Does COVID-19 Spell the End of Big Cities? Munk Debates, with guests Joel Kotkin and Richard Florida


Be it resolved, COVID-19 and its social and economic fall out spells the end of the big city boom.

Listen to the debate at Munk Debates.

About this episode

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the globe, but it’s our cities that have felt the greatest impact. Research shows that 95% of people infected with the virus live in urban areas. Supporters of big city living say people have been too quick to blame density as the culprit behind contagion. They say the pandemic offers us the chance to address the more complex issues that drive infection to build a new generation of inclusive cities where everybody want to live. Critics of big cities say the pandemic has exposed the flaws in contemporary urban planning which have emphasized the virtues of density and mass transit at the expense of safety and people’s lives. They argue that as our hyperconnected world moves into an era of ongoing pandemics, de-densification is the only way to go.

About the Guests

Joel Kotkin has recently published The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. In this book Kotkin argues that tech oligarchs are wiping out the middle class and turning some cities into luxury enclaves. During the debate Joel Kotkin also refers to his book The City: A Global History.

Richard Florida is renowned for his best-selling book The Rise of the Creative Class in which he describes the new social class of creative workers and the vital role they play in the economy and in transforming cities into vibrant places to live. In The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class-and What We Can Do About It Richard Florida looks at the dark side of the creative economy.

During the debate both Richard and Joel describe how COVID-19 has exposed racial and class divisions within cities.

About Munk Debates: Our mission is to help the world rediscover the art of public debate by convening the brightest thinkers of our time to weigh in on the big issues of the day.