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The scene is both familiar and unfamiliar to those of us based in the global North. The protest with banners and placards is familiar; the predominance on occasion of women and children and of black and determined faces is not unfamiliar. The words ‘We stay’ with reference, as the caption to the photograph (above) tells us, to an eviction, and, as the article itself goes on to relate, to ‘the state’s spin on gross and violent repression against a movement’ is familiar territory to those who empathise with or have been involved in such protests but it is problematic territory for the media and ‘public opinion’. When it comes to the role, also taken up in the article, played by intellectuals and academics in relation to such movements, we have moved deeper into that problematic territory. It is the sharpness and clarity of such evictions and the response to them that should illuminate our mediatised and blandised understanding of marginalization, gentrification and clearances in the global North so as to lead us to see and act upon a common and possibly fatal planetary problem. It is the task that provides the focus for this issue 17.2 of CITY.
With this focus we can move, then, from a scene and its analysis with reference to NGOs and urban movements in South Africa to not unrelated – to put it negatively, for the moment – scenes, analyses, and courses of action in Europe and North America, and to the apparently paradoxical concern of this ‘urban’ journal with ‘the rural’, even with agriculture.
This issue begins with ‘slumburbia’ and utopia/dystopia in the United States (Schafran), moves to the commodification of ‘bohemia’ (Forkert on Berlin), and on to the undermining of de-commodified alternatives in British cities (Spracklen, Richter and Spracklen on Leeds ), of working-class culture (Featherstone on a peri-urban estate in Hull), and to an account of urban commodification involving ‘a growing middle class and increasing inequality’ (Hamnett and Butler on London).
It then takes a still unusual path (though not for this journal, as the author demonstrates) through fiction, with the author (Travis) adding on an innovatory technologised psychogeography involving GIS, ‘through time and space’ in the Irish and emblematic city of Dublin.
The issue then returns to NGOs and urban movements in the global South – where the protesters against eviction in Durban assert that ‘We stay’ – and on to urban and peri-urban agriculture which provides a basis for people to stay where or move to where, in one important sense, they want to be.
Much of this discussion is re-contextualised in the endpieceii, a further episode of the series, ‘Towards the Great Transformation’, in the light of Guattari’ s account of the necessarily interacting ‘three ecologies’, mental, social and environmental, that can lead beyond the deeply deteriorating and possibly terminal course of ‘planetary urbanisation’ towards fulfilling modes and stages of fulfilling being.
by Bob Catterall, Chief Editor of CITY
Editorial to CITY, Vol. 17 Issue 2; see contents list below.
Contents list for Issue 17.2
We Stay Bob Catterall, Pages 127-129
Discourse and dystopia, American style. The rise of ‘slumburbia’ in a time of crisis Alex Schafran, Pages 130-148
The persistence of bohemia Kirsten Forkert, Pages 149-163
The eventization of leisure and the strange death of alternative Leeds Karl Spracklen, Anna Richter & Beverley Spracklen, Pages 164-178
Being-in-Hull, Being-on-Bransholme. Socio-economic decline, regeneration and working-class experience on a peri-urban council estate Mark Featherstone, Pages 179-196
Re-classifying London: a growing middle class and increasing inequality. A response to Mark Davidson and Elvin Wyly’s ‘Class-ifying London: Questioning Social Division and Space Claims in the Post-industrial Metropolis’ Chris Hamnett & Tim Butler, Pages 197-208
From the ruins of time and space. The psychogeographical GIS of post-colonial Dublin in Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds (1939) Charles Travis, Pages 209-233
Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Part Three
Introduction Adrian Atkinson, Page 234
Peri-urban agriculture, social inclusion of migrant population and Right to the City. Practices in Lisbon and London Yves Cabannes & Isabel Raposo, Pages 235-250
Forum: NGOs, Social Movements and the City
Introduction Barbara Lipietz, Pages 251-252
NGOs and urban movements. Notes from South Africa Richard Pithouse, Pages 253-257
NGOs and social movements. Convergences and divergences Marcelo Lopes de Souza, Pages 258-261
Justice and the politics of urban development Kate Driscoll Derickson, Pages 262-264
Towards the Great Transformation: (6) Three ecologies Bob Catterall, Pages 265-270
In the editorial to the first issue of CITY in 1996, “It all comes together in L.A.?” we asked “What is a city in the late twentieth century? And, just as important a question, what could and should it be? When? Where? How?” Almost 2 decades on we come together again with Ed Soja and Allen Scott in L.A. at the Association of American Geographers in April, leading with two panel sessions that address two deeply important and interrelated contemporary urban debates:
CITY Panel Session 1:
CITY Perspectives 2. Why it’s kicking off everywhere (5163)
is scheduled on Saturday 13/04/2013, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM
in the Pacific Ballroon Salon 3, The LA Hotel, Level 2
Bob Catterall, CITY Editor-in-Chief
Anna Richter, Leibniz Institute
Bob Catterall, CITY Editor-in-Chief
Kurt Iveson, University of Sydney
Mark Davidson, Clark University
Andrea Gibbons, London School of Economics and Political Science
Antonis Vradis, London School of Economics and Political Science
In his Why it’s kicking off everywhere: (2012) The new global revolution
, BBC economic journalist Paul Mason argued that ‘Greece is the modern case study of what happens when the political elite of a developed country allows its legitimacy to go up in flames.’ Moving across the planet from Greece to the USA, he explored the validity of this negative insight, and from Cairo to Manila, its hopeful alternatives, as two faces of global revolution. His work has the characteristic depth of historical investigation and the immediacy of street-based observation and digital dialogue.
