New Cities, Old Scams

Business is booming for architects and property investors, with masterplans being unveiled for dozens of new cities around the world. The hi-tech promise of NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s proposed new desert metropolis, is only the most discussed of these visions – others are being drawn up in Indonesia, China, Uganda and Senegal.

What sets these new cities apart from the skyscrapers and sprawling settlements that defined the 20th century? Quite a lot, as Richard Hames finds out with Canadian historian Quinn Slobodian. The author of Crack-Up Capitalism puts on his They Live sunglasses to explore the history of special economic zones, Dubai’s “legal bubble domes”, and the appeal of these new cities to a global libertarian elite.

Along the way they discuss the politics of ‘charter city’ economist Paul Romer and Zaha Hadid architect Patrick Schumacher, and question how many of these flashy masterplans will ever actually be built.

Crack-Up Capitalism is available from Penguin.

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