Police, Splendor, and the Smart City

Kyle Kubler

Kyle is a graduate student at the University of Washington in the department of Communication.


Smart cities, or smart urbanism, is a term used across multiple disciplines, and is well known within architecture, public policy, and science, technology, and society (STS) studies. In many fields, smart cities and smart urbanism are seen as products of neoliberal governmentality (Gharib et al., 2016; Vanolo, 2014; Hollands, 2008; Greenfield, 2013). Kitchin et al. (2015) define smart urbanism as the use of ICT’s to complete “neoliberal visions and market-led solutions to city governance and development” (16). This paper aims to question the usefulness of neoliberalism as a guiding theoretical concept for smart cities and proposes Foucault’s concepts of 17th century police and splendor as alternatives. Previous scholarship has questioned the relationship between neoliberalism and smart cities, by critiquing the gap between how smart city technologies operate in theory and practice (Vanolo 2014; Shelton et al. 2015). This paper focuses more on the theoretical principles behind smart cities and the modes of governing they strive to enact.

Neoliberalism is subject to much academic debate and discussion, and this paper does not intend to add to its conceptual development. Recognizing that neoliberalism is a contested term, it is used in this paper to refer to “a theory of political economic practices proposing that human well-being can best be advanced by the maximization of entrepreneurial framework characterized by private property rights, individual liberty, unencumbered markets, and free trade” (Harvey 2007, 22). Considering this definition, this paper situates the smart city historically so that the attribution of the neoliberal moniker can be adequately investigated. Under what conditions does the smart city partially or fully carry out the neoliberal project? Further, what about smart cities is hidden when applying the term neoliberalism, which could be revealed through Foucault’s concepts of 17th police and splendor? The pre-liberal form of police is not entirely equivalent to the modern form of armed guards that enforce the law. For Foucault, the police are not only an employment category for individuals, but also, “the set of techniques that ensure that living, doing better than just living, coexisting, and communicating can in fact be converted into forces of the state” (Foucault 2009, 421). Splendor, in turn, “is both the visible beauty of the order and the brilliant, radiating manifestation of a force. Police therefore is in actual fact the art of the state’s splendor as visible order and manifest force” (409). This paper argues that neoliberalism is not a sufficient economic and political theory for the burgeoning future of smart cities. Pre-liberal concepts of police and splendor help shed light on features of centralized control and city autonomy present in certain smart cities that a neoliberal framework cannot adequately account for.

Sadowski and Pasquale argue that the smart city is “about infrastructural and civic applications – the kind of things that constitute the techno-political ordering of society – and it is about the data and control those applications generate” (2015). The combination of infrastructure and civic application usually operates by technology companies marketing their data capture or analysis software to city governments as a way to improve the functioning of the city. Regardless of the aims of these projects, which can range from reducing emissions, preventing crime, or shoring up government deficits, the process is generally the same. In order to effectively change or manage some aspect of the city, it has to be made known through the detailed capture and analysis of data. These data are foundational in predicting trends and organizing behavior of city inhabitants.

In Security, Territory, and Population, Foucault turns to the subject of the town to investigate modes of governmentality that existed prior to the modern liberal nation-state. In the 17th century the police were the organizing logic of the town (Foucault 2009, 438). Towns were more insular and self-sufficient than the cities we know today, with the police functioning to maximize the splendor, or order and force, of the town. Police not only prevented people from doing things, but also ensured that people did do certain splendorous activities such as commerce, the orderly use of roads, and communication through public assembly (438). Toward the mid to late 18th century, as markets expanded, economists began to replace police, and the splendor of the state became the job of the economy (445). This relegated the police to the enforcement of negative rights, or the prevention of illegal activities, that they are best known for today. It is in the orientation and integration of the town as an independent unit of splendor production that smart cities share a similarity with Foucault’s analysis of pre-liberal European governmentality.

Neoliberalism and Smart Cities

It is important to note that the majority of cities are not smart. They are getting smarter, as efforts to implement smart city technologies within existing cities continue to grow, but effective implementation is not without its challenges (Shelton et al. 2015). There are exceptions to this rule however, such as Abu Dahbi’s Masdar City and South Korea’s New Songdo, which are some of the first truly smart cities, built from the ground up. Typical smart city technologies include sensors embedded in the built environment to track data on weather and traffic, as well as social media platforms, and mobile phone-based applications (Shelton et al. 2015). Sadowski and Pasquale offer a typology of three different smart cities that will help place Masdar City and New Songdo within their urban cohort. There are the retrofitted and renovated smart cities where existing cities are infused with smart technologies. Smart shock cities are those that get a quick surge of funding to partially develop one neighborhood or aspect of the city. Lastly, there are the idealistic models that are built from scratch like Masdar City and New Songdo (Sadowski & Pasquale 2015). While few existing examples fit these categories perfectly, this typology provides a scale for the different shades of political ideology embedded in each category.

