Queen's University

World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and Inequality in Cape Town

Book cover: World City Syndrome, by Queen's researcher Dr. David McDonald. Cover: photo of children on beach, seen through the base of a bridge. The book's title appears as graffiti on the bridge.The literature on ‘world cities’ has had an enormous influence on urban theory and planning. From Manila to London, academics and policy makers have attempted to understand, and to some extent strive for, world city status. This book is a study of Cape Town’s standing in this network of urban centres, and an investigation of the conceptual appropriateness of this world city hypothesis. Drawing on more than a dozen years of fieldwork in Cape Town, I provide a historical overview of institutional and structural reforms, examining fiscal imbalances, political marginalization, (de)racialization, privatization, and other neoliberal changes. By examining and analyzing these reforms and changes, I critique the world city literature from the perspective of a developing country perspective. (Read More)

“This is a theoretically pathbreaking, if politically heartbreaking, account of postapartheid Cape Town and the betrayed promises of integration and equality. It also offers a formidable, often brilliant, overview of the debate on neoliberalism." — Author of Planet of Slums, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine.