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Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Extrastatecraft controls everyday life in the city: it’s the key to power – and resistance – in the twenty-first century.

Infrastructure is not only the underground pipes and cables controlling our cities. It also determines the hidden rules that structure the spaces all around us – free trade zones, smart cities, suburbs, and shopping malls. Extrastatecraft charts the eme
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Verso
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Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
This oddity comes from one of the more intriguing thinkers I have read so far in 2016. On the surface, Easterling’s theories about the nature of space in 21st century life is designed for architects who are building the “infrastructural matrixes” around us. Her work, however, is not purely theoretical, as many of these books tend to be; she is a practicing architect herself. Her aim is to show us how space contains scripts that import meaning from all corners of the globe. She takes us to Africa ...more
Alia Salleh
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting nudge to rethink how the world works, and to play the game. Asks you to be craftier.

Edit: longer version below

I read this book because it was recommended during the book discussion on cities and urban design. And so I thought it would talk about highways and ports and traffic lights. Wrong - the discussion is beyond the tangible.

If I can divide the book into neat chapters, it would be free tax zones, broadband, and ISO standards. But its not exactly clean as the chapters relate
Margaret Sankey
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Popular (but with a solid set of footnotes with the real scholarship) exploration of the non-state, "soft" infrastructure of free trade zones, standardization policies, availability of broadband, language and management theory. Similar to Seeing Like a State, this is a good conversation starter and reading list. ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's fine. ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
“The matrix of repeatable spatial products like malls, resorts, golf courses, and suburbs, as well as the urban formulas for zones and broadband networks, contribute to a global spatial operating system. Altering infrastructure space is often a matter of global concern, exceeding the reach of nations and businesses and requiring the scale and leverage of extrastatecraft…”

Very interesting read. Extrastatecraft is both the creation and feeding of globalized infrastructure, and the subversion of it
Börkur Sigurbjörnsson
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: urban
In Extrastatecraft, Easterling discusses various interesting topics that are driven by business outside proper state control, such as special economic zones set up for (among others) discounts on worker rights, standards created for the sake of profit rather than sake of standardisation, broadband optimised for the broadband provider rather than the broadband user, etc. However, there was one thing missing for me, a clear and concise point.

Despite having plenty of references, the book read more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting basic concept - shared standards, networks, and models help define what's possible but are often overlooked - but it doesn't go any further than that. ...more
Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easterling uses three examples-- the special economic zone, broadband development, and global technical standards—to show how these seemingly apolitical, technical concepts intersect and maintain a disposition that impacts global economies and governance. Looking deeper, she identifies a number of points of inflection that allow the perceptive designer, activist, or entrepreneur the opportunity to influence the hardware, and thus the entirety of the system.
Lots to consider here. I bury it under
Nia Nymue
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was informative and helped me understand the frameworks, complexity and contradictions behind everyday and global-scale phenomena. I would highly recommend this book, especially the chapters on Disposition and Quality. I thought the chapter on Broadband did not add much value to the book. If you do want to read the whole book, you can safely skip the entire chapter without missing much. I would have given this book 5 stars if it weren't for that chapter and also if the first chapter we ...more
Zara Rahman
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not a light read, but this was an excellent book. Easterling takes lots of basic infrastructure that it's all too easy to take for granted, and skilfully deconstructs them to the tiniest detail - clearly, a lot of research went into this book.

In terms of readability, there were definitely parts that I found more interesting than others - chapter 3, for example, on broadband - and chapter 6, which mentions a variety of forms of activism against extrastatecraft, and includes this wonderful descrip
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Easterling outlines the incredible power of cities and organizations that exist outside of any national or sovereign jurisdiction. The book reads as equal parts warning for designers and a survey of international policies that have led to the creation of zones that attract investment by offering freedom from laws and taxes. The book is thoroughly research and avoids spending too much time arguing established writers on this broad topic of economics and international development. The sections on ...more
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-state
Anecdotal - comments on free zones, broadband in Africa and ISO standards.
Yong Feng
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Extrastatecraft, according to Easterling, describes the unseen, undisclosed activities that are carried out behind the official public face of the state. These activities operate through the medium of infrastructure space: a web of active forms, spatial products and networks that is shaped not only through physical objects like submarine cables, cell towers, and high rises, but also through stories that subtly affect its disposition, as demonstrated in free trade zones and international standard ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
This is an amazing, dense introduction into Easterling’s world of extrastatecraft—her discussion at length of zone policies and their consequences by itself was already mesmerising, and that was just the first chapter. The key idea of the book may be summarized in the following quotation: “In all these examples, there is no desire for a singular, comprehensive, or utopian solution. Power lies rather in the prospect of shaping a series of activities and relationships over time.” This concept of b ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This incredible book condenses history, analysis and prescription in little more than 200 pages of lucid prose. Although I would like to see the last part developed into a full volume.

