Symposium led and moderated by Neil Smith

To use Habermas' felicitous phrase about modernism, we might begin to consider that neoliberalism today is "dead but dominant," and this has implications for how we understand urban change and process. The anti-globalization opposition that emerged in the late 1990s and early 21st century, the implosion of neoliberal innovation beginning with the 1997-1999 "Asian" economic crisis, the economic collapse of Argentina, and eventually the crisis emanating from US heartland with the post-2007 recession and the resultant global financial crisis – these are all the signs of the failure of neoliberalism. There really are no new neoliberal ideas coming out in recent years; the project first stagnated, lost momentum, begun to atrophy, and finally crashed. At best there is a kind of geographical and programmatic fill-in of a project announced more than a quarter century ago, but the ideology (if not necessarily the reality) of a state-neutral neoliberalism is now history. Yet neoliberalism has left behind (and continues to produce) a trail of destruction, whether in the world's slums, upon the environment, or among people otherwise dispossessed by virtue of class, gender, race or indigeneity.

What does the atrophy of neoliberalism mean for the city? If the crisis of neoliberal cities is quite evident today in, for example, the US subprime mortgage crisis, the resulting global financial crisis, and the direct or indirect nationalization of banks, the crisis caused by neoliberalism is writ large in the global social geography of cities from São Paulo to Shanghai, Barcelona's Raval to the slums of Lagos. China's mass urban displacement projects probably mark the leading edge of such change but there are many and varied examples. The dominance of such neoliberal logics in urban development and planning guarantees increased urban impoverishment for many. Yet for others the neoliberal city is a bonanza of opulence, perhaps best captured in the globalization of the gentrification process. The lack of any widespread alternative to an atrophied neoliberalism, together with rising opposition, points to a chaotic future of resilient neoliberalism intermixed with attempts at alternatives and outright opposition.

This seminar will explore the look, form, and processes of the city "after neoliberalism" and traverse the contours of chaos and reconstruction that are helping remake urban space. We will focus on several specific cities, using their experiences of urban neoliberalism – in its ascendancy and atrophy – and focus as well on what the urban future might bring.


Friday, November 28th, 6 pm to 9 pm

Neil Smith: Introduction
Eyal Weizman: The Future Archaeology of the Suburban Occupation
Questions and debate

Saturday, November 29th
Morning session, 11 am to 2 pm

Members of The Metropolitan Observatory: The Global City, Social Polarization and Urban Metastasis: The Case of Madrid
Raquel Rolnik: Confinement or Conflagration: Brazilian Metropolises on the Edge
Questions and debate

Evening session, 4 pm to 8 pm

Andrew Ross: Shanghai on the Brink
Mike Davis: Who Will Build the Ark?
Questions and debate


Neil Smith, founding director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at CUNY (City University of New York) Graduate Center, and 6th Century Chair of Geography and Social Theory at University of Aberdeen.

Eva García, Patricia Molina and Emmanuel Rodríguez are members of the collective The Metropolitan Observatory and co-authors of the book Madrid: ¿la suma de todos? Globalización, territorio, desigualdad.

Andrew Ross is Professor and Chair of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. A frequent contributor to The Nation, Village Voice and Artforum International, he is author of several books, including Fast Boat to China: Lessons from Shanghai.

Eyal Weizman is an architect based in London and director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University London, and author of Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Opposition.

Mike Davis is a writer based in Southern California. His many books include City of Quartz, Planet of Slums, and Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism.

Raquel Rolnik is an architect specialized in urban planning. Currently, she is professor in the Department of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (Brasil) and Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

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