A World in Emergence

A World in Emergence

Cities and Regions in the 21st Century

Allen J. Scott

Beginning with the recent history of capitalism and urbanization and moving into a thorough and complex discussion of the modern city, this book outlines the dynamics of what the author calls the third wave of urbanization, characterized by global capitalism’s increasing turn to forms of production revolving around technology-intensive artifacts, financial services, and creative commodities such as film, music, and fashion. The author explores how this shift toward a cognitive and cultural economy has caused dramatic changes in the modern economic landscape in general and in the form and function of world cities in particular. Armed with cutting-edge research and decades of expertise, Allen J. Scott breaks new ground in identifying and explaining how the cities of the past are being reshaped into a complex system of global economic spaces marked by intense relationships of competition and cooperation.

Chapter 7: Symbolic analysts and the service underclass

Allen J. Scott

Subjects: economics and finance, regional economics, urban economics, geography, cities, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, cities, urban economics, urban studies


I have argued that the emergence of the new economy in American cities over the last three or four decades is bringing in its train a radically new division of labor and, as a consequence, a significant recomposition of urban society. I have already made reference to this recomposition in Chapter 3, where the bipartite division of the labor force in advanced capitalist societies was briefly discussed. In the present chapter, I shall deal further and at length with this matter using detailed data available from official American sources. One side of this changing division of labor is captured in the work of scholars like Reich (1992) and Florida (2002) who write about the recent rise of an upper fraction of the labor force marked by high levels of education, formal qualifications, and distinctive cognitive– cultural skills. Another side is reflected in the large body of research that has been published in recent years by urban geographers, labor sociologists, feminist scholars, and others on the chronic degradation of work that is observable at the lower end of labor markets in advanced capitalist societies (see, for example, Appelbaum and Schmitt 2009; McDowell 2009; Peck and Theodore 2001). This degradation is evident in both manufacturing and service sectors, but is most especially manifest in the recent proliferation of a service underclass in large cities (DeFilippis et al. 2009), and the relative expansion of low-wage service work is all the more emphatic in view of the rapidly falling levels of manufacturing employment in the same cities.

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