Category Archives: Urban Studies

Urban Studies

Urban Studies offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs that examine the problems of city dwellers in poor, immigrant, and working-class communities and efforts to address those problems through policy innovations derived from sound research and sharpened through democratic participation. Learn more here.

Taking Back the Wheel: On Labor’s Future

How do we understand the future of labor? Will it be one of total automation and increasingly precarious workers? Perhaps if Uber has anything to say about it. SLU’s Kafui Attoh has co-authored an article with Declan Cullen and Kathryn Wells in Dissent that tackles some of these thorny questions called “Taking Back the Wheel.” Here’s an excerpt:

Uber argues that its biggest boon to “driver partners” is to present them with independence, flexibility, and more-than-competitive compensation. In this argument the on-demand economy ushers in a bright new future and an ostensibly new labor category: the flexible worker. In a twist on Marx’s utopian dream, such a worker can, Frank Pasquale pithily comments, “knit Etsy scarves in the morning, drive Uber cars in the afternoon, and write Facebook comments at night, flexibly shifting between jobs and leisure at will.”

Of course, the neoliberal utopia of a sharing economy operated by highly contingent workers has been shaken by a multitude of analyses telling a markedly different story. These studies, including ours, emphasize precaritysurveillancecontrollow earnings, and insecure conditions. If the Uber model is the future of work, they tell us, that future looks bleak.

Behind all these debates lurks a deeper premise: that the future of work is actually no work at all. 

But according to Attoh and his co-authors, that future isn’t inevitable:

We should resist this logic of inevitability and see platform capitalism for what it is: a means to mobilize a reserve labor army, overcome barriers to accumulation, and fight declining rates of profit. We are not yet on the road to Uberworld. There’s still time for us to wrest back control, not just of the future, but also of the present.

How might we do that? Read the article here for an accounting of the stakes and possibilities — and learn why Uber is less in control of the future than we might be made to think.

Photo by Maurizio Pesce via flickr (CC-BY)

Congratulations to Spring 2018 Graduates!

On May 30th, the Murphy Institute hosted our spring graduation party.

The event was emcee’d by Diana Robinson, who graduated with an MA in Labor Studies, and Racquel Barnes, who graduated with an MA in Urban Studies. Thanks also to MA in Labor Studies graduate, and new father, James Van Nort for his stirring speech.

Some photos from the event are below.  A big congratulations to our graduating class of 2018!

Photos by Aaron Lenchner

And congrats to our graduates who attended the CUNY School of Professional Studies commencement ceremony at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on Friday June 1st. Some photos of our grads are among those posted on the SPS Facebook page.

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 11th, 2018

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

In this newsletter, we turn our attention to the suburbs. And for good reason, since that’s where slightly over half of U.S. residents currently live. You may have noticed that today’s suburban dwellers increasingly don’t conform to the mythic image of the suburbanite. By 2013, 61 percent of all immigrants to the U.S. lived in the suburbs, and that percentage continues to increase. And, rather than the prized destination of prolonged efforts to escape urban ghettos, many of these suburbs are where immigrants settle upon arrival. Partly as a result of these trends, the last census showed suburban poverty to have grown at more than twice the rate of urban poverty.

In the current issue of New Labor Forum, Phil Neel describes this new suburban landscape: where once there were only bedrooms and commuter trains, now there are factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and sometimes blasted waste-lands lacking many of the essential services, like child care and public transportation, more common to cities.  He argues that one need look no further than Ferguson, Missouri for evidence that conditions now prevalent in suburbs will contain new challenges, as well as new possibilities, to spur movements for social and economic justice. For all of these reasons, anyone interested in the nation’s social and political future would do well to study suburbia. Toward that end, we also offer a recent report on the challenges of suburban poverty by Margaret Weir, as well as a review of Lorrie Frasure-Yokely’s Racial and Ethnic Politics in American Suburbs, the 2016 winner of two national book awards.

Table of Contents

  1. The New Geography of Suburbia/ Phil A. Neel, New Labor Forum
  2. The Rising Challenge of Poverty in the Suburbs/ Margaret Weir, Scholars Strategy Network
  3. The Changing Face of the U.S. Suburbs/ Josh Fox, Harris Public Policy- The University of Chicago

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Uber, the “Metropocalypse,” and Economic Inequality in D.C.

This post originally appeared at Working-Class Perspectives.

By Katie Wells, Kafui Attoh, and Declan Cullen

Public transit infrastructure in Washington, D.C. is crumbling. Metro and bus services have been cut. Fares have gone up. And, safety remains a problem. After 40 years of deferred maintenance, poor management, and the lack of decent, long-term funding, the Metro system needs $1.4 billion worth of repairs, and it must close a $290 million budget gap just to continue basic operations. Some call this the “metropocalypse.”

Private taxi services haven’t been much better. It’s often hard to get a cab, especially for people of color or people who live outside of the wealthy, White areas of the city. Racial prejudice among the mostly immigrant taxi drivers means that Black residents are regularly refused service.

In light of these transit problems, Uber might seem like an obvious win for D.C. Ridesharing services are cheap for riders, require no significant public investment, and limit some of the discrimination that has made getting a taxi so difficult for so many people. Our research shows otherwise. Indeed, Uber could undermine the very thing city officials are working hard to address: economic inequality. Continue reading Uber, the “Metropocalypse,” and Economic Inequality in D.C.

Urban Studies Capstone Presentations (12/12)

Tues, Dec. 12th, @ 6:15pm
Murphy Institute
25 W. 43rd St., 18A, New York, NY

Please join us for our Urban Studies Capstone Presentations this Tuesday!

URB 699.02 Capstone with Prof. Elizabeth Eisenberg

  • The Sub-Saharan African Social Support Lacuna: Findings and Future Considerations, Immanuel Boateng
  • Why Are Candidates Failing to Complete Processing at The Human Resources Administration?, Sherell Nathaniel
  • Are Academic Outcomes of Marginalized Students in NYC Public High Schools Improving Through Online Learning?, Dyckman Quade Welcome
  • Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice: How Do Communities Successfully Organize to Raise Awareness and Mitigate the Impact of Environmental Racism?, Shannon D. Motley
  • Extended Family Prison Visitation Programs: Are they Worth Saving?, Amanda Belgrave
  • The Education Gestalt: Why Understanding the Question is Critical in the College Selection Process, David T. Boyd, MFA
  • A Walk Through Mental Health Services at Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center: Criminals or Mentally Ill Youth?, Kim Taylor

Photo by Jim Pennucci via flickr (CC-BY)