Everyday Urbanization: The Social Dynamics of Development in Manila’s Extended Metropolitan Region


Attempts at understanding the urbanization process in Southeast Asia have, in recent years, focused on the emergence of extended metropolitan regions around primate cities. Many have argued that with a landscape of intensively mixed ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ activities, such regions represent a distinctive Asian form of urbanization and a challenge to the conventional urban‐rural dualism. The implication, both in theoretical and policy terms, is that such regions of mixed land use form new ‘urban’ landscapes that will persist into the future on the basis of balanced ‘agro‐industrial’ development. Drawing on fieldwork in a town on Manila’s agricultural periphery, this paper argues that such understandings present a static view of these regions, limited by macro‐level data and analysis. A more ethnographic understanding of the social processes of ‘everyday urbanization’ at the interface of the ‘urban’ and the ‘rural’ dispels any sense of a stable rural‐urban landscape or balanced development. The evidence points to an incompatibility of functions leading to the gradual ‘squeezing out’ of agriculture due to a changing economic calculus in agricultural households brought on by labour market shifts; environmental conflicts between agricultural and urban‐industrial activities; social and cultural transformations in rural society; a political framework of bureaucratic corruption in the regulation of urbanization; and the influence of personalized power relations in agrarian society.