Governance from Megalopolis to the Megaregion: A World of Cities or Planetary Urbanization?

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The paradoxes of the megalopolis

At the end of July I had the honour of being a keynote speaker at the second international colloquium “Las paradojas de la Megalópolis” (“The paradoxes of megalopolis”) in Mexico City. The event was organized by Dr. Felipe de Alba from the Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública (CESOP), and featured an impressive range of Mexican and international academics and policymakers all grappling with the governance challenges of mega-urban areas.

This is an issue I’ve been thinking and writing about for some time now (e.g. in my contribution to John Harrison and Michael Hoyler’s edited volume Megaregions: Globalization’s New Urban Form?). My talk at the Mexican colloquium took a historical perspective on megalopolitan or megaregional governance, with a focus on the United States. I argued, first of all, that in the last fifty years we’ve seen a shift from redistribution to competitiveness in mega-urban governance thinking (corresponding to the broader shift from Fordism-Keynesianism to neoliberalism). Second, I argued that recent megaregional scholarship and policy discourse is in important respects the consolidation and even intensification of a city-centric imaginary of the mega-urban, which unfortunately draws our attention away from the many ways in which large-scale urban agglomerations are co-constituted with their hinterlands and global economic networks. Finally, and relatedly, I argued that actually-existing megalopolitan governance challenges today are more-than-territorial, and in fact implicate a proliferation of internal and external urban relations at multiple scales.

To make this argument I drew on the growing literature on planetary urbanization, and concluded that an adequate concept of the megalopolis or the megaregion is one defined as much by what is outside it as what is inside it.

One interesting detail about the colloquium is that it took place in the Mexican national parliament building (since CESOP is the research institute affiliated with the parliament). The result was quite a bit more pomp and circumstance than I’m used to from purely academic conferences:

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Dignitaries in the Mexican parliament

The experience was interesting, and I learned quite a lot about urban governance in the Mexico City region. A video of my presentation is available here, dubbed into Spanish:

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