From Internal Colony to Subprime Haven to Circular Economy

A prolonged 1960s-1970s debate about how to spur economic development in the US segregated areas of large cities in which racial ethnic minorities have historically been concentrated. This debate turned on two axes, the first concerned whether the labor force and capital assets located in the areas should be understood as integral to the structure of capital accumulation in the economy as a whole, or instead as structurally separate from mainstream capitalist processes and exploited primarily for their labor reserves. The second involved the extent to which cash flows in these communities were being drained and could, in turn, be recirculated by developing autonomous economic-development organizations inside their borders. This debate will be reprised and updated, as it contains profound insights for two current policy debates: first, how to renew the economies of communities disproportionately affected by the subprime and foreclosure crises of the past decade; second, how to localize city and regional economies so as to make them more sustainable, resilient, and independent of the broader, often coercive, dynamics of global capitalism.