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Chapter Summary

Graham, Stephen and Simon Marvin. 2001. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities, and the Urban Condition. London, UK and New York, NY: Routledge. (Chapter 3)

Gradually, the modern ideal of urban planning began to erode. Simultaneously, the increasing sophistication of private market forces led to a marked shift from centrally-planned infrastructure/cities to decentralized globally-connected urban areas. As a result, the modern city can no longer be viewed as a coherent, binding, and physically-defined entity. Instead, infrastructure networks have become redistributive channels to the various, individual urban enclaves that make up a city. Increasingly, public goods and spaces are being privatized and tailored to the needs of privileged private consumers and investors.

Graham and Marvin illustrate five interrelated shifts that contributed to the downfall of networked infrastructure provision via the modern ideal discussed in Chapter 2:

  1. The urban infrastructure disinvestment crisis : Mounting fiscal problems at the federal and state level led to declining investment in public infrastructure maintenance and reconstruction. The extension of infrastructure grids over wide areas, built under the modern ideal, further exacerbated the cost of maintenance, thus resulting in the collapse of cross-subsidies within and between cities. The resultant redistribution problem is contributing to the growing divide between the rich and the poor.
  2. The changing political economy of urban infrastructure development : The flow of investment capital and technology, coupled with ongoing financial concerns, has forced states into selling off their infrastructure to private operators. The emergence of neo-liberalism, the decline of state-provided public goods, and the rising role of financial markets in public finance has caused a paradigm shift in infrastructure provision. The traditional methodology of large-scale, integrated infrastructure investment has devolved into a system of project-by-project risk assessment in order to maximize revenue. Developing and allocating premium spaces to private investors resulted in reterritorrialization of space - unbundling local areas while integrating common users globally (glocalization).
  3. The collapse of the modern ideal in urban planning : The privatization of public services, goods, and infrastructure - coupled with private sector lobbying - contributed to the shift from central to fragmented planning. The result is an emphatic shift in focus from the intra-urban/city to the global-local.
  4. The physical growth and extension of metropolitan regions : Cars and transportation facilitated the emergence of the infinite city (the development isolated enclaves farther and farther away from the center city), leading to increasing social and economic fragmentation of urban spaces.
  5. Social movements and critiques that exposed the inadequacies of the modern ideal : The social, gender, economic, and environmental biases inherent within the modern planning ideal were simultaneously challenged by a number of progressive movements, putting pressure on the traditional paradigms basic assumptions of order and rationality and undermining its efficacy.