Studies in Control Societies, Volume 3.
Issue 1, Spring 2018
It is often the case that conversations about smart cities, or the uses of information communication technologies (ICT) in city planning and functioning, have a neoliberal political ideology. This article addresses these conversations by proposing that neoliberalism may explain part, but not all of the political functions of smart cities. This article draws heavily on the work of Michel Foucault, particularly his lectures from the College de France, compiled in Security, Territory, and Population. In these texts, Foucault charts the rise of the pre-liberal police state in 17th century Europe, which provides a framework for a state formation that resonates with contemporary smart cities. Using Foucault’s definitions of police, town, and splendor, this article looks at the various manifestations of smart cities around the globe, primarily focusing on those that have been built from the ground up such as Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, and South Korea’s New Songdo. In pushing the definition of smart city as neoliberal project to its limits, the goal is to suggest that the future development of smart cities may instead look similar to the pre-liberal 17th century European police state.