The Politics of Equity

Who owns the city?

An event of the Urban Age Global Debates series hosted by Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and LSE Cities

This event was one of the series of five public Global Debates celebrating ten years of the Urban Age programme. The debates discussed five core themes that have been the focus of research and debate at the Urban Age since 2005. The event series was organised by LSE Cities and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society, in association with Guardian Cities.

Since 2006, over 134 million hectares of African land – roughly the size of France, Spain and Germany – has been bought by foreign investors, the region where urban growth is most expected in the next 20 years. At the same time large swathes of global cities like London, New York and Paris are owned or being developed by foreign sovereign wealth funds and international corporate investors. Leading urban sociologist Saskia Sassen – who identified the global cities dynamic – argued that these new and tacit patterns of ownership are having a negative impact on the ‘cityness’, vibrancy and accessibility of urban systems by cutting off parts of the city from public use. Could this form of investment and speculation in cities and buildings be causing de-urbanisation? These issues were debated with policymakers and leaders who have been involved in reshaping the structure of urban ownership and investment.

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    Saskia Sassen

    Saskia Sassen is Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and co-chairs its Committee on Global Thought. Her research and writing focuses on, immigration, global cities, the new networked technologies, and changes within the liberal state that result from current transnational conditions. Her most recent book is Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard University Press 2014). She has received multiple honours, most recently the 2013 Principe de Asturias Prize for the Social Sciences.

    Craig Calhoun

    Craig Calhoun is Director and President of LSE. Before joining LSE, he was President of the Social Science Research Council, and taught at the University of North Carolina, Columbia, and NYU where he was most recently University Professor of Social Sciences and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge. Among his books on politics and social movements are, Neither Gods nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China and The Roots of Radicalism.

    Anthony Williams

    Anthony Williams, the former Mayor of Washington, D.C. (1999 – 2007), is the current Chief Executive Officer of the Federal City Council. Before his election as Mayor, he was the independent Chief Financial Officer of the District from 1995-98, working with and on behalf of local officials, the D.C. Financial Control Board, and the U.S. Congress. He has taught public finance and urban leadership as the William H. Bloomberg Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, while coordinating programs for the Municipal Innovation Program at the Ash Centre.