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Reading recommendations #2: How to Build a City Like Amazon, and Other Fables

When talking about neoliberalism, it is fundamental to acknowledge its permeability through our society – that is, to recognize that it brings the logic of the market to any field we don’t commonly identify with the private market, urbanistics included.  How to run a city like Amazon, and other fables, edited by Mark Graham, Rob Kitchin, Shannon Mattern and Joe Shaw (Meatspace Press, 2019), represents an interesting reading that helps us consider how technology and big tech companies could develop as urbanistic patterns and influence – through their neoliberal practices – the evolution of our societies.

With 44 contributing authors and 38 chapters, the book playfully combines speculative fiction and analysis of 38 different business models, mainly from the field of platform capitalism (such as Amazon, Apple, Tinder, Deliveroo, Instagram, and others), exploring how a city might look, feel and function if they were applied to the running of cities. This publication leads us to reflect on the apparently neutral concept of “smart city” and to ask ourselves if these models really reflect the kind of city we want to live in: through this exercise of imagination and reflection, the reader is pushed to reconsider the consequences of the application of market ethics on the daily life, as well as to envision alternative urbanistic futures more in line with our necessities and beliefs.