The Developmental State and the Production of Urban Space: Tokaido Megalopolis, Rapid Growth, and the End of Urbanization

Authors: Andre Sorensen*, University of Toronto
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Legal Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Developmental state, urbanization, production of space, materiality, institutions, property
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Japan was the first East Asian developmental state, pioneering a distinctive variety of capitalism characterized by the prioritization of economic growth as the primary goal of state policy and investment, and by thick relations between state, big business, and banks (Johnson 1982, Woo-Cumings 1999, Haggard 2015). Japan is also the first country to have completed both its demographic transition through to national population decline, and also its urbanization process, which has plateaued at about 94% of national population. This paper examines the role of urbanization and the production of urban space and property in the transformations produced during developmental state economic growth and capital accumulation. Japanese urbanization was of an unprecedented speed and scale, and in historical perspective occurred during a relatively brief period, with a specific configuration of economic, technological, and geopolitical conditions. The Japanese case helps us to see the period of urbanization as a transition of great fluidity and dynamism compared to periods of greater stability before and after the urban transition. While urban change continues after urbanization is completed, the nature of change shifts. The Japanese case suggests that urbanization represents a sociospatial transformation in which lasting patterns are established, including urban property configurations, infrastructures, and production, housing, retail, and transportation systems (Sorensen 2018). It also suggests that urbanization is transformative of institutions: of urban governance, of property, of finance and capital flows, and the distributions of wealth and property (Sorensen 2016). Particular configurations of governance institutions, opportunities, power dynamics and spatial production are profoundly contingent.

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