In this session, editors of CITY, building on work in the journal, consider Mason’s overall approach and its relevance for analysis, action and outcome. They do so in the light of his subsequent updates, including the second edition, Why it’s still kicking off everywhere (Verso, 2013), on the progress of ‘the new global revolution’: it ‘finally has to concretise into a programme, a coherent vision. If it doesn’t…there are plenty of other forces of coherence.’ The session will explore why it’s kicking off everywhere, and how the ‘new global revolutions’ might go forward.
CITY Panel Session 2:
CITY Perspectives 1. Emerging cities of the third wave (5263)
is scheduled on Saturday 13/04/2013, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM
in the Pacific Ballroon Salon 3, The LA Hotel, Level 2
Bob Catterall, CITY Editor-in-Chief
Anna Richter, Leibniz Institute
Bob Catterall, CITY Editor-in-Chief
Allen Scott, University of California-Los Angeles
Ed Soja, University of California-Los Angeles
Sharon Meagher, University of Scranton
Elvin Wyly, University of British Columbia
In his seminal paper, ‘Emerging Cities of the Third Wave’
(CITY, 15.3-4, 2011
), Allen Scott has argued that ‘the logic of urban change today is intertwined with the evolution of a globalizing cognitive-cultural capitalism in the context of a dominantly neoliberal policy failure.’ ‘The accumulating failures of neoliberal approaches’, he concludes, ‘suggest that the need for a new dispensation is now pressing’, and he proceeds to briefly indicate, drawing on his analysis of the third wave, what this new dispensation would involve.
The paper serves as a basis for this session in which the two leading members, Allen Scott and Ed Soja, of what was once characterized as ‘the LA School’, consider the paper in and beyond its place of origin. They are joined by Elvin Wyly and Sharon Meagher, two editors of the journal CITY, whose first issue was entitled ‘It all comes together in Los Angeles’.
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Editorial to the first issue of City, Issue 1-2 (1996)
What is a city in the late twentieth century? And, just as important a question, what could and should it be? When? Where? How?
These questions provide an agenda for this journal. The title is City and not just ‘Cities’ for three reasons. First, it is no longer evident what a city is; and that matters. There is something more to the idea and reality of a city than that it is some kind of urban agglom- eration. We have to address both its communicative (or indeed noncommunicative) reach and its ethical basis. What action and policy are required? Second, the idea that the financial centre of London, the one square mile, is ‘the City’ has a much wider significance. The eco- nomics of cities are too important to be left to ‘the financial pages.’ Third, the chant ‘City!’ where it forms part of the name of a football club can be taken as having a wider resonance. How can a city be a focus for communal enthusiasm? What is or should be ‘the heart’ of a city? These questions return us to the first reason we gave for adopting the title City: the communicative and moral basis of urban life.
These questions return us to the first reason we gave for adopting the title City: the communicative and moral basis of urban life.
