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The political economy of development
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Reprinted by permission of Andre Gunder Frank (Róbinson Rojas)

Urban Location and Dissipation of Entropy

A Research and Didactic Statement by Andre Gunder Frank

Globalization is age old and has long been constructed through an ever changing network, especially within and among cities, which constitute the nodal knots in regional, inter-regional, and global networks of communication and other relations. The whole system of networks is greater than the sum of its urban, hinterland, and inter-urban parts, which are shaped and re-shaped by the structure and dynamic of the global system as a whole, to whose transformation the changing parts themselves also contribute. For instance, a change in global or regional trade routes can promote one or more cities at the expense of marginalizing other cities and exert direct effects on imperial or other political relations among these cities or between them and their respective hinterlands. Periods of global or regional economic, technological, demographic, military, political, cultural and other expansion offer opportunities for policy making success [lifting many if not all boats]; while successive periods of contraction or crisis impose serious limits to policy makers [many of whose boats and plans go down in the turmoil]. However, the same crisis in leading cities, economies, empires, etc. also offer some but never all intermediate economies and polities within the global network or its regional parts to improve their place and fortune within the whole. Much of the riches and other benefits of a city, region, and sector is derived less from its alleged internal, let alone pristine capacities and strengths than they are from gaining and maintaining a favored position or location, location, location within the whole from which the socio-political economic unit [including even an individual or family] can derive benefits at the expense of those who are or are pushed into a position of disadvantage. This structure and function has been in place but evolving and self-transforming throughout Afro-Eurasia over several thousand years and globally for the past five hundred years.

At the same time, the growth of those in positions of advantage generates entropy or disorder, which compromises the continuance of such growth - unless that entropy can be and is dissipated or exported to cities, hinterlands, or other regions who are obliged to absorb this entropy and generate disorder due to their unfavorable position in the system as a whole. For instance, no large city could survive nor maintain mutually beneficial relations with others like it except for its ability to dissipate its own entropy to its immediate hinterland and/or to somewhere else half way around the globe. The economic and demographic growth in and of the industrialized cities would not have been possible without the dissipation of their entropy to other parts of the world who are obliged to absorb the ecological costs of a world development that has benefitted and continues to do so to the few at the expense of the many.

The most glaring and yet least noted instance is the military industrial complex against which President Eisenhower warned in his "Farewell Speech." It is not only probably the world's most polluting industry. It is also the example par excellence of entropy. Military production by industrial powers uses local and imported raw materials - and often brain drain - to produce at huge economic resource opportunity and environmental costs ''goods'' [more properly ''bads''] of no social social utility whatsoever. Most of these are then exported back to the suppliers of the original or other - oil - raw materials. They pay for them with foreign exchange derived from their export of other still more commodities or goods of low value added, which they thereby deny to their own populations. Thus, starving Africans and Asians export foodstuffs to the rich. Entropy is thereby dissipated already through the transfer of exhaustive and polluting industries from the rich to the poor. But perhaps more serious even is the dissipation of socio-political entropy from the richer who sell their military hardware and training that aids them better to afford ''democratic order'' at home to the poorer abroad who import these arms and use them to kill each other in an entropy absorbing ever more chaotic ''Third World." Even so, the arms producers keep enough of them for their own use to enforce, maintain and even further extend this exploitative and entropic world division of benefits for themselves at the enormous cost to everybody else. That is called preserving human rights, freedom, democracy, civilization and most recently also combatting terrorism.

Urban and inter-urban politics is in large measure an outcome of this global structure and process. Indeed, much of what appears as inter-Anational@ / state relations turns out on closer examination to be more inter-URBAN relations. The contemporary revival of regionalism for instance in Europe or China is importantly derived from cities and their denser regional relations, though some of these cities may also be major WORLD CITIES, like New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai that form a global network of their own,. They in turn connect minor world cities like Chicago, Toronto, Mexico, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Frankfurt/Berlin, Zurich, Cairo, Istanbul, Moscow, Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Osaka and others [and the major/minor may be subject to dispute if only because their ranking is always changing], as well as of course all other cities and their hinterlands. The changing position or location of these cities and the efforts of their policy makers to promote or delay these changes largely determines the benefits or costs that its inhabitants derive from their common participation in the global whole. And it is the analysis and understanding of the actual and potential place within the contemporary and near future cyclical moment in global development that can afford policy makers the intelligence on which to act.