With the emerging emphasis on the city’s role as part of the global economy came a realization that urban issues were now more complicated than before.
Many experts found that it was no longer enough to focus on population growth, rural-urban migration, jobs, and housing. Rather, it was considered necessary to examine the economic foundations of the urban environment in the context of the on-going internationalization of the metropolis.
By the end of the first half of the Cold War period, many government officials and analysts were observing a breakdown of the older social and economic foundation of society. In the context of globalization, this breakdown is now referred to as fragmentation.
The argument was that increased population mobility was associated with an erosion of primary attachments, contributing to social disorganization, disorientation, insecurity, and anomie — all linked to the contradictions inherent in capitalist societies. Socialist cities were largely ignored since issues such as population growth and regional imbalance were displaced by a new emphasis on cities as sites for the reproduction of labor power.
There was continued anxiety regarding the inability to incorporate marginal individuals such as migrants into the fabric of the urban environment, particularly so far as jobs were concerned. The informal sector was no longer seen as a temporary alternative to regulated, wage-earning employment but as a permanent fixture of urban life encompassing over one-half of the economically active urban population.
Along with a continued concentration on the expanding informal sector, the discourse surrounding Third World urbanization began to focus on other matters of emerging concern:
- the globalization of manufacturing
- international debt and processes of restructuring
- the impact of privatization on the urban arena.
These worries became particularly acute by the mid-1970s when
a series of bread riots and political risings swept across continents with little regard for geopolitical divisions or domestic conventions of political expression. In one country after another workers, civil servants, students, shopkeepers, and the urban poor took to the streets, fundamentally because their governments were in trouble, in debt to international agencies and syndicates of western banks, looking for solutions that would mollify creditors and compelled to adopt a desperate orthodoxy of economic austerity.