What, then – to return to the original question – is a city in the late twentieth century? In this introductory double issue, we begin to tease out some definitions through an exploration of aspects of L.A., the starting and finishing point of our journey, and other cities. Ed Soja, Professor in the Department of Planning, University of California, L.A., gives a neat twist to the celebratory slogan of the Los Angeles Times: ‘It all comes together in L.A.?’ What Soja asserts is:
‘One can find in L.A. not only hightech industrial complexes of the Silicon Valley and the erratic sunbelt economy of Houston, but also the far-reaching industrial decline and bankrupt urban neighbourhoods of rust-belted Detroit and Cleveland. There is a Boston in L.A., a Lower Manhattan and a South Bronx, a Sao Paulo and a Singapore. There may be no other comparable urban region which presents so visually such a composite assemblage and articulation of urban restructuring processes.’ (Soja, Post-Modern Geographies, 1989, pl93).
Within the timeframe of the mid-90′s, we move across to Moscow, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Shanghai and on to London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Bristol. The timeframe expands to include the World War II bombing of Dresden as well as the recent bombing of Sarajevo.
We also look at how to interpret some of three great transitions of the twentieth century: whether in terms of that relatively simple characterization that sees ‘the modern’ passing into ‘the post- modern’ era; or, with Enzo Mingione, with a viewpoint in Milan and Sicily, noting at least five trails already blazed across the century. Peter Hall charts his way by referring to four major cycles of innovation with a fifth to come around the year 2010. And David Harvey asks, more abstractly, but as a matter of great urgency, whether an emphasis on cities leads to an approach that is too static and physical. We need rather to get to grips with and redefine the process of urbanization.
In what ways then does it all come together in Los Angeles? According to our first contributor, the planner Peter Hall, economic innovation and social hope certainly came together in the Los Angeles and California of the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s. Whether that union, and its components themselves, have since come apart, he does not say. But Peter Sellars, the opera and theatre director, Alasdair Rogers, a geographer, and cartoonist Steve Bell do raise this question from the view point of the 1992 riots/uprising. Bell, during the presidential election campaign, cut through the promise and promises of Clintonism to highlight a sweep-up operation combined with, at best, Mickey Mouse solutions backed by capital punishment (see p.16). As Peter Sellars comments:
‘Our response to the crisis of our inner cities is to have 3,000 more cops here in Los Angeles. The biggest growth industry here in California is building new prisons. Huge amounts of money, during a time when we have no money, are being committed to huge negative solutions.’
But neither Sellars nor Rogers accept negative solutions. Whether it is an arts festival or ethnic celebrations, L.A. has to be redefined in terms of positives.
And not only L.A. These are concerns that closely and insistently intrude on people in other cities. In pre-election Britain, one question that is at issue is whether 3,000, according to Labour, or 5,000, according to the Conservatives, extra police are needed on the beat. Moreover, members of the Shadow Cabinet cannot discuss possible solutions to a problem as crucial to the future of our cities as drug abuse, but a leading property developer, Trevor Osbome, can and does in this journal.
‘Perhaps the use of drugs should now be legalized, because we cannot police it. I’m satisfied personally that we are not capable of exercising control, of enforcing laws which prohibit the use of cannabis and others.’
This may or may not be part of an answer, but there has to be a full-scale debate about drugs and urban policy.
But it can still be asked: What is L.A.? A favoured answer is another interpretation of the slogan ‘It All Comes Together in L.A.’, to the effect that it is the Post-Modern City, and thereby an image of the future for all of us. We turn, in our concluding review of sources and resources, to L.A. Blues and Japanimation in search of this dimension.
Bridging the chasm
How can we establish adequate answers to these questions? And who are ‘we’? We are academics, architects, community activists, film-makers, journalists, people who have worked in or with local government, planners – a scattering of like-minded people and networks across a number of countries. We extend the dialogue to include other members of these groups and beyond, for examples, to other artists and cartoonists, to property developers and social entrepreneurs. These are, of course, overlapping categories but too often not overlapping areas of mutuality, joint investigation, of shared discussion and action. A principal aim of City is to foster that mutuality and sense of collective purpose.
This cannot be only – perhaps primarily – a task for politicians and the established media, particularly national ones. In Britain, the whole political debate is viewed from Westminster, attended by the media and an array of commentators who largely exclude ‘the city’, the rest of London, and other cities. The business pages, of course, look after ‘the city’ but that rarely, if at all, leads to shared discussion and action. Will Hutton’s investigation into ‘the City’ is included here as a first step towards getting the balance right.
