A Twin Crisis of Capital in an Urban Age
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The world faces a twin threat from simultaneous economic and environmental crises. Human society, now heavily urbanised, will mostly encounter these threats in cities and large human settlements. The crisis of financial capital is a crisis of financial capitals, the urban hubs of neoliberal global order. In an era of globalised interdependency, the pain of the wealthy metropolitan centres will likely be the agonies of the world's poorer peripheries. David Harvey (2009) writes: My guess is that half of the financial crises over the last 30 years are urban property based. The origins of this crisis in the United States came from something called the sub prime mortgage crises. I call this not a sub prime mortgage crisis but an urban crisis. Australia and its cities remain on the margins of the crisis. We don't yet feel the searing pain that is so apparent in global pivots, like New York, or aspiring tigers like Dublin, where unemployment soars as public finances plummet. And yet our cities are already on the edge of social and environmental defaults that widened during the era of neoliberal rule (McManus, 2004). Australian author and social commentator, John Birmingham (2009) depicts 'The Coming Storm' whose advance clouds are already engulfing those in vulnerable employment sectors, like mining, business services and manufacturing, where retrenchment and reduced hours are the norm. The tempests of global warming and resource (especially oil) volatility threaten the fundamental circulation and health of an urban process that produced ever higher velocities. This process pushed continuously against the constraints of time. Time is the agent of delay, decay and debility which reminds us that we exist in nature not outside it. In doing so, as Harvey (1982) reminds us, the urban process in capitalism seeks ways of overcoming barriers to the realisation of value and profit. The city is a means for overcoming 'the limits to capital' presented by the time-space dimensions of nature. As capitalism has evolved - and suffered and survived crises - it has sought new pathways to the realisation of value in city processes. A key instance of this in the twentieth-century was the motorisation of urban mobility to reduce spatial frictions of the labour process.
Journal of Australian Political Economy
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Social and Cultural Geography