The Labor-Populism-Urban Nexus

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Steven TUFTS, York University, Canada
Mark THOMAS, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ian MACDONALD, Université de Montréal, Canada
This paper examines the ways in which austerity, populism (including its authoritarian variants), and labor are brought together within and through the urban scale. While theorists of populism do not completely ignore the urban, too often the city is seen as a container of interactions for populist sentiments that have been constructed at larger scales (e.g., the nation state). Rather than simply emerging ‘in the city’, however, we approach the study of populism with the recognition that populism is itself produced by emerging urban forms, inter-urban and intra-urban competition for investment, sub/urban segregation, growing economic polarization, and divisions among the working-class and metropolitan elites. We seek to elaborate on how the changing urban fabric itself produces new spaces within which capital and labor are involved in often contradictory populist contests to advance their interests. Further, we attempt to understand labor’s role in both the production of and resistance to emerging forms of urban populism. We focus on how urban populism is implicated in processes challenging the ‘elitism’ inherent in: urban planning initiatives such as transit, specific forms of cosmopolitanism, and select campaigns by local labor. We illuminate our framework with the cases drawn from labor’s response to the short-lived regime of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his populist legacy as well as more recent campaigns. The research is drawn from a larger comparative project examining labor and urban populism in four North American cities.