The first and most popular option of retrofitting and renovation plays the role of traditional market liberalism. Goods and services are sold by technology companies to cities in a way that will ideally be profitable for both parties. While the underlying logic of control that these technologies provide does not go away, it is easier for these market interactions to simply seem like sound financial decisions on behalf of city governments. Shelton et al. (2015) refer to these cities, such as Louisville and Philadelphia, as actually existing smart cities which in many cases don’t live up to their expectations of harmonious urban life orchestrated by automated and reactive technologies (Filion et al. 2016; Meijer & Bolívar 2016). In the case of Louisville, local government tried to address property vacancies in low-income neighborhoods by releasing data sets on housing to the public. After their release, community organizations contested the accuracy of these datasets, and their inability to contextualize the geography of those vacancies. For Philadelphia, the city partnered with IBM to develop a smart phone application that would provide job training in advanced manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to low-income residents. However, employment in these industries was located so far away from the low-income neighborhoods targeted by the mobile application that it did not result in any increases in employment (Shelton et al. 2015).

The next category of smart shock cities can be appropriately mapped onto neoliberalism. This use of the word shock by Sadowski and Pasquale makes reference to neoliberalism’s birth in the 1970s and the economic shock therapy carried out on much of the developing world through structural adjustment programs administered by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). In this example, ideology becomes a bit clearer in that there is a normative image of what the city should look like, or how it should operate, that is being quickly forced into existence. One of the examples used by Sadowski and Pasquale for cities that have undergone this smart shock is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, a country that is no stranger to IMF-led debt restructuring (English et al. 2006). Finally, the idealistic models demonstrate the purest forms of ideology out of the three categories and reflect the least amount of political or economic constraints in its realization. The question then becomes, is this ideology one of neoliberalism, or something else?

At first glance, there are certain characteristics of these idealistic smart cities that are clearly neoliberal, such as the fact that Masdar City is an Economic Free Zone, making it unaccountable to normal customs regulations and offering incentives such as no restrictions on capital movements or profits (Gharib et al. 2016). In this regard, the part of the definition of neoliberalism that focuses on private entities replacing governing public institutions holds true. However, there is a certain level of control, specification, and detail apparent in these idealistic smart cities that doesn’t seem to fit with the emphasis on the free market usually found in neoliberal discourse. Both Masdar City and New Songdo have architectural qualities that some consider hyper-specific and full of “overweening scientism and ponderous authoritarian pomposity” (Greenfield 2013, quoted in Sadowski & Pasquale 2015). While idealistic smart cities clearly favor private, corporate control over that of the state, the control and surveillance enacted upon inhabitants of these cities requires a different conception of deregulation than is commonly used in discussion about markets and governments. These environments may be deregulated in that there is less state control, but the regulations on movement, action, and life have arguably increased.

Why smart cities now? This is not the first time urban space has been revitalized, so why this time is it suddenly smart? The last time cities were faced with a crisis, to which smart cities are the current solution, was in the 1980s. In the wake of suburban white flight, deteriorating urban tax bases, and the 1973 economic crises, cities were called upon to abandon their post-war managerial attitudes toward governance and embrace entrepreneurialism (Harvey 1989). As David Harvey notes, “the rise of urban entrepreneurialism may have had an important role to play in a general transition in the dynamics of capitalism from a Fordist-Keynesian regime of capital accumulation to a regime of ‘flexible accumulation’” (1989, 5). It is in the wake of economic crisis that the city once again became a point of interest for governing. Smart cities can be placed within this history of decay and revitalization if they are seen as a product of the 2008 housing bubble and financial crash. The massive overinvestment in the housing market, along with a failed attempt to disperse mortgage risk across the global economy via credit default swaps, first led to the expansion of the suburbs and then their subsequent abandonment after the bubble burst. The current cycle of smart urban renewal can then be seen as a response to this global market failure, again a period of looking inward, collecting all the details–what Foucault might call a period of police.

