Thanks to Jeremiah for allowing me to guest blog for a couple of weeks. In my first three posts, I thought I'd briefly summarize the analysis of the Bloomberg administration's approach to urban governance that I lay out at length in my book, Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City.
What is this approach to urban governance, which I call "the Bloomberg Way," all about?
Well, it's not really about Michael Bloomberg. Or rather, it's not just about Michael Bloomberg. Often when Bloomberg's mayoralty is discussed, the focus is on the man himself: his experience, his personality, his foibles and eccentricities. But the political emergence of Michael Bloomberg and his approach to urban governance are products of a broad transformation of New York City's social structure over the past several decades: as media, financial, and business services have come to dominate the city's economy, there has emerged a "postindustrial elite," made up of high-level professionals as well as New York-based executives and owners of global businesses.
This postindustrial elite has absorbed the great part of the wealth generated in the city for the past several decades; however, until recently, it had remained largely disengaged from politics and governance. While there was the occasional financier deputy mayor, the postindustrial elite didn't offer up a coherent and sustained political project...until 2001.
As I detail in the book, Bloomberg's 2001 election drew a remarkable number and range of postindustrial elites--financiers, business consultants, academics, corporate managers, marketing executives, and so on--into City Hall. Most of them had never considered "public service" before, and many of the folks of this ilk that I spoke to said that it was the presence of Bloomberg, the CEO Mayor, that had drawn them into government. Moreover, they made it clear that they felt, as one of them put it to me, that "the city needed us." They interpreted the city's post-9/11 problems as problems of management and marketing, as technical problems looking for the "solutions" that their skills, experience, and expertise could solve. Thus, their leadership was key to the city's recovery and its long-term prosperity.
Michael Bloomberg was the most prominent of these postindustrial elites, and the one who provided the impetus for this movement into City Hall. But ultimately, this was a class mobilization, the first time the city’s postindustrial elite directly seized the reins of city government and sought to shape governance--and the city itself--in its own image.