Other cities make brief and occasional appearances in the media largely as sites of riot, sport or economic competition. We include in this issue Bristol, Glasgow, and particularly Manchester as showing that not only is there life outside London, but that most of the energies, hopes and visions that could transform Britain must and do lie there.
National politicians and the media can seek to change their ways but they are unlikely to do so without a strong counter-movement, based in other cities as well as London, in which academic, professional, and communal forces contribute collectively to the process of urban and social redefinition. The report on our seminar ‘Beyond the Concrete Wastelands’, with contributions from Peter Hall, Richard MacCormac and Brian Robson, marks out some of the territory that we need to cover between now and 2010 – a better marker than the currently favoured Millennium.
Good journalism provides an important bridge across the chasm between academe and the professions, on the one hand, and the public on the other. We combine this with good academic and professional writing. It is customary to underplay the knowledge-bearing and knowledge-inciting nature of journalism and overplay those same aspects of academic production. Journalism needs a more permanent forum than the dailies and weeklies; and academic work needs greater exposure, in addition to that presented by narrowly defined peers and captive audiences. Here we begin a move away from established practices by juxtaposing such work.
Taking the academic dimension and extending it to another kind of public discourse, Peter Hall charts what he sees as both the ‘intellectual holocaust’ and the sclerosis of the British labour movement in the 1970′s that led him to seek solace, inspiration, and intellectual productivity in California. Hall sees the cause of the intellectual holocaust in Marxism. It could, however, be said to be structuralism, a generational prism through which Marxism was refracted. David Ladipo, in an amusing but hard-hitting ‘Letter from America’, sees today some of the latter-day bearers in Britain of the subsequent post-structuralist phase with its talk of ‘New Times’ – from Professor Stuart Hall by way of Will Hutton to Tony Blair – as locked in a cultural discourse that prevents it from asking questions about the limits of capitalism. It is however, as Enzo Mingione notes, ‘very important to stick to some solid roots. Otherwise, the cultural discourse, which is very fashionable, goes out of control completely.’
A parallel refocusing takes place in the first of our series, ‘Revaluations’, in which Alison Ravetz and Elizabeth Lebas put forward a constructive critique of recent tendencies in urban studies as defined by ‘well-tended cosmopolites’. Doreen Massey, in a comment on Richard Sennett’s Flesh andStone, presents a different emphasis.
We stick to ‘some solid roots’, but without losing sight of spiritual and cultural dimensions. Peter Buchanan for example leads us from the physical fabric and design of Kansai International Airport to the role of the computer and science and then, with a little help (a move that Steve Bell would appreciate) from a dialogue with a gorilla, to the values that could and should guide our collective path. Theoretical physicist C.V. Sukumar traces a related aspect in the recent work of the architectural writer Charles Jencks.
What can be done
Though we seek to record and examine urban trends, culture and theory, our emphasis returns again and again to what can be done. The key question for our cities and for society as a whole is not how we can attain growth, but how we can attain sustainable development. At this point, in such discussions, it is customary to refer to ecology and the care of a small planet. We make that commitment but we link it to another question -just as urgent, but sadly, not on the present political agenda – how can the energies, hopes and visions of the marginalized populations in our polarizing cities be engaged? Should we, in effect, write off the unemployed? That is what we are doing, not only in the areas of decay but even in the redevelopment of thriving areas. We need to consider the case put by Michael Franks – that even in the most pleasant ‘heartlands’ of our cities, such as Covent Garden [which was our editorial base at the time], the everyday energies of people have been subtly displaced amidst a sea of atmospheric spectacle and consumption.
Is there an alternative? Some point to a three-way partnership between public and private sectors and the community. We question this combination of rhetoric and romanticism with what is essentially status quo thinking. To refer, as we do with Alain Lipietz, to the Third Sector is not just to affix a different label to ‘community’, it is to begin to see community in a different context and as part of a national and international project in which unmet social needs for care and provision are met on the basis of the energies of the unemployed and dispossessed. This can and should be carried out in collaboration with the public and private sectors. One opportunity is the redevelopment of railway stations and the surrounding areas in many cities. Bertolini spells out what this could and should involve.
What is ultimately at stake is a reordering, not only of our social priorities, but also of the nature of wealth and citizenship. We can begin to grasp this when we consider that the voluntary principle is, essentially, not an add-on manifestation of narrowly considered charity to the social structure but rather the primary element in human relationships. How is it that in order to begin to grasp this, we have to refer to something as fundamental as giving not as the first but as the third sector of our lives? Ultimately these are the issues in the run-up to 2010.