In order to further map Harvey’s understanding of managerialism and entrepreneurialism onto Foucault’s periodization of police and economists, it is worth looking at the concept of territory used by both scholars. For Foucault, territory is a demarcated physical space governed by a sovereign, of which the town is an example. The role of the 17th century police was to ensure the circulation of working people within the town (Foucault 2009, 418). Harvey uses territory as “the kinds of economic projects (housing, education, etc.) that are designed primarily to improve conditions of living or working within a particular jurisdiction” (Harvey 1989, 7). While territory is attributed to the managerial governmentality of the post-war period, Harvey sees entrepreneurialism as replacing territory with the building of place. “The construction of place (a new civic center, an industrial park) or the enhancement of conditions within a place[…]can have impacts either smaller or greater than the specific territory within which such projects happen to be located” (7). The enhancement of conditions that place embodies applies well to how most smart technologies are implemented in cities today. Part of the market logic of Harvey’s entrepreneurialism, and neoliberalism in general, is about the de-territorializing of space. The opening of countries to global trade, governments to foreign investment, and public utilities to market competition all emphasize place while uprooting territory. Idealistic smart cities like Masdar City and New Songdo challenge de-territorialization within the broader project of neoliberalism by prioritizing the internal circulation of people and goods within the walls of the town.

This turn inward is in line with literature on urban resilience as a dispositif of governance oriented toward developing cities that can survive environmental, economic, and political crises (Wakefield and Braun 2014). Some scholars suggest that neoliberalism has shifted the responsibility of resilience from the state to citizens and private companies (Chandler & Coaffee 2016). In these instances, previous responsibilities of federal and state level government are transferred to the city level, which suggests a re-territorializtion in line with Foucault’s concept of the town. This can result in urban development projects that attempt to profit by focusing security and surveillance projects inward toward the city and its inhabitants (Coaffee & Wood 2006). Smart city projects, whether idealistic or renovated, can serve the role of resilient urban development project by providing cities with a host of reactive and predictive technologies to safeguard against a future of unpredictable attacks. Rather than the rings of steel that characterized past urban security projects, smart cities offer a web of code (Coaffee & Wood 2006).

From Police to Economy

Beginning in the 17th century, Foucault identifies the word “police” as taking on a different meaning than its modern usage. Instead of the negative rights, meaning the enforcement of laws that inhibit action, this earlier use of the term police was a positive one that involved ensuring and expanding the splendor [1] of the state (Foucault 2009, 409). Foucault identifies four relations to the state that define this usage of police: the relation of European equilibrium, population conditioning, statistics, and commerce. Population conditioning and statistics are the most important for applying the 17th century definition of the police to modern smart cities.

For population conditioning, the goal of the police is to orient the population toward the full enactment of the state’s splendor. This is primarily achieved through the coordination of state subjects’ activity. “[The police] will have to provide itself with whatever is necessary and sufficient for effectively integrating men’s activity into the state, into its forces, and into the development of these forces, and it will have to ensure that the state, in turn, can stimulate, determine, and orientate this activity in such a way that it is in fact useful to the state,” (417). Here the police are concerned with making the state function, operating as the necessary counterpart to theories of population. Considering population in this light draws on other aspects of Foucault’s work that traces a shift in bodily discipline to population control, both systems that rely on the police to carry out desired state functions. The goal of population as a state enterprise is to orient and shift the entirety of a state’s subjects, together as a unit, in one way or the other. In order to carry out this project, the police become the necessary apparatus, or technology, that can take multiple individuals, and move them in this or that way, as a unit. The vision of population is a mass individuation carried out by the police.

The role the police play in statistics is similar to that of population conditioning but is uniquely concerned with creating necessary conditions for statistics to arise. The ability to think of, or as a population, requires statistical knowledge of a state’s subjects, which according to the 17th century definition, is the role of the police.

