US metropolis are selling their beings to be chosen as the companys second HQ site, write academics Jathan Sadowski and Karen Gregory

Amazon, the online retail giant, is in the midst of operating its own hunger games. The contestants are 238 metropolis and regions across Northern america. The trophy is being selected as the site for Amazon’s second headquarters( HQ2 ), which promises to employ upwards of 50,000 people. These metropolis are locked in a ferocious battle to outbid each other and they’ll do anything, dedicate anything, to be chosen.

In an era of brutal austerity, metropolis are hollowed out and hoping for a savior. Since the tech sector is flush with cash, by showing up and saying the magic words- growing, undertakings, investment, invention- metropoli presidents bend to their will. Amazon’s HQ2 competition is the last egregious instance of a techno-capitalist regime that’s bewitching cities around the world.

While simply about 30 of the proposals are publicly available so far, they paint a troubling picture of cities clamoring to sell their soul to Amazon. As the Seattle Time reports, the amount of money, perks and power that cities are ready to give away to Amazon is utterly galling. It goes lane beyond only standard subsidies and tax breaks.

New Jersey has offered$ 7bn in incentivesto Amazon if they build HQ2 in Newark. Whereas, in a proposal that is just like it should be illegal, Chicago’s bid would force employees of HQ2 to pay part of their salary back to Amazon as” income taxation “. That is, HQ2 employees would still have income tax subtracted, but instead of going to the government- to fund things like public services and infrastructure- it would be given to Amazon. This is a case where taxation is actually( wage) steal.

In a similar vein of outrageous offerings, Fresno, California, has proposed the creation of an Amazon Community Fund– innocuous name, insidious plan. For 100 years, 85% of all taxes collected from Amazon would be put into an report jointly controlled by metropoli presidents and Amazon executives. The taxes would be spent to subsistence HQ2 and Fresno promises to promote Amazon’s role as benefactor for any programme paid for by the “community fund”( AKA public dollars ).

Jennifer
‘ If merely the starvation plays brought to you by Amazon was a one-off spectacle.’ Jennifer Lawrence in the movie The Hunger Games. Photo: Allstar/ Lionsgate

It’s alarming that so many proposals are essentially treating Amazon as a monarch, whether that’s compiling taxes for the company or allowing it to control tax spending. Amazon– and by extension the 100 -billion-dollar man founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos- is likely to be crowned king of whatever city it decides to grace with the HQ2.

Writing in N +1 Magazine, Nikil Saval shows how the HQ2 competition is not just an exciting project for cities, instead it is a melancholic plea for revitalization:” All metropolis were forced to realize their basic shortcoming: that ultimately, all their tireless work to cultivate their urbanity amounted to nothing if they did not have Amazon .”

If only the starvation plays brought to you by Amazon was a one-off sight, rather than only another in a series of warning signs that we’re all on a bleak trajectory. Frankly, the future of our cities looks grim: Amazon lords over desperate metropolis, while Google owns entire urban districts, Bill Gates builds his own smart metropoli, and Uber privatizes city services.

These are not discrete events. They are manifestations of an overarching agenda: the techno-capitalist takeover of cities. While corporate promises of high-paying employment creation and investing in metropoli infrastructure tantalize legislators, the immediate effects of the agenda items will be paid by ordinary citizens through rising taxes, increased housing expenditures, and selling off public goods.

Cities represent the frontier of value extraction for tech firms, as they are full of public services to “disrupt”, government coffers to raid, and people to exploit. While American metropolis are no stranger to privatization, the admission of tech monsters into urban development portends a long-term reorganization of local power based on proprietary platforms, data harvesting, managerial control. All of which reshapes cities into profit-generating machines for techno-capitalists.

At the heart of this techno-capitalist agenda is a reimagination of what it will mean to live in the city: how the authorities concerned will access goods and services( Amazon !), how we will move about( Uber !), how we will renders dwelling( Airbnb !), how we will be governed( Google !), and how we will be recognized as citizens with rights, if at all? The rise of” smart cities” represents a grand experimentation in what it will mean to live in and through powerful, data-driven, networked systems.

This might not sound even worse, “if youre trying to” privileged enough to enjoy the modest conveniences and capabilities that smart tech offer. For many who absence that posture in society, however, this vision of the city looks like unaccessible services, unaffordable rents, unmitigated power, and undemocratic politics.

Amazon has said it will make its final decision about where to locate HQ2 in 2018. Wherever it moves, it will mold the urban scenery to feed its hunger for profit and power. That same hunger drives the techno-capitalist takeover. We cannot be so seduced by promises of prosperity and progress that we miss the pernicious agenda at work. The future of our metropolis is at bet.

  • Jathan Sadowski is a postdoctoral research fellow in smart cities at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Karen Gregory is a lecturer in digital sociology at the University of Edinburgh

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/ 2017/ dec/ 07/ amazon-hunger-games-players-losers-second-headquarters-site-us-techno-capitalist