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Chapter 20 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet continues the book’s exploration of the early Cold War years and the threshold of the Urban Planet’s Greatest Acceleration. It visits imperial capitals like London and Paris as certain types of spaces there became “proto-Third worlds” where young nationalist leaders formed their early ideas of liberation and development, then brought them back to colonial cities to launch struggles for national independence. Mohandas Gandhi’s Satyagraha or non-violent resistance transformed the practice of mass urban protest even as Gandhi fought global urban industrialism, rising sectarian violence, and the British Raj en route to Indian independence. Mao Zedong took a contrasting route to power that also started with villages, in this case as effective military bases to expel far better-armed imperial and bourgeois nationalist forces and then seize China’s great cities. Dozens of other independence movements adopted mixtures of these two strategies, which coalesced above all around development – starting with state or capitalist investment in advanced industrial facilities as well as the housing, educational, health, transport, and planning infrastructure aimed to erase the sheer inequalities of the imperial-era Urban Planet.
Chapter 8 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores cities’ role as creators and creations of early-modern global mercantile capitalism. It shows how imperial states and merchants employed various “spatial fixes” based in cities and their growing plantation hinterlands to overcome obstacles to the growing project of seizing the world’s wealth through land conquests, the enslavement of American and African laborers, and the militarization of trade in the Indian Ocean. Global finance, built upon rich silver mining cities in Spanish America, Chinese imperial tax policies, urban ports, banks, stock markets, joint stock companies, insurance, and the increasing value of urban real estate allowed states and merchants to pool the capital needed for trade across World Oceanic distances. A truly planetary Urban Planet came into being as these new city-enabled circuits of commerce enveloped the Pacific Ocean for the first time after the inauguration of the Acapulco–Manila galleon trade in 1571.
Chapter 12 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet continues the book’s exploration of cities’ role as creators and creations of the age of revolution. The revolution in Paris gave a boost to feminist movements in many Atlantic cities, movements for the emancipation of Jews that opened the gates of Europe’s ghettos, and the movement to abolish slavery. It visits colonial cities and plantations in French Saint-Domingue to follow the most radical revolution of the era – the uprising of enslaved people that resulted in the independence of a black republic of Haiti. After Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in Paris, using his armies to spread populist dictatorships to other European capitals and re-impose slavery in the Americas, he gave new impetus to abolitionism in Britain and the United States while destabilizing the centuries-old webs of imperial power that radiated from Madrid and Lisbon to Mexico City, Lima, and Rio de Janeiro. French revolutionary ideas inspired leaders based in the numerous spaces across Iberian America identified as “liberal” cities to cut those ties and found new nation states.
Chapter 21 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet begins a four-chapter segment on the Greatest Acceleration, the sheer explosion of cities that began after 1945 and picked up at an even greater pace after 1980, resulting in the first megacities and several enormous contiguously urbanized regions. It surveys the vast built realm of Cold War-era imperialism and the increasingly centralized power of global finance capital to clarify the changing political economic conditions – first driven by ideologies of plenty, then “austerity” – under which the Acceleration took place. It also begins to explore the global development work of post-War imperial states, multilateral organizations and corporate foundations, focusing on transformations of public health infrastructure and of “Green Revolution” agricultural environments. All of these were crucial to the broader explosion of global population, the growing immiseration of the rural poor, and the city-ward migration that undergirded the Acceleration.
Chapter 15 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planetexplores the role of professional planners in redesigning cities to manage problems associated with their growth, thus making accelerated Urban Planetary growth possible. Managing and enhancing flows – within cities and beyond them – was central to this work. Partly this was about control of urban water, in rivers, storms, for drinking, and for waste through various systems of embankments. Management of flows of air, foot and vehicular traffic, commerce, and potentially revolutionary crowds were also main goals of their work. The chapter traces two planning traditions as they emerged and then merged – that of eighteenth-century sanitarians and sewer and embankment builders in Calcutta and London, and that of boulevard builders in the French tradition. The latter tradition climaxed in the work of Baron Haussmann in Paris, but his work influenced planners in Buenos Aires, Rio, Rabat, Cairo, and New Delhi among many other places. Attention to flow could also beget inequality and segregation, as planners like Haussmann rebuilt Paris above all to serve the rising bourgeoisie, not the city’s even larger industrial working class.
Chapter 4 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet continues the discussion of the role of cities in enabling small elite groups to amass large pools of wealth while guaranteeing poverty for the large majority of people whose labor made that wealth possible. The focus here is on long-distance merchants, who relied on cities and city-based states for the ability to finance, acquire, and transport goods otherwise unavailable in a city’s hinterland to elite and artisanal customers on a regular basis by building the infrastructure needed for long-standing circuits of point-to-point commerce. The chapter illustrates these points by reference to merchants’ complex relationship to state elites in governing palace districts, the invention of currency, merchants’ own houses, the separate districts for foreign merchants that became ubiquitous in cities, and such infrastructure as warehouses, commercial courts, customs houses, caravanserais, roadside waypoints, stables and signage, ports, docks, shipyards, breakwaters, and lighthouses.