How can one establish statistics? It can be established precisely by police, for police itself, as the art of developing forces, presupposes that each state exactly identifies its possibilities, its virtualities. Police makes statistics necessary, but police also makes statistics possible. For it is precisely the whole set of procedures set up to increase, combine, and develop forces, it is this whole administrative assemblage that makes it possible to identify what each state’s forces comprise and their possibilities of development. Police and statistics mutually condition each other, and statistics is a common instrument between police and the European equilibrium. Statistics is the state’s knowledge of the state, understood as the state’s knowledge both of itself and also of other states. As such, statistics is the hinge of the two technological assemblages. (Foucault 2009, 411)

At the same time that a state theory of police requires statistics as a tool for normalization, the police allow for statistical knowledge to be acquired. In this respect, one of the original roles of the police is data collection. Catherine the II puts this similarly in her Instructions when she says, “Police is primarily concerned with details” (as cited in Foucault 2009, 441). This relationship between police and the state, the ability to tell the state about itself, is primarily a relation of communication. This is not communication as rooted in the collective decision-making of citizens about how the state should function, but communication as population conditioning and statistics, through the employment of the police.

These details are important to police because without them, it would be impossible to organize activity toward the production of state splendor. Splendor as both visible order and force can be seen when comparing the layout of New Songdo, South Korea and Richelieu, France. Foucault uses Richelieu as an example of a town built from scratch that fully resembles the ideology of the 17th century French town, focused on bodily circulation and discipline (Foucault 2009). Using the form of a Roman military camp, Richelieu was built as a walled city divided and sub-divided by various squares and triangles. About Richelieu, Foucault writes that, “disciplinary treatment of multiplicities in space, that is to say, [the] constitution of empty, closed space within which artificial multiplicities are to be constructed and organized according to the triple principle of hierarchy, precise communication of relations of power, and function effects specific to this distribution” (32). These relations of power and communication can be seen reflected in the layout of New Songdo in South Korea.

Both cities take on the rectangular shape that have clearly defined borders, as well as two squares or parks on each side of the layout. Instead of Richelieu’s church as a guiding landmark, New Songdo has the First World Towers, a multi-tower superblock that houses nearly 2,700 residents. While New Songdo doesn’t have physical walls to keep out invaders, its gridded layout puts a premium on circulation, transportation, and order (Strickland 2011). Masdar City, on the other hand, does have walls that enclose the city similar to Richelieu, but instead of keeping out invaders, the goal is to keep out the heat, another dangerous enemy to circulation and productivity. These centrally planned grids reflect the ideal conditions under which discipline operates in the 17th century town and the idealistic smart city, however the administrators of this discipline may vary, be it police, or the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, also known as Masdar.

The question of urban territory, or what Foucault calls the question of the town, is the architectural and geographical model most similar to the idealistic smart city. This is not only in regard to urban space, but also the circulation of goods and people in those urban spaces.

When we look at the different objects thus defined as relevant to the practice, intervention, and also reflection of police, and on police, the first thing we can note is that they are all essentially what could be called urban objects[…]These are roads, squares, buildings, the market[…]In short, it concerns the whole problem of exchange, circulation, manufacture, and marketing of goods. Coexistence of men, and circulation of goods. (Foucault 2009, 437)

In fact, the earliest definition of police that Foucault mentions from the 15th century is a synonym for a town or community (408). The town is a unit that can be easily divided and contained from other towns or rural territory. While there is certainly an aspect of interconnectivity in idealistic smart cities, a bigger goal is actually intraconnectivity, breathing new life into Foucault’s definition of the town. What makes smart cities like Masdar and New Songdo different from other cities is that they offer more tools and opportunities to capture data about what happens within the city. How people move around the city, where people shop, and how much trash they produce are all tracked and accounted for. In order to effectively track all of these variables, there must be an organizing logic to bind them together. What the police did in the 17th century town is now being done by the smart technologies of Masdar and New Songdo.

Additionally, it was also the role of the police to create the possibilities to move beyond bare life, or mere survival, to a life worth living. This is the shift from zoë to bios that grounds Foucault’s conception of biopolitics, as well as Agamben’s analysis of the Homo Sacer (Agamben 1995). As stated above, the goal of police activity that focuses on living better, civilized, biopolitical life, is to increase the splendor of the state. The actions carried out by police are to orient and normalize life in a way that supports state splendor and creates bios.