The nature, significance, and advancement of ‘the third sector’ is a topic which will form a cential thread in future issues; as will definitions of the late twentieth century city. City, with its predecessor Regenerating Cities, is a cumulative enterprise. Some of the founding work on, for example, cultural policy, architecture and structure, economics and urban development, the third sector, and cyberpunk has already been set out there. Each issue of City, built around a different theme, will however be largely free-standing.
Readers of City are not late-comers to a party. City draws on a body of work that is available through back copies, through an ongoing series of seminars, conferences and meetings, and through successive restatements of what we learn – in which our readers’ views will be represented – in the journal itself. The preparatory stage is over. The party is only just starting. We have an opportunity to make it all come together.
by Bob Catterall, Chief Editor of CITY
Editorial to the very first Issue 1-2 of CITY in 1996.
See contents list Issue 1-2 below:
Bob Catteral, Pages 1-2
It all came together in California: values and role models in the making of a planner, Peter Hall, Pages 4-12
An arts festival: institutions and the grass roots, Peter Sellars theatre and opera director, and others, Pages 13-16
The city of difference? Alisdair Rogers, Pages 17-22
The ‘post‐socialist city’: from state to market, Greg Andrusz, Pages 23-29
Megalopolis now: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Jakarta, Deyan Sudjic, architectural writer, Pages 30-37
Cities or urbanization? David Harvey, Pages 38-61
Architecture and global responsibilities: the case of Renzo Piano, Peter Buchanan, Architectural writer and critic, Pages 62-78
From social fragmentation towards integration? Enzo Mingione, Pages 79-88
From Dresden to Sarajevo cities, war and political will, Martin Woollacott, Assistant editor of The Guardian, Pages 89-91
What does ‘the city’ do for the UK? Will Hutton, The Guardian, Pages 92-106
Back to the centre
Urban villages, Trevor Osborne, Pages 107-109
Lively and sustainable city centres, Nicholas Falk, Pages 110-113
Covent garden: the end of an era, Michael Franks, Pages 113-121
Winners and losers: a bristol perspective on city challenge, Simon Hooton, Pages 122-128
Knots in the net: on the redevelopment of railway stations and their surroundings, Luca Bertolini, Pages 129-137
Community and the third sector
Watch this space: it’s the community, Suzanne Moore, Guardian columnist, Pages 138-140
The third sector: resolving the crisis of the welfare state, Alain Lipietz, Pages 141-144
Reviews and Reports
From left to green, Adrian Atkinson, Pages 145-152
Race and class in L.A., Monica Feria, Pages 152-154
‘The Sphinx in the city’, Alison Ravetz, Pages 155-161
Les Nouveaux Flaneurs, Elizabeth Lebas, Pages 161-163
Some geographical thoughts on ‘flesh and stone’, Doreen Massey, Pages 164-166
A close look at the regeneration business: Cities 95, Justin O’Connor, Pages 167-170
Obstacles to ‘headquarter status’ in Manchester, Ian Taylor, Pages 170-172
Glasgow as world city, Mike Danson, Pages 173-177
On not reviewing ‘the state we’re in’, David Ladipo, Pages 177-178
From technodreams to technopoles, Ian Masser, Pages 179-180
A new paradigm for science and architecture, C. V. Sukumar, Pages 181-183
How should we judge architecture? Ian Ritchie, Pages 183-185
Beyond the concrete wastelands: towards a strategic vision for our cities, Max Dixon, Pages 186-189
L.A. Blues, Japanimation, architecture and urban analysis: Some sources and resources, Bob Catterall, Pages 190-192
‘It’s not for us and all the promises of affordable homes and local jobs is nothing but hot air and the real people benefiting are the large businesses.’
The words of a homeless youth in temporary housing in one of the boroughs adjacent to the London Olympics site. Nearby some residents of an estate claim that their proposed displacement/replacement/’development’ is ‘social cleansing in the name of … corporate objectives.’ Do such claims apply universally to working class and many ‘middle class’ people that find themselves enmeshed in such development(s)? If so, could it be otherwise?
