CALGARY, Alta. June 19, 2016/ Troy Media/ – The roots of politics run through the ancient Greek city, or polis, where individuals assembled to direct their collective destiny.
The ancient cities exemplified the art of self-government and arguably gave birth to notion of politics (our word politics comes from polis).
But the ancient cities met their end through repeated conflict, often being conquered or absorbed by empires, although a later resurgence in the Italian peninsula during the Renaissance kept the ideal of the republican city alive for some time.
Ultimately, however, the nation-state became the dominant form of modern politics.
In our age of globalization, cities are once again on the rise, gaining in political power and re-emerging as the locus for meaningful decision-making. Not exactly a return to the past, nor yet an inevitable replacement for the nation, nonetheless, the influence and import of cities continues to swell.
With their free movement across and within borders, people have concentrated in modern cities – hubs of innovation and employment, combined with diversity and greater levels of tolerance. Urbanization, as sociologists have long pointed out, has been central to modernization the world over, replacing rural life and its traditional ways.
Consequently, the demand for goods and services in cities thrives and modern cities are beacons of globalization. For as cities grow in size and stature, they become increasingly inter-connected with one another, rather than as subordinates to state, provincial or national governments.
Canadians are familiar with the repeated call of mayors for greater powers, of taxation and otherwise. Mayors attend international trade missions, diplomatic summits, and sundry conferences addressing political and economic matters hitherto of a national scale.
Cities, therefore, depend upon the connectivity of globalization and the associated infrastructure that allows for the movement of peoples, goods and services. Urbanists are often globalists and globalists tend to be urbanists. City lovers and dwellers are likely to champion a globalist world: cosmopolitanism appeals to many in modern cities.
It is therefore surprising to find certain Canadian mayors among the most vocal opponents to some of the most significant infrastructure proposals facing the nation that would benefit cities. For example, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre stand vociferously opposed to oil and gas pipelines.
These mayors seem to want it both ways: all the riches, glamour and related accoutrements for their cities as places of importance in an inter-connected world, without the requisite resources, energy, economic growth and infrastructure that vitalize civic prominence.
In this respect, they fail to understand that cross-border infrastructure and resource sharing, alongside trade, investment and the free movement of people, are significant components of the developing patterns of integration and no less a part of fuelling innovation.
Given the natural resource base that Canada has, its cities stand to benefit from mobilizing the latest and safest technology and techniques to move products to broader markets – to further put its cities on the map, as significant ports, centres of refinery, trade and so on.
It is what cosmopolitan city-state dweller and author Parag Khanna calls “connectivity.” In his new book, [popup url=”http://amzn.to/1sJQKTs” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization[/popup], Khanna underlines just how important natural resource infrastructure is in our world. “Supply chains and connectivity,” he writes, “are the organizing principles of humanity in the 21st century.” Thus, “Who rules the supply chain rules the world.”
Our mayors, national leaders and urban citizens combined, ought to realize that the benefits of globalization – of connectivity and geography – will accrue to those willing to expedite large-scale infrastructure, such as national and international pipelines. There is no place in a progressive society for parochial globalism of the likes of Robertson and Coderre.
Troy Media Columnist Trevor Shelley completed his PhD in political science at Louisiana State University. His book, Liberalism and Globalization, will be published in 2016 with St. Augustine Press. Trevor is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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