Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Renew Orleans? Globalized Development and Worker Resistance after Katrina

Aaron Schneider

University of Minnesota Press



Renew Orleans interrogates the political economy of urban development in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Aaron Schneider argues that the hurricane provided an opportunity for globally oriented elites to capture critical political offices and public institutions previously held by African Americans who represented the interests of the poor majority African American population. Through their control over political office and public institutions, these emerging elites restructured the economy according to a dual development model focused on construction, tourism and services. They did this by implementing policies that encourage dynamism in certain sectors while deregulating others, and segmenting labour markets according to race, gender and ethnicity. These policies have unleashed growth in a few increasingly globally integrated sectors while systematically worsening poverty and inequality for the majority of New Orleans’ population. However, despite the tragic portrayal of highly exclusionary and exploitative development in New Orleans post-Katrina, Schneider adopts a hopeful perspective by focusing on the episodes of resistance across workplaces and communities that offer alternative visions of development for the city (Chapters 5, 6 and 7).

Although the experience of development in New Orleans was brought to the fore by the exposure brought on by Hurricane Katrina, it is relevant to many other cities where globally oriented dual development has accelerated accumulation for some and exacerbated poverty for many. The case of New Orleans illuminates the centrality of class struggle in debates over development strategy. One of the book’s most interesting takeaways is how lower-class formation and joined-up struggles against poverty and discrimination emerge in the very sectors that the elites discard and in the interstices of the sectors they dominate. The book argues that these struggles have the most potential when they are able to bridge workplaces and communities. For in this manner, they can target the social relations that reproduce poverty: expanded reproduction, accumulation by dispossession and social reproduction.

The book adopts a comparative methodology both across time – comparing development before and after Katrina – and across sectors – comparing construction, tourism and services, and manufacturing. It adopts a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative data and analysis with case studies. Together these offer both a macro perspective on dual development and a micro perspective on poverty and class struggle occurring within each sector. To frame the project’s study on livelihoods of workers in New Orleans, the book adopts a nuanced approach to poverty as absolute, multidimensional and probabilistic, while also paying close attention to intersectionality and social exclusion.


Book note prepared by Kate Goh

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