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Global cities, global citizens: Plutocratization vs. the rest

“Our great, global cities are turning into vast gated citadels where the elite reproduces itself”

Simon Kruper writes in “Priced out of Paris” (FT) that after gentrification, the world’s most prosperous and desirable cities are now facing the prospect of plutocratization: first the lower classes were displaced, and now the middle class is being squeezed out, too.

This is bad, for a variety of reasons. But the most dangerous reason, to Kruper, is that the world’s great cities – New York, Hong Kong, London – are becoming incestuous domains of privilege, taking the lion’s share of wealth and power. And, crucially, they areĀ keeping others away from that wealth, power, and attendant mobility.

It is very unfortunate for a society when its elite stultify and seek to preserve their position at the expense of new competitors. The same forces that keep the non-elite / non-nobility / plebes / 99% from attaining success and influence also lead the entire society into stagnation. In the long run, the 1% are getting X% of a smaller pie instead of Y% of a larger one.

(Relatedly – what does it mean when, today, the global elite is almost its own trans-national country? That, ironically, the people who come closest to achieving a Marxist ideal of cosmopolitan, global citizenship are the ultimate Capitalist Class?)

I think it is sad and harmful for communities and geographies to stratify in this way. I think a mixing of classes is as essential as a mixing of any other demographic quality for the intellectual, cultural, political, and ethical health of a place. But what should we do about this trend? Read more…