Smart City as a Discursive Strategy under Overaccumulation in Built Environment: A Marxist Interpretation Based on a Case Study of Songdo International Business District, South Korea

Authors: Jung Won Sonn*, University College London, JEONG WHA HUH*, Seoul National University
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography, Asia
Keywords: Smart city, Songdo International Business District, South Korea, Marxist cultural political economy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Using Songdo, which some call “the world’s first smart city,” this paper offers a Marxist interpretation of the smart city. Our interviews show that greenfield smart city development like Songdo is difficult for two reasons. Firstly, adding IT service at the stage of new development increases the associated cost. Secondly, even if the cost problem is overcome, because of the slow speed of built environment production, installation of any IT infrastructure has to be based on a prediction of future technology, which is extremely risky. Despite these difficulties, why do we see so much buzz around that concept? IT firms’ intentions are clear, but the real question is, why the developers and the states produce similar discourses?

We claim that the flurry of smart city represents discursive strategies of real estate capital. When world-class commercial spaces are oversupplied, the survival of the capital depends upon achieving superprofit, not the normal profit that Neil Smith and David Harvey assumed in their theories. The problem in the pursuit of superprofit in built environment is that, unlike other productive goods such as machinery, the producer should prove the quality of the product before it is produced. To make things worse, a large part of the quality of built environment is related to the agglomeration economy, which is not a direct outcome of the physical quality but rather of the interactions among the users. For this reason, it is critical for the real estate capital to deploy seductive discourse, such as a smart city.

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