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The Inherent Hierarchy of Money and its Relationship to the Urban System

The spatial dislocations of the recent financial crisis and their ongoing economic consequences are stark reminders of the disruptive forces of what Jane Jacobs referred to as “cataclysmic money”. Adopting Jacobs’ lens of a perpetual tension between cataclysmic and gradual capital flows across the urban hierarchy, this paper examines urban development and the evolution of the financial system as a joint historical process. I argue that money and finance are never “neutral” with regard to space, principally because the institutional arrangements of finance matter for how the built environment evolves. As such, money and finance constitute an integral part of the urban infrastructure, much of which has always been planned in the traditional sense and has both direct and indirect spatial effects. Indeed, the particular historical reality of the American metropolis is that “form follows finance”. Focusing on the spatial effects of the U.S. financial system since the 1830s, this research argues that a general theory of urban rise and decline must establish explicit linkages between money, credit and banking and urban spatial structure.

These sessions are a response to requests from faculty and students to learn more about what’s going on in the field in an informal environment. We hope this can inspire emergent thoughts and connections that will inform our scholarship. If you have research you would like to present, or a provocative article you would like to discuss, please speak with Larissa LarsenDavid Weinreich, or Carla Kayanan.

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