this is also connected to why i can’t stand when people act like new york is exclusively for people In It To Win It, At The Top, Aiming Big, etc.
because huge parts of what makes the city so attractive to those kinds of people rests on the labor of people not in that category. your organic grocery store is staffed by low-wage cashiers. the city that never sleeps can stay up 24/7 thanks to nocturnal bodega owners and overnight transit workers. those who decide to raise children here and don’t opt for private school — or hell, even those who do — can thank those in the distinctly unglamorous profession of teaching, yes, but also those doing the even more deeply unglamorous work of cooking school lunches and cleaning kids’ bathrooms after hours for, like, educating their children while they Live The Dream.
i just don’t understand the level of myopia it takes to be like “new york is only for people like me and my friends, everyone else should leave” and also be a human who does literally anything ever in new york. how do you take a cab and continue to believe the person driving it is Not Meant For New York? jackass.
I totally agree. a really good and accessible book I read on this topic recently is Doreen Massey’s World City, which concentrates on London but also looks more broadly at the current state of the global city. the wealthy anywhere require a large underclass to maintain their lifestyle, obviously. but also, Massey talks about the increased centralisation of wealth and power in the city. in a global neoliberal economy, the concentration of economic command and control is in global cities. so the super-rich choose to live in cities now rather than suburbs or country estates. globalisation also means centralisation, it means that specific locations in many countries become nodes of economic and information flow and therefore power. and cities are where all the jobs are, not just all the high finance, not just the cab driving and small retail, but all the call centres, all the secretarial jobs, that lower-class white-collar stuff. the city is where you have to be if you’re a poor or working-class person, regional manufacturing plants are dying, local subsistence agriculture is dying. but they’re also really expensive places to live in so you’re spending all your money on rent and you’re broke as fuck. this is often framed as a Western phenomenon but it’s true to a large extent in other countries as well.
my point is, there is a large body of scholarly work on the Glamorous Global City (London, New York, Tokyo) and the consensus seems to be exactly this: they are cities that by their nature are marked by extremes of wealth and poverty, both because of deepening inequality in society at large and because of the way such cities are. this is not new stuff, this is not stuff that has yet to seep through from popular consciousness into the academy (which is the direction I think this kind of thing mostly flows in). this is obvious and known and inherent to cities like New York.