Chapter 25 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet meditates on the crisis of the year 2020 as a culminant result of the Greatest Acceleration and as a moment to reckon with the consequences of humanity’s summoning of hydrocarbon power and People Power to run our cities. Can these driving forces of the Urban Planet generate a Just Transition that at once redesigns cities to harvest renewable forms of the day’s sunshine and wind and erases the many inequalities that beset Earthopolis? The chapter traces two spaces of hope, centered in our cities – spaces filled with burgeoning potential despite the revival of authoritarian politics, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the crisis of atmospheric overheating. These include spaces that generate new knowledge about the Urban Planet and its relationship to the Earth and Sun, and spaces where people are best able to mobilize the multiplicity and diversity of voices needed to re-envision humanity’s rule of Earth.
Chapter 22 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet is the second in a four-chapter series on the Greatest Acceleration from 1945 to the present. It focuses on the intensifying worldwide struggle over urban land and housing. As a billion migrants from the countryside joined rapidly expanding urban populations, enormous largely self-built cities of the poor grew on the peripheries of the world’s cities, especially in the Global South. There, the sheer numbers of poor migrants met up against states eager to transform cities into exemplars of national and developmental prowess and global finance and real estate capitalists eager to make profit on urban land – above all by developing luxury enclaves for elites and the middle class. As land prices soared and urban real estate became the second-most lucrative form of global investment, these elites weaponized a long-standing vocabulary of contempt for the poor, centered on words like “slum” and “informality.” While diminishing their stocks of affordable state housing, they also justified massive waves of “slum clearance” in the name of sanitation and “beautification.” Their goal was to create “World Cities” capable of attracting investment from prominent capitals of global capital such as New York, London, and Tokyo.
Chapter 16 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores cities’ role as creators and creations of their own majority populations during the industrial Urban Planetary acceleration of the nineteenth century. Millions of new urban industrial workers and colonial subjects profoundly shaped cities by means of their own massive, often very-long-distance migrations; their grueling, often indentured and semi-servile labor; their construction and habitation of new housing; and their multifarious forms of political activism. The chapter examines the built structures and the associated political contests required for movement, changes in home life, factory work, associational life, and street protest. Urban political institutions also changed amidst a radicalization of revolutionary movements exemplified by the Paris Commune of 1871 and massive strike waves that followed everywhere on the Urban Planet at the turn of the twentieth century.
Chapter 14 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores cities’ role as creators and creations of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism. It focuses on several “spatial fixes” that punctuated the rise of industrial capitalism, moments when the world’s most powerful imperial states helped capitalists invest in new built structures that allowed profit-makers to continue amassing wealth in the face of crises they could not resolve on their own. The expansion of cotton production by means of conquests, new factory technologies, and new docks and railroads is one. Large steel mills that came into being partly to meet rival states’ need for weaponry was another. It also shows how states and corporations teamed up to build “tentacular” structures such as railroad tracks, pipelines, and rubber-encased electric and telegraph wires that resulted in a human habitat that contiguously encased Earth for the first time by 1900. The story of the “capitalist city” is one that involved many actors and that involved far too many plot twists to be summed up by the concept “process of capitalist urbanization.”
The front matter to “Cities of the World Ocean,” the second of three parts of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Plane, recounts the founding of Villa Navidad (“Christmas City”), the first European settlement in the Americas by Christopher Columbus and the Taino people, using wooden planks salvaged from the shipwrecked Santa Maria. The story serves to introduce the importance of humanity’s use of solar energy delivered by the winds and currents of the World Ocean to dramatically expand and merge all of Earth’s urban worlds into Earthopolis, a truly planetary Urban Planet for the first time. This development, a hinge between pre-modern and modern eras, rested on state violence delivered worldwide against city walls by gunpowder cannon; on the theft of massive amounts of land, labor, and wealth involved in the birth of global capitalism; and on the globalization of religious and secular knowledges and consumer culture that had impacts on the natural environment worldwide, including the World Ocean itself.
Chapter 10 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores cities’ role as creators and creations of the early hydrocarbon industrial revolution. It considers a series of “plot twists” in which coal, long used as a fuel for home heating in Chinese cities, became the dominant means to heat homes in London, with accelerating consequences for the city’s Ocean-fueled economy. As population and wages there outpaced other cities even as fuel costs decreased, incentives grew for capitalists to invest in coal-fired machines over labor. This created general conditions that favored a long string of technological trials and errors that resulted in improved metallurgy in craft shops such as those in Birmingham and the first coal-fired textile factories in places like Manchester.
Chapter 17 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores the Urban Planet from the bourgeois Belle Époque to World War I and the protest, strikes, and revolutions that followed on the left and the right. It begins in Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Tokyo to show how forces of both revolution and counterrevolution gained strength in an age of apparent bourgeois triumph, and how rival nationalist imperialists and their industrial military industrial complexes, railroads, and new oilfields predisposed Europe toward global war. The chapter also delves into the micro- and macro-geography of the newly renamed city of Petrograd to understand how Bolshevik revolutionaries were able to seize power there and then in Moscow. A wide-ranging survey of general strikes, revolutions, and counterrevolutions follows, showing how anti-capitalist and anti-imperial movements then spread to cities worldwide, followed by ominous resurgences of racist and right-wing forces in the streets of Chicago, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Rome, and Munich.
The Prologue to Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet discusses the importance of camps and villages to human migration and habitation of Earth and to the agricultural revolution. It differentiates the kinds of larger-scale actions we could take as residents of smaller habitats from those we could take in cities. It notes that while those smaller settlements existed long before cities and continued to exist beyond the influence of acts enabled by cities for many millennia, virtually all camps and villages have been incorporated into the Urban Planet’s realms of action, habitat, impact, and consequence today.