Inciting Conversation: The NYU Shanghai Dialogue

NYU Shanghai Dialogue is a new program featuring guest speakers at NYU Shanghai. The intention behind these events is to incite a conversation between the presenter and the audience. There is always room for talk as the listeners are seated in a semi-circle and the atmosphere encourages intellectual exchange.

Last week, as part of the series, Professor Albert Begnai visited NYU Shanghai and gave a speech titled The Euro: A “Success Story”.

Alberto Bagnai, the Associate Professor of Economic Policy at the Gabriele dAnnunzio University in Italy, gave a talk about the situation of the Euro as it relates to the economic and social welfare of Eurozone countries. He is a critic of the success of the implantation of the Euro as he blames the financial crisis in many European countries alongside Euro for the plunge in the economy. He cites lack of ability for member countries to adjust the exchange rate of the Euro as a major factor for the economic downturn that has plagued many Euro-zone countries. Countries that have control over their own currencies allow them to adjust the exchange rate when there is a slowing demand for their domestic goods; however, in the case of countries in the Eurozone, this is not possible. This causes an endless cycle of a need for domestic prices which results in the loss of jobs to continue without a viable solution. Professor also calls into question why many mainstream European economists still suggest that the Euro is working and cites a conflict of interest. This conflict of interest between university researchers and financial institutions perpetuates rhetoric that emphasizes that the Euro was indeed a success.  The rhetoric also draws attention to the need for a monetary union like the Euro to allow Europe to protect its own economic interests better. However, instead, it has caused a polarization with some countries like Germany coming out as winners while weaker countries continued to experience economic hardship. Professor Bagnai sees a possible solution that would begin with politicians admitting that the Euro project was a failure and starting to control the disestablishment of the system.   

Another talk, Iconic Architecture in Urban-Mega Projects,  was also delivered last week by Professor Leslie Sklair, who was introduced by our own Professor Lena Scheen.

Leslie Sklair is a Professor of Sociology and Associate Faculty in the Cities Programme at London School of Economics and Political Science. Just last week he gave a talk to the NYU Shanghai community about the role of the iconic modern architecture of contemporary cities. Through a slide show of 28 pictures, he told a compelling story of how the architecture we idolize today serves the ideology of consumerism. The speech that left some feeling baffled and others guilty had an underlying tone – money actually does make the world go round.

Throughout, Professor Sklair insisted that in the past couple of decades architecture has aimed to make people comfortable and spend.He went on to describe how the symbolic buildings are now used to capitalize off of traditional buildings.Sklair maintained that the commercial use of architecture centers on transnational capitalists who strive for a window into the global market.Some of the structures he took note of included the Sydney Opera House, Malaysias copy of Calatrava-style bridge, and Shanghai Exhibition Center. As the Sydney Opera House was the first monument ever built with the help of a computer Professor asserted that it was used to rescue the city from Post-Industrial design.However, later with all incoming tourism, the symbolic property just gave in to the consumerist culture. Regarding Shanghai, he took note of the Lujiazui skyline with all the monuments serving as malls, high-end hotels and tourist attractions.

This article was written by Abel Hegyes and Lana Kugli. Please send an email to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Isabella Farr

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