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If Cities Ruled the World

A discussion between Richard Florida, Jonathan Haidt, and the late Benjamin Barber about how how “rebel cities” can resist the Trump administration and create a new form of “urban sovereignty.”
A woman protesting outside Trump Tower in New York City.
A woman protesting outside Trump Tower in New York City. Darren Ornitz/Reuters

In February, I had the privilege of hosting a conversation with my NYU colleague Jonathan Haidt and the late Benjamin Barber for the kick-off event of the NYUSPS Schack Institute of Real Estate Urban Lab. The event was called “Empowering Cities Under the New Administration,” and I got to discuss a very hot topic these days: the challenges cities face in engaging with the Trump administration.

Before getting to that conversation, I want to add a note about Ben, who passed away on Monday after a long battle with cancer. Benjamin Barber was a luminary among political theorists, one who came to see cities as the spearhead of economic, social, and political progress. In his classic 1992 essay in The Atlantic, “Jihad versus McWorld,” Ben laid out the central tension of our time—how parochial hatreds and universalizing markets threatened the ideal of democracy. That tension lies behind the rise of populism and the divide between the places left behind by globalization and the cosmopolitan global city centers that benefited from it. As he wrote,