The “plutocratisation” of the world’s elite cities

by Toby Manhire / 19 June, 2013
And the chasm between London (or "Borisstan") and the rest of the UK.
Gentrification is so last century: the world’s elite cities are going a step further.

Today, the most desirable big cities – New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and so on – are undergoing “plutocratisation”, writes Simon Kuper in the Financial Times.

Fresh from attending the New Cities Summit in São Paulo, Kuper advises that “our great, global cities are turning into vast gated citadels where the elite reproduces itself ... The middle classes and small companies are falling victim to class-cleansing. Global cities are becoming patrician ghettos”.

He writes:

The great global cities – notably New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris – are unprecedentedly desirable. At last week’s fascinating New Cities Summit in São Paulo, the architect Daniel Libeskind said: “We live in a time of renaissance … cities are coming back to life, after a long neglect.” Edward Luce chronicled the urban revival in last Saturday’s FT Magazine. However, there’s an iron law of 21st-century life: when something is desirable, the “one per cent” grabs it. The great cities are becoming elite citadels. This is terrifying for everyone else.


While the service workers commute from the suburban fringes, the populations of these elite cities enjoy the privileges of a one-percenter urban paradise, he says, drawing on a conversation with Saskia Sassen, a writer on cities from Columbia University.

Elite members don’t live there for their jobs. They work virtually anyway. Rather, global cities are where they network with each other, and put their kids through their country’s best schools. The elite talks about its cities in ostensibly innocent language, says Sassen: “a good education for my child,” “my neighbourhood and its shops”. But the truth is exclusion.


When one-per-centers travel, they meet peers from other global cities. A triangular elite circuit now links London, Paris and Brussels, notes Michael Keith, anthropology professor at Oxford. Elite New Yorkers visit London, not Buffalo.


In Britain’s case, London is widely seen as a different place – a different country, even – from the rest of the nation.

“A first-rate city with a second-rate country attached,” is how an American friend of Stephanie Flanders put it.

The quote neatly sums up the way the plutocratised citizens presumably see their homes – and is used by the BBC economics editor to introduce her summary of a film that appeared in March addressing the gap between the capital and the rest of the country.

In the Guardian, meanwhile, recent pronouncements by Mayor Boris Johnson on London’s future have inspired the reliably brilliant Aditya Chakrabortty to write from the future – 2030, to be precise – reflecting on London’s secession from the United Kingdom.

What began as a call for Holyrood-style devolution got louder and more ambitious, until in 2029 Londoners found themselves voting in a referendum on whether to go independent. Boris himself had long left the political stage, contenting himself as a non-exec for the world's biggest, Shanghai-based, bank. But from the bikes, to the buses to the museums; Londoners knew they were Boris's people.


There were anxieties of course. What currency would the new city-state have? Borisstan would eventually enter a currency union with the Chinese renminbi. Where would the energy supplies come from? How would Londoners get rid of their landfill? As soon became apparent: "London" had always meant two different things. There was the small central area, where new properties were sold off-plan to foreign tycoons and where Londoners were nothing more than glorified butlers to the global plutocracy. This was the city as a docking station for international capital.


 
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

New Zealanders love a good ghost story
86094 2018-01-22 00:00:00Z History

New Zealanders love a good ghost story

by Redmer Yska

We New Zealanders are known for being down to earth and no-nonsense, but there's a surprising number of Kiwi stories with a supernatural element.

Read more
How to avoid burnout at work
86051 2018-01-22 00:00:00Z Psychology

How to avoid burnout at work

by Marc Wilson

Taking positive steps at work will help keep weariness at bay.

Read more
A puppy-buyer's guide to getting a new dog
86100 2018-01-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

A puppy-buyer's guide to getting a new dog

by Sally Blundell

Just saying “oh, how adorable” is not all you need to do before taking on a new dog.

Read more
Tarawera eruption: What was the mysterious ghost canoe?
86076 2018-01-21 00:00:00Z History

Tarawera eruption: What was the mysterious ghost c…

by Dale Williams

For more than 130 years, lovers of ghost stories have enjoyed talking about one of our most enduring mysteries: the Phantom Canoe of Lake Tarawera.

Read more
How to get the health benefits of nuts without the cost
85733 2018-01-21 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to get the health benefits of nuts without the…

by Jennifer Bowden

You need 30g of nuts a day to maximise their health benefits. Here's some tips on how to do it without putting a hole in your wallet.

Read more
Model car collector Winton Amies: 'I'm just a big kid collecting toys'
84783 2018-01-21 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Model car collector Winton Amies: 'I'm just a big …

by Guy Frederick

When Amies moved to Naseby’s old butcher shop 22 years ago, he brought 1200 model cars with him; now he has more than 3000.

Read more
Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bulldogs
86110 2018-01-20 10:49:32Z Business

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bul…

by Sally Blundell

As a result of growing concern over the welfare of pugs, British and French bulldogs, Trade Me has announced they're banning the sale of these breeds.

Read more
Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding shame
86056 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Currently

Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding s…

by Sally Blundell

NZ has an unregulated puppy-breeding industry where unscrupulous operators can flourish, so why aren’t we following the lead of overseas governments?

Read more