Volume 12, Number 3 (2019)

Mature Extractive Peripheries and The Rise Of Prodigal Cities

Glen Norcliffe

Worldwide, mature resource regions are facing an economic, demographic and cultural crisis. These peripheries are peppered with a few flourishing new local resource developments, but the broad trend is a pervasive hollowing out of mature extractive peripheries. And increasingly, the workforce employed at new resource developments are skilled or temporary workers imported from away rather than local workers retrained to fill the vacancies. The resulting commercial resource extraction for export leads to a stunted pattern of development, referred to as extractivism, based on an economy focused on exporting unprocessed and semi-processed primary products. In stark contrast, the madding crowds inhabiting metropolises from Moscow to San Francisco reflect the converse process as migrants stream to prodigal cities. Prodigal? Yes, in the sense that governments are extravagant in their treatment of these vote-rich agglomerations which in the age of neoliberal ascendancy have captured the lion’s share of new economic activity, of investment in infrastructure, and of public and private expenditure on cultural industries. The asset most prized today in many accessible peripheries is not physical resources that are used in manufacturing, but high-quality locations where grandiose second homes are built by citizens of major cities as accessible peripheries become their all-season playground. This is the new rentier economy for residents of the prodigal city.