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In the late 1990s, Lagos and Mexico City were granted a high degree of autonomy by their respective federal states over their economic development, taxation, social policy, and policing. Their political arenas were institutionalized and recognized with the election of a mayor in Mexico City in 1997, and a governor in Lagos in 1999. Prior to this, in the 1980s, the political spaces of the “global cities” of the Global North and the metropolises of Europe had also opened back up and been granted relative autonomy. From the 1970s, the new globalization had begun to decenter national accumulation, producing conditions favorable to a “return” of the cities of the Global North as major political actors, particularly in the economic development sphere. Transformed by their dominant economic actors, the economies of these cities were disjoined from their national economies and coupled to international growth. These economic transformations resulted in a relative disembedding of the metropolises of the Global North from their state spaces, as a result of which their constituent social, political, and economic relations partly broke free from the framework of the state. In this article, I explore whether the same path was taken by Lagos and Mexico City, which were integrated into the new globalization a little later than their counterparts in the Global North—primarily due to their states’ oil resources.
Highlighting the concentration of advanced activities in the big metropolises of the Global South, economic geographers have argued for their relative disembedding “from above,” in a manner similar to the global cities of the Global North…


At the end of the 1990s, Lagos and Mexico City were granted a large degree of autonomy from their respective federal states. Have the two metropolises experienced a process of relative state disembedding similar to that of global cities of the North, following their integration in post-1970 globalization, driven by the incorporation of their economic elites into new globalized spaces of accumulation? This article refutes the thesis of disembedding “from above” in the case of Mexico City and Lagos. The relative disembedding of the two (ex-)capitals occurred “from below,” given that it was driven by urban popular sectors rather than economic elites, through two mechanisms: the reterritorialization of popular politics and the weakening of the clientelist ties that linked it to the state. We thus return to the Weberian ideal type of the plebeian city and examine the modalities of this new incarnation.

  • state-city relations
  • urban politics
  • popular politics
  • structural adjustment
  • clientelism
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
Côme Salvaire
Côme Salvaire is a PhD student at the Centre de recherches internationales (CERI) (Center for International Studies) and a member of the “Cities are Back in Town” research group at Sciences Po. His work explores forms of popular autonomy and their effects on processes of urban institutionalization, in Mexico and Nigeria, primarily using ethnographic methods, and with a particular focus on waste. His publications include “Recovering Sociology from the Trash Heap: Of Waste Politics and the Spatialization of Local Representation in Lagos,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 43, no. 2 (2019), 354–76, and “From Urban Congestion to Political Confinement: Collecting Waste, Channelling Politics in Lagos,” Territory, Politics, Governance 8, no. 3 (2020): 390–406 (CERI, 56 Rue Jacob, 75006 Paris).
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