Police is the set of interventions and means that ensure that living, better than just living, coexisting will be effectively useful to the constitution and development of the state’s forces. So with police there is a circle that starts from the state as a power of rational and calculated intervention on individuals and comes back to the state as a growing set of forces, or forces to be developed, passing through the life of individuals, which will now be precious to the state simply as life. (Foucault 2009, 421)

Given this 17th century definition of police, there are similarities to the modern use of information communication technologies (ICT) in their role in the smart city. The argument for the use of these technologies and practices is that predicting human behavior increases the quality of one’s life. A main goal of integrating IT infrastructure and information services in New Songdo is “to give its residents not only a more convenient lifestyle but also a more secure, environmental and humane way of life” (Shin 2009, 516). Examples of this within the smart city, or broader Internet of Things (IoT) framework, might be your refrigerator re-ordering you milk before you run out, competing against your neighbor to reduce your household energy use, or having traffic lights regulated by real-time traffic updates throughout the city. The collection of data by the deeply embedded ICT networks is both a rational and calculated state intervention that helps the lives of citizens, and a growing set of forces that gives the state an expanded ability to control the population. In this way, the acts of data capture by smart cities reflect the circle of power embodied by the pre-liberal police.

Toward the end of the 18th century, the raison d’État, characterized by the divine will of the king and enforced by the police, gave way to a new type of raison governed by economists (Foucault 2009, 445). As global markets became more interconnected, it was no longer sufficient for states to only focus on perfecting the implementation of sovereign will. The raison d’État urged by the economists was one that cautioned against potentially arbitrary regulations of sovereign powers in favor of a market oriented laissez-faire approach. The added complexity that came with increasingly interconnected markets made state-centered police intervention too focused on the town itself, and not the town’s position within a network of other towns.

Foucault’s main example of this shift appears in lecture 13 of Security, Territory, and Population, where he takes up the question of grain scarcity posed by 18th century economists such as François Quesney and Jacques Turgot. These economists cautioned against the regulatory nature of police, in favor of an approach that let the market do the regulating. When looking at the ineffectiveness of towns to regulate grain scarcity in the face of an interconnected market, Foucault summarizes the economists’ argument as such: “Regulation is not only harmful, even worse, it is pointless. So a regulation based upon and in accordance with the course of things themselves must replace a regulation by police authority” (445). It is not that the police suddenly lost their ability to regulate, but rather it was regulation itself that lost its intended effect. This shift in governmentality is the beginning of liberalism as an economic and state orientation. The police do not go away or stop regulating, but they no longer hold the same position in the liberal raison d’État.

From Splendor to Surplus

In many cases, the rise of smart cities is imagined as a continuation of a liberal project under the umbrella of neoliberalism. However, under certain conditions, a more appropriate framework for understanding the idealistic smart city can be found in Foucault’s analysis of the pre-liberal police state. This is not to disagree with authors such as Shelton et al. (2015) who argue that most actually existing smart cities are far from the theoretical or ideal model. Nor is this to assume, as Kitchin (2015) warns, that conclusions about idealistic smart cities are necessarily generalizable to all types of smart cities. Rather, the goal is to identify the ideological vision of idealistic models such as New Songdo and Masdar City, and to see how well neoliberalism as a political and economic framework actually fits. If there are, as this paper argues, commonalities between idealistic smart cities and the pre-liberal police state, the usefulness of neoliberalism as a guiding framework can be questioned.

In the same way that 17th century police were most concerned with the upkeep and proper use of roads, squares, and buildings, “[smart city] literature stresses the need for city planning and control, and the central function of the ICT systems as the city digital nervous systems that obtains data from heterogeneous sources (e.g. sewers, parking spaces, security cameras, school thermostats, traffic lights, etc.)” (Neirotti et al. 2014). Between 1697 and 1789, some of the primary goals of the French police were to guard public water fountains, prevent people from dumping their waste into streets and rivers, and ensuring streets flowed efficiently by preventing unauthorized construction and regulating vehicle traffic (Charlot 2008). This shared governmental orientation, or raison d’État, makes circulation a means to realize the splendor of the state or town. When applying neoliberal ideology to the case of smart cities there certainly is a shift of regulation away from government and toward private entities, but in reality, this does not always mean less governing. The splendor of the smart city is based on regulating, tracking, and controlling all the value-producing activities of the city, which include the citizens and the IoT networks they employ. The smart city uses data capture to commodify all forms of movement and circulation in the city. Where neoliberalism is associated with globalization, and the expansion of economic circulation on an international level, the splendor of the smart city develops an economy of intra-city economic circulation.

These idealistic smart cities can be seen as a solution to the problem of a lack of control. While many city planners see smart technologies as useful in urban redevelopment, they largely lament the obstacles and implementation issues commonly found in the retrofitted and renovated type of smart city. The need for cities to remain profitable and resilient in uncertain economic times drives the need for more control and the centralization of information. Despite their market-facing orientation, these idealistic smart cities once again embody a logic that values the internal flow and circulation of the city or town. This logic argues that by returning to the details of the city, and building a city that maximizes data capture, our city will be more profitable, successful, and resilient than other cities.

