During the Cold War, poverty in the developing world was deemed to be a critical issue for the developed world because of the perceived (and likely very real link) between poverty and economic radicalism. However, in the wake of the demise of the Cold War, the goal of abolishing poverty seems to have abated. The divide between the haves and the have-nots has been exacerbated worldwide. Part of this is due to changes in regulatory structures which effectively cheapen the price of labor: "as part of economic restructuring and liberalization, there has been a fair amount of deregulation, particularly of financial and labour markets. Deregulation of labour markets is associated with the rise of informalization or 'flexible' labour markets. It should be noted that workers are caught between two contradictory trends: rapid flexibilization of the employment relationship (making it easy for employers to contract and expand their workforce as needed) and slow liberalization of labour mobility" (Chen 2007: 10). Globalization and outsourcing has expanded access to sources of labor in low-income countries such as India and created a downward pressure on the price of labor: even in America this phenomenon can be seen in Detroit, a city which has seen the decimation of high-wage blue-collar unionized jobs within the automotive industry.
The question is without jobs who will pay for the products being generated by this new unequal economy? This was, after all, one of the sources of the Great Depression of the 1930s: too many goods were being produced for the amount of dollars workers possessed. According to a recent report of the World Bank, "the global economy should grow by 3.2% this year, up from 2.4% in 2013" but the expected recovery will be extremely lopsided (Thompson 2014). The recovery has been called a 'race to the bottom' in terms of wages: "where jobs are being created, such as the U.S., U.K. Or even Spain, they're often poorly paid or offer only temporary employment, making it hard for people to save money, gain experience and build a career" (Thompson 2014). To some degree, governments and the wealthy are more insulated from the pressures of an unemployed workforce not only because of the informal, illegal economy but even by formal jobs which pay very low wages, are merely part-time, and provide no mobility or benefits but still allow people to eke out a living. A true world without jobs (in cities or otherwise) would indeed be bleak and troublesome but the current economic environment seems to have enough imperfect safety valves to quell dissent yet to leave many people disenfranchised from the economic recovery or hopes for social mobility.
Chen, M.A. (2007). Rethinking the informal economy: Linkages with the formal economy and the formal regulatory environment. DESA Working Paper No. 46. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/esa/desa/papers/2007/wp46_2007.pdf
Thompson, M. (2014). Global economic recovery feeds growing inequality. Davos 2014.
According to Gonzalez (2009), although all industrialized economies bear some blame for global warming, specific pressures generated by the U.S., including its model of suburban sprawl and lack of public transportation on a mass scale, make it particularly guilty of exacerbating the environmental dangers facing the planet: "The United States' relatively energy-intense urban transportation system at least partially accounts for the fact that, according to an international study produced by Yale and Columbia universities, every $1 million of the U.S. GDP resulted in 171 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004" (Gonzalez 2009: 16). The U.S. has also been far more resistant to engaging in international cooperation to reduce warming than its neighbors.
Global warming is not simply an economic or moral issue: it is also a military issue. The world may become more divided not just between economic 'haves' and 'have-nots' but also between people who have access to decent food and sanitary water and those who do not, thanks to the long-term implications of global warming. A recent report by a government military research organization, the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board agreed that "the accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict… climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees" (Davenport 2014). Any time there is a change in the environment and indigenous ways of life, instability is created, and the fact that global warming is an international problem spurred by industrialization now in the developing as well as the developed world makes it even more challenging to circumvent.
Global warming poses a unique challenge because unlike a political conflict, it transcends ideology and history. On one hand, it can exacerbate existing regional conflicts as is already being seen in Africa: "tribes are killing each other over water today" (Davenport 2014). Even in the U.S., the report noted that immediate military challenges may arise that impact U.S. security forces: "rising sea levels in the United States imperil many of the Navy's coastal installations" (Davenport 2014). However, a micro-level solution will not be enough to address the issues raised by any specific environmental problem -- multiple nations with highly divergent interests must find common ground and agree upon a common policy to make meaningful change. Within the U.S., there is still little political will to combat warming: the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee disagreed with the report's findings, noting: "for anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this" (Davenport 2014). But Rear Admiral David Titley, one of the report's authors stated: "the ice doesn't care about politics or who's caucusing with whom, or Democrats or Republican" (Davenport 2014).
Davenport, C. (2014). Climate change deemed growing security threat.
Gonzalez, G. (2009). Urban sprawl, global warming, and the empire of capital. Albany, NY:
While it is hard to mourn the death of communism, to some extent I believe the rise of neoliberalism in the wake of the end of the Cold War has been damaging to the world economy. There has been a tendency to impose a 'cookie cutter' solution of state deregulation which is not necessarily appropriate for all economies. And I agree with Davis that dissent against an imposed neoliberal regime has become too bound upon in issues such as tribal and racial divisiveness. If Davis is correct and 'safety valves' are indeed not able to deal effectively with dissent, then this could be a toxic combination given that people who oppose the current regimes that disenfranchise them may not be able to rise together under a unifying banner. They will fall into infighting even if they topple the current leadership, causing ore social disruption.
JOHN RHODES Module 4 Discussion 1
Poor urban planning may create slums to some degree in the sense that certain areas become 'ghettoized' and lack adequate sanitation and other protections. However, social inequality allows the existence of slums to be sustained. Tacitly allowing squatting and other forms of occupation of the streets by the homeless allows such conditions to continue as society ignores these technically illegal transgressions but does very little to help the people who are suffering. Slums are often characterized by inadequate food, high rates of crime. The conditions perpetuate poverty as people are unable to break out of a cycle of a lack of education and despondency. The stresses required to simply stay alive prevent them from taking active steps to better their lot in life. Given the political powerlessness of people in the area, there is also little will amongst the 'haves' to intervene and actively change the circumstances of people living in such 'slums.'
MATTHEW LEVINSON Module 4 Discussion 1
The problem is that for many politicians the current levels of homelessness and chronic unemployment are acceptable in their eyes so long as they do not affect their direct constituents. Often poorer people do not vote because of despondency, lack of education, or lack of access. Also, even if there was more political will, the answers to these problems are not always easy. Moreover, there has been a growing divide between the haves and have-nots in our society. The rich have been profiting off of a system that increasingly serves their interests, rather than the interests of the general population and this further lessens the pressure for politicians to generate meaningful solutions and new ideas to make education, housing, food, and other necessities more affordable to all.