The industrial era was driven by the assumption that our resources are limitless. The production of goods also means the production of markets, then the production of consumers. In the hyper-capitalist model, national growth is often associated the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) or quantity of consumption. At the level of the urban environment, growth is often associated with real estate developments, new malls, retail centers, Olympic parks, cultural institutions and international expositions. Logan and Molotch describe this contemporary view as the view of the city as a “growth machine”. The meaning of growth is, however, much denser and more complex than is outlined by contemporary media or society. Within the context of a globalized and capitalist economy, there has been a misunderstood propaganda of symbolic growth. Symbolic growth is characterized by manifestations such as large government expenditures on physical infrastructures, urban revitalization, tabula rasa developments and increase in entertainment or retail spaces. In the increasingly fast-paced economy, Fanstein laments, “economic composition of places seems to have become less and less permanent”, more transient. As a result, cities struggle to respond and often result with a negative compromise of neoliberal policies.
The notion of transient urbanism is an aggregate of hyper-capitalism, globalized economy that is mobilized through neoliberal campaigns in American cities. Capital and political investments are often directed towards pure economic growth or symbolic growth rather than real growth. This results in often short-term solutions or responses to urban problems that lacks foresight. The conditions of contemporary neoliberal cities are also “transient” in a way that they are often structurally vulnerable to global economic shifts. These transient factors – ideology, culture and economic models – accelerate or move faster than physical infrastructures, population, demographic compositions and often times political will. As a result, cities suffer from negative consequences such as uneven development, unsustainable shrinking cities, political decentralization, economic injustice and displacement of the urban poor.
Fainstein calls for a “new strategy for growth” so as to counter declining urban conditions. This new “strategy” should fall short of a “One Size Fits All” model but more of a dynamic process that emphasize resilience over transient forms. The definition of resilience in cities is foresightedness and the ability of systems to persist, adapt and change to external forces. In the resilience model, authorities, regimes or institutions act as the immune system of the urban environment. They act to diagnose persistent problems or new problems that is created by the polarized global economy. When institutions take a neoliberal stance or a conceited dedication to pure economic growth, the city becomes vulnerable to the virulent attacks of the volatile global economy. As Fainstein suggests, cities need to “escape from total determination by outside forces” and find “a formula that will limit capitalist hegemony within both the workplace and the community”. The argument towards resilience can be made through a discursive approach as well as looking at current progressive movements and direct actions being applied.