The latest issue of CITY (Issue 17.1) follows out the contradictions of these and related developments in six other contexts. In European borderlands, Henrick Lebuhn notes that not just the nature of border control but also that of urban citizenship is at issue. In U.S. cities (and beyond) Joshua Long looks at the counter-claim for respecting and enhancing the essential ‘weirdness’ of particular cities as contrasted to the marginalizing uniformities that corporate objectives seek to impose. Looking across the European and North American experience Margit Mayer seeks to define a way beyond the proferred alternatives of austerity urbanism or ‘creative city’ politics. Looking into the fast-approaching future, two further and apparently exclusively paths are sketched out by, on the one hand, Andy Merrifield who looks towards hopeful vistas of reconceptualised ‘non-work’ beyond the accelerating progress/regress of planetary urbanization, and, on the other hand, by Adrian Atkinson, who looks from the emerging evidence of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), though currently marginalized, towards a future in which agrarianism will become central as urbanization declines and collapses. In a final context, the endpiece looks backwards as well as forwards – from the Renaissance through Romanticism, Marxism, social science, critical theory and materialisms, old and new – seeking tools for understanding and surpassing these apparently contradictory presents and futures.
Orbit or obit?
The evidence and analysis set out in these seven contexts, starting from the London Olympics, contributes to ongoing debates in recent issues of CITY. The London borough mentioned above is Newham, an Olympic ‘host’ borough that, as Paul Watts reports, contained 60% of the Olympic sites. The estate which, according to residents, is undergoing ‘social cleansing’ in return for imposed hospitality, is the Carpenters council estate. The photograph here shows part of the estate. What can be seen() picking up on the description provided by Watt in the paper, is the terraced housing, in the foreground on the left. The tower block which dominates the picture, on the right, is Dennison Point — and the one on the left in the background is Lund Point. Just visible on the side of Lund, there is the Olympics corporate advertising which was on the sides of all three towers (shown in Figure 2 of Watt’s paper). Some residents, tenants and leaseholders, remain in each of these two towers. As at Sept 2012, there were 19 tenant and 19 leasehold households remaining at Dennison and 15 tenant and 15 leasehold households remaining at Lund. The third tower (James Riley Point), not visible in the photograph, was the one which was decanted first (beginning in 2005) and has the fewest number of remaining residents – 4 leaseholders at Sept 2012.
In the background is the ArcelorMittal Orbit and just behind is the Olympic Stadium. The appropriately pretentiously titled ‘Orbit’ was a starting point (16.4, pp. 439–441) for Andrea Gibbon’s and Nick Wolff’s four-part series on Cities and the Olympic Games which ends in this issue with these London sites, re-assembled, so to speak, or perhaps dissembled, in the grand narrative of the London Olympics. Some in the upper echelons of the art imperium/emporium hailed it. According to Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate director, who sat on the board of the Olympic Delivery Authority, it is “a beautiful and arresting sculpture” that will “provide points of memory and incident in the landscape.” The notions of ‘memory and incident’ here are suitably Olympian. In the well-grounded observation of the Guardian’s chief arts writer, Charlotte Higgins, it is ‘a tangle of scarlet steel 115 metres tall, it looms down on the modest houses of the Carpenters Estate…’ For Dolores John-Phillip who lives on the estate, it is, Higgins notes, “just a lump of nothing. It doesn’t signify anything. What does it say about the area, the community? It’s just towering over us… It’s looking down on the little people, And we’re nothing.”()
Already these extremes have taken appropriate legendary form. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, persuaded steel billionaire, Lakshmi Mittal, so Higgins tells, to provide £19.6m of the £22.7m cost during a chance encounter in the lavatories at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
‘A new phase of neoliberal capitalism’: hedonistic totalitarianism with austerity?
Beyond the bowels of Davos there is talk of ‘a new phase of capitalism.’ Central to such discussions h is Margit Mayer’s simultaneously detailed and wide-ranging ‘First world urban activism: Beyond austerity urbanism and creative city politics’, to which we return in a forthcoming paper from Fran Tonkiss, and, in recent issues, Jamie Peck’s ‘Austerity urbanism: American cities under extreme urbanism’ (16.6), Mark Davidson and Elvin Wyly’s ‘Class-ifying London: Questioning social division and space claims in the post-industrial city’ (16.4), () Andy Merrifield’s two (analytically, not just chronologically, sequential) pieces on the politics of encounter, non-work and planetary urbanization (16.3 and this issue), and the ongoing series edited by Adrian Atkinson’s, ‘Urban and peri-urban agriculture’ (from 16.6). There is the further context of the Editorials accompanying these papers in each issue that have provided a preliminary synthesis of this work, and of the supplementary speculative and experimental endpieces. CITY is a holistic and cumulative project, not just a periodic and arbitrary collection of possible downloads.
