Cities and Social Progress

Saskia SassenEdgar PieterseGautam BhanMax HirshAna FalúHiroo IchikawaLuis RiffoPelin TanDoris Tarchopulos  | 2018


Today’s cities confront a range of particular challenges that were not faced (at least knowingly) by cities in past periods. We focus on several of these in order to understand how cities can be enabled to become more viable and just. The question of cities and social progress has a long history of thought and multiple debates. The first section examines some of this. The second section provides a few conceptual anchors adopted by the authors to conduct the analysis and explore potential recommendations. The third section focuses on the multiple ways in which the urban condition materialises in diverse parts of the world and under diverse constraints. The examinations range from continental Africa to specific instances – Turkey’s refugee crisis. This section concludes with a discussion of megacities and the global geography of power of global cities. The fourth section provides a counterpoint to the general trends by exploring the fact that built environments are not neutral – they benefit some sectors of the urban population more than others. It examines the case of women in cities as one instance of an array of disadvantages that affect them generally more than other population groups. We need to unpack the barriers and challenges of urban space. The sixth section examines how technology can be made to work for people and systems in cities. The seventh section explores the connection between social justice and cities through the prism of an emerging discourse – the right to the city. The final section revisits some of these issues through the lens of recommendations that can contribute to more just cities over the short, medium, and long term.