Note — Dec 08, 2019

New Types of Organization and the Myth of the Return of the City State

I’m going to have to come back to this once I’ve read McKenzie Wark’s Capital Is Dead Is This Something Worse? which I think will thread some of the same areas (in terms of framing today’s economy, not in the historical parallels used) but I’m always a sucker for references to city states, guilds, or the Hanseatic league. So I’m sharing this piece by David Galbraith on these topics and China, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and how we shouldn’t consider ourselves to be in a fourth Industrial Revolution. I haven’t watched the video of his longer talk on the same line of thought so I’m not sure what to think of these ideas yet, but worth a read anyway.

[T]hings like cities traditionally sat on flows like rivers, but today these flows can be capital or information, and their very existence increases these flows — as a company grows it consumes more capital and and as a city grows it consumes more resources while they both produce more. This is a feedback loop and operates much like an engine does, with cycles where the flows of fuel create more flows which produce power or growth. […]

We are not in the 4th industrial age, we are in the post industrial age and the period of the post industrial age we are in will produce completely new organizational structures just as the shift between feudal to industrial did. […]

Global cities in the West that can take advantage of these macro flows can leverage remote production in China at the expense of production in their hinterland within the same nation state, so the nation states decline relative to these globalized cities like London.