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Remaking New York

Primitive Globalization And The Politics Of Urban Community

William Sites

Publication Year: 2003

Inequality increases, instability grows, communities fragment: this is the fate of a city in the wake of globalization—but is globalization really the cause? Proposing a new perspective on politics, globalization, and the city, this provocative book argues that such urban problems result in part from U.S. policies that can be changed. William Sites develops the concept of primitive globalization, identifying a pattern of reactive politics—ad hoc measures to subsidize business, displace the urban poor, and dismantle the welfare state—that uproots social actors (corporations, citizens, urban residents) and facilitates a damaging, short-term-oriented type of international integration. In light of this theory, Sites examines the transformation of New York City since the 1970s, focusing on the logic of political action at national, local, and neighborhood levels. In the process, the story of late twentieth-century New York and its Lower East Side community emerges as something different: not a tale of globalist transformation or of local resurgence but a distinctly American case, one in which urban politics and the state, in their own right, exacerbate inequality and community fragmentation within the city.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Globalization and Community

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

My first real introduction to the political economy of the city was provided by fellow organizers at the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a New York City tenant union that has fought for affordable housing for more than forty years. I wish to acknowledge, among many others, Bob Angles, Jane Benedict, Mark Brody, Tito Delgado, Carol Donohue, Mike Elliot, Jenny Laurie, Marty Lipowitz, Ed Liszewski...

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Introduction: Globalism and the City

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pp. 1-18

This book examines how urban politics and community action influence the development of an American city in a global age. Through a series of analyses of New York City that move between the local, the national, and the transnational, I attempt to provide a counterframe to accounts of globalization as a singular, structural phenomenon. These "globalist" accounts emphasize an economic logic of transformation; at each level, neighborhoods, cities, and even nation...

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1. Primitive Globalization? State, Economy, and Urban Development

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pp. 19-48

Debates over globalization—perhaps like the world this concept describes— often appear to be confining and fragmented alike. In certain frameworks, a sweeping notion of globalization attributes a host of recent social developments to forces of international integration. Along with economic and cultural convergence, it is implied, comes the eclipse of state and politics, or at least a major shift in political influence from national to international arenas. In response, challenges...

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2. Building an Urban Neoliberalism: The Long Rebirth of New York

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pp. 49-86

During the year preceding September 11,2001, New York's status as premier American city seemed firmly set in place. Everyone loved New York. Tourists, immigrants, investors—from all over the world, people and money appeared to be migrating to a city once seen as declining, dangerous, and ungovernable. Even Americans, who long had shunned the place as dirty and deviant, were flocking there: for the year 2000, the city claimed a ranking behind only Orlando...

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3. Public Action: Gentrification and the Lower East Side

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pp. 87-118

In the course of New York's late-twentieth-century economic ascent, nothing was more dramatic than the changes experienced by so many of its neighborhoods. From the 1970s revival of Manhattan's faded middle-class areas to the more recent upscaling of working-class districts in Brooklyn and Queens, neighborhood gentrification was no longer seen as anomalous or uncertain but as...

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4. Urban Movements, Local Control: Fighting over the Neighborhood

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pp. 119-154

New York's Lower East Side emerged for a time as a crucible of resistance to the global city. Beginning in the early 1980s, community groups organized large numbers of residents, led angry street marches, and generated considerable pressure on developers and city officials to address issues of displacement and homelessness. Several of these community organizations soon turned themselves into housing developers, launching a number of innovative projects for lower-income residents. Other groups stayed a more...

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5. Beyond Primitive Globalization: Policy, Activism, and the Metropolis

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pp. 155-182

This study has claimed that politics and state policies influence processes of economic development in a global age. Preceding chapters supported this contention by examining the logic of state action and urban development in the United States at different levels over the course of a twenty-five-year period. The intention has been to locate—through highly contextualized analyses of the revival of New York City, of the gentrification of the Lower East Side, and of...

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Postscript: Rebuilding after 9/11

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pp. 183-190

The events of September 11, 2001, appeared to reinforce, at least at first, the global identities of New York and Washington, D.C. The specific targets of the attacks were important symbols: the World Trade Center represented the foremost urban icon of international capitalism, the Pentagon a central command post for the projection of military force to all corners of the world. At another, more human level, the victims of these assaults—people who hailed not only from...


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pp. 191-246

Select Bibliography

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pp. 247-258


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pp. 259-278

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About the Author

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p. 279-279

William Sites is associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816694839
E-ISBN-10: 0816694834
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816641567

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2003

Edition: First edition
Series Title: Globalization and Community

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City planning -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Community development -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Community organization -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Political participation -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Municipal government -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Globalization.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Politics and government.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Economic policy.
  • Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.) -- Social conditions.
  • Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.) -- Economic conditions.
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