With the Declining Significance of Labor, Who Is Producing our Global Cities?

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This article engages the question of what happens to labor as Indian cities become transformed into "global cities." It does so by focusing on the convergence of three interrelated trends over the past few decades: the informalization of labor, the making of global cities, and the financialization of the economy. The article explains the effect on labor, capital, and urban space of this concatenation of trends. It challenges the conclusion of urbanization scholars who emphasize how labor has been largely excluded and bypassed by the growing urban economy. Instead, the article demonstrates, by using nationwide data as well as examples from Bangalore, that as labor is being displaced from formal employment and as wages become compressed, the urban commons is becoming a more valued terrain. On the one hand, displaced urban and rural workers must increasingly rely on subsistence practices and depend more upon the city's public spaces and goods to survive. On the other hand, these spaces, vital to city life, are becoming attractive to indebted municipal governments and aggressive financial investors for their speculative land values, and hence have led to greater insecurity and dispossession. The global city, therefore, is being built in large part with workers' wageless labor. Consequently, the struggle between capital and labor has reached far "beyond the factory" and farm, to the urban commons, sites simultaneously key to the majority's survival and integral to the urban speculative project of financialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-164
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Labor and Working-Class History
StatePublished - Jul 21 2015

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Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2015.


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