With the global economy still recovering from the last cycle of financial crises, smart cities are a beacon of hope for potential investors, with the idealistic cities in particular being visions of what maximized conditions for smart technology investment looks like. Historically, urbanization has been a way to absorb surplus capital that needs to be invested somewhere if the economy is to be kept going (Harvey 2008). As the most recent housing bubble has demonstrated, these influxes of surplus capital can be a powerful, but temporary boost to the economy (Endnotes 2013). Smart cities are the synthesis of the past two economic bubbles: the dot-com bubble of 2000, and the housing crash in 2008. The current flow of investment in the technology sector has kept the economy afloat so far, but it is unclear how long it will last (Mims 2016). While the role of the 17th century police was to maximize the splendor of the state, the police state that is the modern smart city must attract surplus capital with the promise of sustained profitability.

In order to keep national economies going through debt-fueled spending, those that hold the debt have to believe in future profitability, and smart cities play a central role in that vision (Endnotes 2015). To convince investors, uncertainty has to be reduced in order to produce more favorable risk-assessments. The more control that stakeholders have over the operations and outcomes of the city, the easier risk is to assess. There are simply fewer unknowns. For example, in New Songdo, each home is equipped with a computer provided by a company called u.Life Solutions that coordinates online access to healthcare, shopping, parking, bill paying, and golf, all on the u.Life platform (u.Life Solutions 2012). The smart technologies around which these idealistic cities are built will hopefully attract investment by ensuring future profitability. By being able to control city resources, the circulation of goods and people, and collect massive amounts of data, smart cities attempt to create a clearer vision of the future.

As with the police of the 17th century, control and discipline are used to produce a good life, bios, rather than zoë. This connects further with the birth of state statistics by anchoring splendor to actions that the state can measure. Zoë, or bare life, is then a life filled with unmeasurable, or meaningless action, which cannot be harnessed for the splendor of the town or state. The goal of the pre-liberal police state for Foucault is to create a biopolitical state that turns life itself into an actionable resource for the state. This is where themes of resilience connect with an inward focus on governing territory. “Resilience as a mode of government is not just the government of integrated and highly technologized socio-ecological systems, but government through such systems […] Government, from this view, is as much about managing circulation and modulating flows as it is about molding individuals (Wakefield & Braun 2014, 3). In both the pre-liberal police state and the smart city, the only way to manage the individual is through the management of the circulation of goods and people within the town. Neoliberalism does well to explain globalized trade and the circulation of goods on an international market, but it is not apt to address the measuring and management of circulation within the walls of the smart city.

In light of the economic conditions in which smart cities have arisen, and the centrality of control and detail required to make smart cities appear profitable, neoliberalism as the guiding political ideology of smart cities begins to weaken. The orientation of the 17th century police state toward the internal production of town splendor offers a helpful lens through which to read the idealistic smart city. There no longer seems to be a profitable economy to which a city must open up; in fact, the logic of the smart city says that the only way to be profitable is to turn inward. Resource efficient design of the idealistic smart city integrates the circulation of goods and people into the projected future profits of the city. Free trade and business are not only encouraged for the profit they bring, but also so that the activity itself can be monitored, tracked, and oriented toward splendor. While entrepreneurial in spirit, the vast amounts of data and technical organization of idealistic smart cities is strongly managerial. Critically engaging with both the form and function of smart cities is valuable in order to inform critique, opposition, and survival.

In November 2017, Bill Gates announced that his company, Belmont Cascade Investment, will be building an idealistic smart city from scratch outside of Phoenix, AZ, with a projected capacity of over 150,000 residents (McFarland 2017). It is unclear what this city will look like, or if it will ever even exist, but it is a shift away from a global neoliberal project. While there is nothing inherently contradictory to neoliberalism about enlightened entrepreneurs owning entire smart cities and all the data that comes with them, it might just make more sense to call them kings.


[1] The term splendor comes from one of Foucault’s main sources for theories of police, Turquet de Mayerne, in his text La Monarchie aristodémocratique (1611).


This paper benefited greatly from feedback and editing by Anna Lauren Hoffmann and Meg Young.


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