The Financialization of the City: Making Space for Cities in Economic Sociology & Political Economy


Topic and Goal of the Conference

Today, as in the 1970s, local governments in the U.S. and in Europe are struggling to balance budgets and meet the needs of city dwellers. Yet, the causes of today’s urban challenges differ from those in the 1970s. Whereas the “urban crisis” of the mid-20th Century was triggered by the flight of industrial capital from city centers, today’s difficulties reflect the financialization of the US/Western economy, meaning the heightened role of financial markets as a source of economic growth.
Economic sociologists and political economists have devoted considerable attention to the causes and consequences of financialization at the national level. Yet, with few exceptions, scholars have yet to extend these theoretical perspectives to the financialization of the city, leaving open questions about how the dynamics of contemporary capitalism shape and are shaped by the particularities of place. Cities constitute an important but undertheorized object of study for economic sociologists and political economists: Urban populations are growing. The majority of worldwide economic growth originates in cities. And as national sources of economic assistance decline, particularly in times of economic distress, cities are increasingly asked to act as a social buffer and source of local welfare solutions without having had the adequate means to do so.
In local contexts, the consequences of financialization are on stark display. Since the 1970s, municipalities and households have grown increasingly dependent on borrowing and investing to make ends meet. Rising rents and real estate prices are straining household budgets and exacerbating urban inequality. Mortgage finance has driven foreclosure epidemics, undercutting local tax revenues. In turn, these conditions have made local governments even more dependent on borrowing and investments, and exacerbated the difficulty of providing public goods and services.
This workshop brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to discuss the financialization of the city with the broader goal of placing cities squarely on the agenda of economic sociology and political economy. Four panels will feature scholarship on different aspects of financialization in urban contexts. The first day will highlight how financialization shapes urban governance and the privatization of public assets. The second day will include conversations about urban housing, inequality, and counter-movements. Over the course of two days, this workshop brings scholars from economic sociology and political economy into conversation with scholars from other disciplines, by asking them to serve as the discussants on each panel. A final panel will feature economic sociologists and political economists synthesizing insights and setting an agenda for a more robust economic sociology of the city.


Organization and contact

Mikell Hyman, Marie Piganiol and Sebastian Kohl

Phone +49 221 2767-222

MPIfG: Conference "The Financialization of the City: Making Space for Cities in Economic Sociology & Political Economy" | [Last updated 15.02.2019 13:55]