In The Broken Ladder, Joel Kotkin examines the city as a crucible of modern society and a determining factor in economic prosperity. An important distinction in this study is that cities, which have always been the nuclei of societal development, now house most of the world's residents. Furthermore, this study takes a closer look at London, Mumbai, and Mexico City--the latter two as hubs of progress demonstrating that no longer are western cities the only ones at the forefront of advances. In the modern era,
"Indeed, of the world's most twenty most populous regions, the preponderance are located in third world or developing countries. The urban drama will play out on a truly global stage, with the most decisive developments taking place in the growing mega-cities of the developing world."
The cycle of cities' growth is examined and analyzed. Established cities create the resources that emerging urban centers use to grow. While it is known fact that modernization leads to urbanization, what is not known is whether or not the growth of cities is actually desirable in the long term. Emerging, poignant concerns are the issue. Do cities and their growth actually stifle the growth and sustainability of the middle class? Even more importantly, does their growth actually detain upward mobility through society?
Economic growth has slowed drastically over the past few decades due to a host of reasons. An important aspect of this debate is the school of thought that rejects the desirability of economic growth because of ecological factors. A critical debate is at the podium: as polling data from different countries demonstrates, people are not primarily concerned with "green" issues. However, as emerging economies adopt technology, the pressure to enact these costly policies mounts. This report suggests that this focus may not be the wisest course of action.
In a comparative case study, London, Mumbai, and Mexico City are all analyzed as entities with different functions and histories in the global economy. Though these cities are completely unique, their survival shares essential lynchpins.
"First, their future vitality depends largely on the future of their middle classes. Second, the critical issue for all these places remains how to sustain economic growth to meet the needs and aspirations of their citizens."
As economies continue to advance, there is an increased risk of class displacement, thus adding to the volatility of the aforementioned issues. This report suggests that, due to these factors, cities must regain a primary focus on their economies as opposed to the elite focus on "green" policies.
These topics and more are tackled in this comprehensive, must-read report by Joel Kotkin for the Legatum Institute.