Being too immersed in the chaos of online media, I am fascinated but still skeptical of the author's prescription for sly activism and propagation of "dissensus". Contrary to the author's, my perception is that the familiar forthright/utopian forms of activism are in need of the most urgent update. They are lackin
Robyn Lewis
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Easterling clearly has a lot to say. Extrastatecraft does a good job at identifying forms of global polity that go largely unquestioned (or at least, undiscussed), and often assumed as innocuous: ISO standards, export/free-trade zones, broadband connection, the production and design of infrastructure space in general. At times I thought the book didn't do a particularly good job of explaining the importance of the observations being made - it was like there were so many great arguments that coul ...more
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s hard for me to capture accurately how much I enjoyed this book. An incisive, thoughtful take on the place of infrastructure in contemporary and historical political developments. The focus on the banality of infrastructure as effectively a technology of control in and of itself resonated strongly with me, particularly as this was explored in the chapter on the ISO. Throughout the book, Easterling’s vignettes and riffs on the potential for hacking infrastructure were conceptually exciting an ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ib2030
A good look at a topic I previously knew very little about, so I'm thankful for the primer. The writing was overly academic at times (here's looking at you,, for having me expect things to sound like they're coming from a helpful human), but incredibly well foot-noted. I loved the chapter on the ISO and the accompanying nonsense of self-determined standards and badges and levels of quality. The typology of utopian designer, activist, hacker/entrepreneur was also a useful frame, discus ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intriguing approach to see the fluidity of capital arrangement through the emergence of free zones and standardisation. Nicely structured, Easterling provides a deep analysis of infrastructure space. In this book, cities are understood as an operating system and space is information technology. Furthermore, Easterling's exploration of the relation between urbanity and war is an interesting text considering the networked society we are living, where nation-states are governed by the internet c ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Compelling ideas about urban spaces aimed at trying to understand how they shape and are shaped by factors seldom discussed in relation to architecture - broadband, quality control, stories, and extrastatecraft. The book can also be read as a guide to subversive activism in the realm of infrastructure space.

A relevant analogy that the author makes which puts the book's contents in a better perspective is in relation to McLuhan's dictum, "the medium is the message", where infrastructure space is
Charles Deicke
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting, frustrating at times but a good starting point for more reading on the topics of soft infrastructure/more covert features of the built (and unbuilt) environment. The book is at its best when weaving a historiographic narrative of the deployment and proliferation of extrastate systems, but at times is a bit vague when fully delving into these concepts. Not a light read, but a very enlightening one considering the oft overlooked nature of these issues.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Tiring, repetitive, needlessly wordy. Weird and inaccurate computing metaphors.

Could be summarized in a neat article. Either that or it went over my head.

Nevertheless some good ideas that are inspiring.
Lee Barry
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this very much. Here's the author's talk about the book: ...more
Zuzana Reveszova
From local to global, from universal to peculiar. Urbanism in network society.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Once again, I seem to have picked a sociological treatise where I expected a more approachable non-fiction book. Still, the book was interesting, if sometimes a little hard to read.
Donia Al-Issa
Read "Introduction" and "Zone" for my Advanced Theories of Communication course. ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75/5. Interesting ideas and anecdotes; mediocre writing.

Easterling connects aspects of global infrastructure and politics in novel ways, but it's hindered by laboured prose that's dragged down by affinity for simile, multi-clause sentences and other unnecessary verbosity. The action she proposes in the last chapter of the book also feels underdeveloped and unsatisfying.

If you're looking for some new food for thought about advocacy, and have the time to wade through sometimes-tedious writing, t
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Seb Choe
rated it it was amazing
May 23, 2018
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Keller Easterling is an architect, writer and professor at Yale University. Her most recent book, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (Verso, 2014), examines global infrastructure networks as a medium of polity. Another recent book, Subtraction (Sternberg Press, 2014), considers building removal or how to put the development machine into reverse. An ebook essay, The Action is the Fo ...more

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Here’s some trivia for your next vacation get-together: The concept of the summer “beach read” book goes all the way back to the Victorian...
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“As a legal and economic instrument, the zone presides over a cocktail of enticements and legal exemptions that are sometimes mixed together with domestic civil laws, sometimes manipulated by business to create international law, and sometimes adopted by the nation in its entirety. Incentives vary in every location but might include: holidays from income or sales taxes, dedicated utilities like electricity or broadband, deregulation of labor laws, prohibition of labor unions and strikes, deregulation of environmental laws, streamlined customs and access to cheap imported or domestic labor, cheap land and foreign ownership of property, exemption from import/export duties, foreign language services, or relaxed licensing requirements.” 0 likes
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