt to identify a city in the developed world, as well as another city in South Africa which shares these characteristics.The six discourses identified by Soja are Flexcity, Cosmopolis, Exopolis, Metropolarities, Carceral Archipielagos and Simcities.

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A description of each will be provided below.FlexcityAccording to Pleßke (2014:102) the Flexcity is synonymous to the post-fordist industrial metropolis which gave rise to an information economy (Dear 2002:20). This restructuring is characterized by transitioning from a traditional manufacturing economy to a creative economy where we see the movement of dense interactive networks creating new industrial spaces (Nayar 2004:195) which centres around the production and consumption of postmodern cultural goods (Pleßke 2014: 102).

This shift to new information technology is described by Dear (1998:58) as a transition to more flexible production where industrial activity is based on “small-sized, small-batch units of production that were integrated into clusters of economic activity” where products were designed to target consumers based on their lifestyle, taste and culture and not on their social class (Amin 1994:5). The Flexcity in the post-fordist industrial era is therefore also identified by new social and cultural patterns as Hall (1988:28) explains that cultural and economic change are both descriptors of the post-fordist era where the transformation of culture and cultural activities have been integrated into the economy with public spaces being altered to cater for the needs of consumption. Harvey (1987) informs us that in the United States, the rise of the post-modern culture and society in the post-fordist economy was represented in contemporary urban life, which brought about spatial and social segregation within cities as well as the emergence of informal activities as a result of deindustrialization.CosmopolisThe Cosmopolis represents the globalization of a city in terms of its urban capital, labour and culture (Soja 2011:30) as it is rooted in economics and attracts people from all walks of life cultures. Global cities are identified by Smith (2005:45) as ‘nodes and switching points’ which serves as a hub connected to the rest of the world serving as points of production that are essential to the global economy. Sassen (2005) asserts that global cities are characterized by flows of information and capital, as these cities are major nodes in the interconnected systems of information and money which are facilitated by financial institutions and other specialized services such as law firms, accounting firms and media organizations that are not limited to national boundaries and regulations, which has allowed for the dispersal of an institutions operations across different countries.

She also notes that specialized service firms have to provide services globally, which has led to global affiliates and partnerships which has strengthened cross-border and city to city transactions and networks. Global cities are also characterized by a high diversity in culture which reflects its cosmopolitan and globalized character. Global cities attract workers from all around the world which creates a need for urban expansion as the formation of global cities requires significant social, technological and spatial transformations at the urban scale, within cities, as well as within their surrounding metropolitan regions (Brenner and Keil 2014:8). Shanghai, China, according to Dobbs, Manyika, Roxburgh and Lund (2012:16), is “urbanizing on 100 times the scale of Britain in the 18th century and at more than ten times the speed”, as it attracts skilled workers both nationally and internationally. ExopolisThe Exopolis, according to Soja (2011:30), is the restructuring of urban form to that of a mega city or post-urban structure due to the growth of edge or outer cities as a result of urban sprawl.

Soja explains this phenomena as the city ‘turned inside out and outside in’ as the outer cities characterizes a metropolis and also indicating the ‘death’ of a city because an Exopolis is a ‘city-without-cityness’ (Pleßke 2014; Soja 2000). Urban sprawl, leading to the growth and expansion of edge or outer cities, is due to the need to accommodate an increasing population as a result of economic growth and globalization. This shift in population from urban areas into the suburbs, also known as suburbanization, is caused by decentralization and deindustrialization. With decentralization, we see a shift in the service sector from the Central Business District (CBD) to the suburbs as businesses enjoy cheaper land rates in comparison to rates in the city. Deindustrialization has resulted in a loss in manufacturing jobs in cities leaving employees lacking the necessary skills that are required to work in the service sector. As an example, Gripaios (1976:181), reported that London experienced a significant fall in the working population of its metropolis between the period 1966 -1971. New technology has also made it easier for people to move outside of the city but in close proximity to it as advances in transport makes it easier for them to commute to their place of work in the city. The internet has also allowed more people the freedom to choose their location as they can also work from home.

An additional factor causing suburbanization is that people desire a higher standard of living outside of the city as well as also enjoying the benefits of cheaper land use. They get to enjoy similar benefits which can be found in metropolitan cities as these outer cities are in good supply of businesses, entertainment and shopping facilities, thereby resembling metropolitan areas. Gainsborough (2002:729) has indicated that urban sprawl has led to urban decay and left a concentration of lower income residents in inner cities as commercial and residential development has spread into edge cities. Gainsborough further explains that instead of reinvesting in existing infrastructure, resources have been allocated for the development of newly expanding areas which has moved populations further from the city centers which leaves the disadvantaged trapped in the deindustrialized inner city, further alienating them from mainstream society. MetropolaritiesSoja (2011:30) uses the term metropolarities to refer to the socio-economic inequalities in a city. Postmodern urbanization is characterized by fragmented patterns of social segregation and cultural differentiation which is evident in the difference in lifestyles and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor (Pleßke 2014; Pacione 2009). Cities across the globe show trends of socio-economic polarization, Hamnett (1994:401) notes that due to their industrial structures dominated by business and financial services rather than manufacturing, cities are characterized by increasing polarities in their income and occupational structures. The subsequent growth of professional and high paid managerial jobs is also associated with a decline in manufacturing jobs resulting in the growth of low-skilled and low-paid service jobs.

This occupational polarization according to the same author, has revealed the difference in income distribution as changes in housing demands has led to parts of the inner cities being gentrified and the less desirable parts being occupied by the lesser skilled workers. Migrant workers from both rural areas and from other countries take up low-paying jobs or participate in informal activities due to their lack of skills and education. The low wages which they are paid only affords them a lower standard of living which contributes to the spread of slums in cities.

Although their contribution to the city’s economy allows it to flourish, the social and physical characteristics of the city which they inhabit are subject to urban decay. To elaborate, Teitz and Chapple (1998:36) inform us that migration processes have removed the middle-class thereby “reducing social capital…and bringing in poorer populations whose competition in the labor market drives down wages and the chances of employment for residents”. This has led to unemployment in inner cities which gives rise to crime and illegal activities ultimately contributing to the degeneration of inner cities.Carceral Archipielagos Pacione (2009:64) describes this as the rise of the carceral state where a lack of local-governance has given rise to a need for social and spatial control (Pleßke 2014:103). The concept of a ‘Carceral City’ is influenced by the work of Foucault (1977) who claimed that prison reform is a representative model of what is happening in modern society in terms of crime and surveillance. Migration, rapid urbanization, growing inequality and racial tensions (Harvey and Davidson 1973:2) are contributing factors to the development of this regime of urbanization.

The Carceral City is characterized by affluent individuals securing themselves in gated communities under the watch of armed guards; shopping malls under constant surveillance; office buildings secured by alarm systems, access-code locks and electronic surveillance systems; and neighbourhood-watch groups created by home-owners. This fear has led to the repression and condemnation of individuals living in the ‘ghetto’ even though we find in there a working class who perform essential functions in the economy. Foucault (1977:280) argues that society, like prison, keeps individuals (the criminalized poor) under surveillance in order to keep the peace. This has resulted in a divide between the affluent and the criminalized poor who are treated as if they do not belong and are accordingly policed (Davis 1990:223) thereby creating boundaries in order to establish control over urban space.


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