Chasing World-Class Urbanism

Global Policy versus Everyday Survival in Buenos Aires

2020
Author:

Jacob Lederman

Chasing World-Class Urbanism

Questions increasingly dominant urban planning orthodoxies and whether they truly serve everyday city dwellers

What makes some cities world class? acob Lederman explores fast-evolving changes in city planning practices and why so many local officials chase a nearly identical vision of world-class urbanism. Chasing World-Class Urbanism is a much-needed guide to the intersections of culture, ideology, and the realities of twenty-first-century life in a major Latin American city, one that illuminates the tension between technocratic aspirations and lived experience.

Jacob Lederman shows how politicians’ ambitions to make Buenos Aires a ‘world-class’ city appeal to global audiences while inflaming local tensions and reinforcing inequality. This nuanced study of a ‘creative’ city in the global South is a provocative, elegantly written contribution to comparative urban studies.

Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City and The Innovation Complex

What makes some cities world class? Increasingly, that designation reflects the use of a toolkit of urban planning practices and policies that circulates around the globe. These strategies—establishing creative districts dedicated to technology and design, “greening” the streets, reinventing historic districts as tourist draws—were deployed to build a globally competitive Buenos Aires after its devastating 2001 economic crisis. In this richly drawn account, Jacob Lederman explores what those efforts teach us about fast-evolving changes in city planning practices and why so many local officials chase a nearly identical vision of world-class urbanism.

Lederman explores the influence of Northern nongovernmental organizations and multilateral agencies on a prominent city of the global South. Using empirical data, keen observations, and interviews with people ranging from urban planners to street vendors he explores how transnational best practices actually affect the lives of city dwellers. His research also documents the forms of resistance enacted by everyday residents and the tendency of local institutions and social relations to undermine the top-down plans of officials. Most important, Lederman highlights the paradoxes of world-class urbanism: for instance, while the priorities identified by international agencies are expressed through nonmarket values such as sustainability, inclusion, and livability, local officials often use market-centric solutions to pursue them. Further, despite the progressive rhetoric used to describe urban planning goals, in most cases their result has been greater social, economic, and geographic stratification.

Chasing World-Class Urbanism is a much-needed guide to the intersections of culture, ideology, and the realities of twenty-first-century life in a major Latin American city, one that illuminates the tension between technocratic aspirations and lived experience.
Chasing World-Class Urbanism

Jacob Lederman is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan–Flint.

Chasing World-Class Urbanism

Jacob Lederman shows how politicians’ ambitions to make Buenos Aires a ‘world-class’ city appeal to global audiences while inflaming local tensions and reinforcing inequality. This nuanced study of a ‘creative’ city in the global South is a provocative, elegantly written contribution to comparative urban studies.

Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City and The Innovation Complex

Chasing World-Class Urbanism

Contents

Abbreviations

Introduction: A City in Transition

1. Turning to Culture in Times of Crisis

2. New Objects of Government Innovation: Heritage, Culture, and Tourism

3. Becoming a Historic Center: The Invention of San Telmo

4. Best Practice in a Transnational Discourse Community

5. Recentering the South: The Creative, Livable City

6. The Production of Value in a Tourist Market

7. Contested Urban Futures

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index