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Title: Building an 'African world-class' city : the politics of world city making in Johannesburg, South Africa
Author: Lipietz, Barbara
ISNI:       0000 0004 2671 5063
Awarding Body: School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2008
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Many city managers across the world, including the current leadership of Johannesburg, have as a driving policy ambition improving their city’s ranking in the hierarchy of so-called ‘world cities’. This is despite the relatively well documented polarising tendencies of global and world cities’ (GaWC) development patterns and despite the availability of alternative, more equitable conceptualisations of city trajectories. The overriding objective of the thesis is to unsettle the power of GaWC as normative aspiration, especially for cities whose status in formal GaWC taxonomies is uncertain. The thesis focuses on the neglected role of politics in accounts of world city formation, drawing attention to the often highly conflictual nature of world city making. Bringing politics back in unsettles the normative appeal of the world city model and contributes to a critique of GaWC theory’s deterministic readings of city trajectories ‘in the globalised era’. It is also a crucial step in explaining and, indeed, highlighting the ongoing diversity of city paths on the ground. The Johannesburg case provides strong backing for a more politically attuned conception of world (and all) city trajectories. The active agency of city actors in attempting to shape the post-Apartheid city’s future defies GaWC’s focus on structural explanations of urban processes. Indeed, the sheer complexity of the political field uncovered in the research draws attention to the myriad ways in which politics matters in explanations of urban change. In particular, the study suggests the need to extend current dominant (northern-derived) analytical tools of city politics such as urban regime theory. A greater attentiveness to such political dynamics as circulating discourses, the workings of political parties/complex bureaucracies, or ‘everyday’ forms of politics, may well help expose the range of possible urban futures for – ‘ordinary’, ‘gobalising’ - cities. This argument is developed through a close examination of the City of Johannesburg’s current grappling with world city ambitions. Based on detailed qualitative research, the thesis demonstrates the intensely political nature of world city making in the post-Apartheid city. In particular, the emergence of the world city vision in Johannesburg is shown to be intimately related to the volatile and conflictual period of democratic transition in the city. The distinct political genesis of the vision explains the ambiguous political attitude to the world city imaginary amongst city managers, as well as its contradictory implementation in the two world city related nodes of Sandton and the inner city, which are discussed in detail. Intricate political dynamics have ensured that ‘world city-isation’ in Johannesburg has been localised through an ongoing engagement with the particular political and developmental requirements of post-Apartheid reconstruction.
Supervisor: Robinson, J. ; Cramer, C. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available