Urban Justice

Urban planning, housing, transportation, the privatization of public space and the criminalization of people of color and poor people.

Power of Place and Space

Local dimensions of imperial economic and development policy

The word “imperialism” is back on the radar of political discourse, after lying dormant for many years, thanks to the Bush administration’s willingness to throw the weight of the United States around with abandon. Imperialism is a useful word. Just as the concept of “internal colonialism” was helpful to people thinking about power and injustice in the 1960s, imperialism can be brought home to good effect for today’s activists and movement leaders. But as an analytical term, it needs to be deepened beyond sweeping statements like, “U.S. imperialism is ravaging the globe”—which are so broad as to be mere slogans—if we are to apply it to conditions of race, poverty and the environment in California and nationwide.

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Subsidizing Sprawl

Economic Development policies that deprive the poor of transit and jobs.

Economic development subsidy programs—such as property tax abatements, corporate income tax credits and low-interest loans—were originally justified in the name of poverty reduction. Initiated as far back as the 1930s and accelerated in the 1950s, many of these programs were targeted to older areas and pockets of poverty that needed revitalization.

But over time, more and more of the 1,500 development subsidy programs nationwide have become part of the problem instead of the solution. Subsidies originally meant to rebuild older urban areas are being perverted into subsidies for suburban sprawl. Wal-Mart and other big box retailers are getting subsidies that allow them to simply pirate sales from existing merchants. Upscale residential and golf course projects are getting subsidies from programs originally designed to serve low-income neighborhoods.

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