There is an ongoing trend, fueled by the rise of world corporatism, to create new autonomous citystates. This is the latest outgrowth of neo-colonialism-cum-freemarketeering. When you study the ongoing Shock Doctrine, you seem a series of state engineered raids, but the undercurrent, easier to pull off but harder to detect story is the same thing with cities. Corporations like to create “outposts” for themselves, where they can go and exploit cheap labor markets in weak democracies with soft laws and thus rake in the profits while avoiding any taxes, environmental cleanups, or other social, labor, and legal responsibilities. Traditionally these were places like Hong Kong and Singapore, but today they are emerging in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, and South America. Basically, anywhere vulnerable to exploitation.
“Medieval King of the World, Ma!” the Freebooter yells from the crown of Dubai Towers.
Dubai is now an emerging super-citystate because of it’s standing as a capitalist oil fortress with its own mercenary armies. It is no accident that piracy is on the rise and rings these strongholds in regions like the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. We’re moving rapidly from an age of freemarketeering to freebooting. It is because of the rise of corporate power without any form of restraint or control or accountability. Their version of historical justification is that rampant British and Spanish piracy led to unparalleled golden ages for those nations. The flip side is that Africa, Asia, and especially the Americas were decimated by this exploitation and took centuries to recover (if they actually have).
Read “Hong Kong in Honduras” for a current example of a neo-citystate being erected.
Not that citystates are all bad and cannot produce anything worthy. They can. Athens gave us philosophy and democracy, albeit it took two thousand years and another continent and culture’s interpretation of it to actually fully gel. Nevertheless, there can be amazing financial, artistic, and cultural benefits. However, using the Greek analogy again, sometimes citystates are counterproductive on a macroscale and inhibit unity and the collective benefits of national strength. Greece still suffers from a lack of cohension and is weaker than virtually all its neighboring states, but most especially its intellectual children, such as the Russia and the Western European children, France and Britain to the United States. Too often citystates are selfish and all about competition without any of the shared values, strengths, or benefits of unity. They tend towards a greediness that is almost piratical and takes away from its region rather than strengthens it. Think for example of the Dubai’s contribution to the Middle East versus New York’s or Chicago’s or San Francisco’s contribution to North America. One is repressive, extractive, and isolationist piracy against a contributive benefaction.
Oh well. We will have to see how the new age of citystates evolves. I hope it doesn’t usher in an era of economic citystates which are established for the sole benefit of extra- and international corporations rather than for the peoples of the regions in which they are built and from which they will extract resources.
I guess at the least we can look forward to a new age of adventure. Here is the 1977 Boris Vallejo cover to Conan the Freebooter. Long live the selfish barbarian!