Jonathan Manthorpe, at ipolitics, has an interesting column about the rise of the modern city state. Cities, he writes, are where the action is:
The tipping point in this movement came in 2008, when — according to the World Bank — half of humanity was living in cities for the first time in history (the percentage has since risen to 54 per cent). More than that, the World Bank calculates that urban populations now create 80 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, and that this will continue to increase as urbanization accelerates in developing countries, especially in Africa.
Recent political events, however, signal that not everyone is happy with the trend:
In most cases, citizens are shifting their immediate loyalties from the nation to their city or region. This trend does always lead to positive outcomes. The Brexit vote last year for Britain to leave the European Community can be seen as the country’s rural and smaller urban regions rebelling against the political, economic and cultural domination of London. Added to this is the perception that London is increasingly distant from and disdainful of the rest of the country.
The rise of Donald Trump is also attributable to a rebellion in "flyover country." And the Electoral College favours flyover country. The disconnect between urban and rural citizens could be the source of much future strife:
A major problem for all cities is that they tend to be administrative creatures of subnational governments (like provinces) or the nation-state. Their capacities to pursue their own policies and raise the revenues needed to implement them are usually heavily prescribed and limited.
That’s as true of Toronto as it is of Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is already Africa’s largest city, with 20 million people. The local governor predicts its population will increase to 40 million people in the foreseeable future.
Lagos is a city of enormous energy and self-confidence, but it is a city of almost unmatched chaos. There are about 200 unplanned slum neighbourhoods, with the result that 70 per cent of the city’s 20 million people lack indoor plumbing or access to grid power. About 60 per cent of Lagos’ children do not attend school.
The hope is that as Africa becomes the next repository of cheap manufacturing labour to be exploited, international investment will also bring the resources for functioning local and national administrations.
That has happened to a substantial degree in Southeast Asia, where urbanization has been underway for 30 years and more. However, since moves towards economic integration among the 10 regional countries begun in 2015, rapid social and technological developments are putting great strains on the cities and national government.
Cities that can't cope with rapid growth can quickly become hell holes -- fertile ground for terrorists:
Dislocated cities are also natural breeding grounds for radical political or ideological movements. The ultra-right-wing political movements in Europe and North America and the propagation of violent Islamic movements are not springing from villages. They are coming from the grimmer districts of Hamburg, Paris, Cairo, Karachi and the American rust belt.
Those of us who live in rural areas have watched this trend for decades. The children we raised have left because there are no jobs in the hinterland. The jobs are in the cities -- all over the world. But, unless the world can get its cities right, it will be rocked by our darker angels.