The Present Crisis is a Crisis of City Building
By Neil Smith
The right to the city: the entitled and the excluded - The Urban Reinventors, Special issue, November 2009
Keynote lecture by Neil Smith at the “The Neoliberal Frontline” Conference, Community Center Mosor, Zagreb, December 4th, 2008
“The whole experience coming out of the Keynesian post second world war, the whole neoliberal moment that supplanted Keynesianism has been one in which city building has been one of the most central means of capital accumulation. Real estate is about the construction of surplus value in the landscape […] It is possible to see the present crisis as an urban-centered crisis of city building, a crisis of the very urbanism that Lefebvre thought, was taking over from industrialization [as a means of capital accumulation [...]”
Neil Smith is a celebrated writer and urban geographer, Distinguished Professor at the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology and director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at CUNY Graduate Center.
He has taught at Columbia University and at Rutgers University, where he was chair of the geography department from 1991 to 1994 and a senior fellow at the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture. His visiting appointments include the University of Sao Paulo, Princeton, University of Utrecht, University of Queensland, and University of Oregon. The recipient of many awards and honors, Professor Smith is the author or editor of a number of books including Uneven Development, Geography and Empire, and New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. He won several prizes (including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography) for his 2003 book, American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude of Globalization, and has just published The Endgame of Globalization. His environmental work is largely theoretical, focusing on questions of the production of nature. His urban interests include long term research on gentrification, including empirical work in North America and Europe and a series of theoretical papers emphasizing the importance of patterns of investment and disinvestment in the the real estate market. He also writes more broadly on New York City, focusing especially on the "revanchist city" which has filled the vacuum left in the wake of liberal urban theory.
His interests in social theory include political economy and marxism and lie behind his theoretical work on uneven development. From the global to the local scales, he argues, our spatial worlds are constructed and reconstructed as expressions of social relations and especially as expressions of capitalist social relations. Uneven development is in many way the hallmark of capitalism. More recently he has been studying the "geography of the American Century," trying to understand the ways in which global economic development in the twentieth century -- up to and including so-called globalization -- represent specific expressions of US power and responses to it.