One stage of the discussion was an issue (16.5) entitled ‘Private property. Keep out?” (the words but not the question mark were taken from the photograph, accompanying the editorial, of a warning notice posted on the site of an abandoned cement works).() The editorial to that issue discussed a passage from an earlier article by Mayer, ‘Moving beyond “Cities for People, Not for Profit”() in which she had made the observation that ‘a new phase of neoliberal capitalism appears to be on the horizon’, sought to characterize it, and draw out the analytical and action implications of this all too material appearance. The question being posed by this and other recent editorials is whether the notion of neoliberalism, though admittedly necessary and powerful, is a sufficient conceptual tool for analyzing late capitalism and, particularly, its emerging phase. This question had already been addressed in the editorial to that issue, drawing on and supplementing the interpretation of that trend put forward in our series on ‘development’ and the Olympics, where it was suggested in the editorial that the new phase is ‘a complex socio-economic, psychosocial yet deeply material, and political trend’(p. 392). In a section headed ‘Naming the trend’ (393) it was further suggested that though the label ‘neoliberalism’ effectively addresses the first and third elements (socio-economic and political) of this characterization, it does not address the third (‘psycho-social but deeply material’) Referring to that psycho-social yet deeply material dimension, it continued that:
It can be seen as a form of hedonism in which apparently pure pleasure is extracted, sucked from the earth, while marginalizing and alienating the aesthetic and ethical qualities that have mediated the intercourse between the various materialities that link the human psyche and the planet. (393)
This is the analysis that informs the ongoing series of speculative and experimental endpieces ‘Towards the Great Transformation’ which have included the examination of a selection of powerful images and themes, neglected in the social sciences, ranging from Hegel’s, Marx’s and Keiller’s mole leading on from Shakespeare – via an imaginary/menagerie/bestiary extended to include monsters and the monstrous – to Blake’s and Polanyi’s ‘satanic mills’, the snake/serpent of Blake and Deleuze, Keiller’s web-spinning spider and Whybrow’s reptilian-mammalian combine.() This examination has reached the stage at which ‘Materialisms, old and new’ are re-conceptualised.
This psycho-social (and, it should be added, bio-social) dimension, continuing the above characterization, has:
‘A totalizing agenda whose imperatives are increasingly contradictory and destructive at a time of imposed and totalizing austerity that seeks to hide the open wounds that it inflicts. The name for such a project is totalitarianism, an emerging form that retains the hedonistic pleasures of ‘the affluent society’ while restricting and sensationalizing these pleasures, and restricting and undermining the support of this life style provided by ‘the welfare state’ now controlled in the allied name of austerity.’ (393)
This analysis continues CITY’s debate with Margit Mayer and her co-editors of Cities for People, Not for Profit which Mayer acknowledges in an endnote to her paper in this issue. CITY’s critique identified seven shortcomings in the approach set out in that work: it ‘does not give sufficient attention to urbanization as an accelerating denial of “the city”, the possible social/economic/environmental collapse of cities, to the experience of the global South, to feminist and anarchist/autonomist critiques, to shortcomings in the way we write social studies, and to praxis.’ Mayer has since referred humorously to these as ‘the seven deadly sins’.() The trouble is that they could prove to be deadly.
by Bob Catterall, Chief Editor of CITY
Editorial to CITY, Vol. 17 Issue 1; see contents list below.
Contents list for Issue 17.1
“It’s not for us…”? Bob Catterall, Pages 1-4
First world urban activism Margit Mayer, Pages 5-19
The planetary urbanization of non-work Andy Merrifield, Pages 20-36
Local border practices and urban citizenship in Europe Henrik Lebuhn, Pages 37-51
Sense of place and place-based activism in the neoliberal city Joshua Long, Pages 52-67
Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Part Two
Introduction Adrian Atkinson, Page 68
Which way for UPA in Africa? Diana Lee-Smith, Pages 69-84
Readjusting to reality Adrian Atkinson, Pages 85-96
Un-linking the Rings: Cities and the Olympic Games: Part Four
Introduction: Full circle to London Andrea Gibbons & Nick Wolff, Pages 97-98
‘It’s not for us’ Paul Watt, Pages 99-118
Global perspectives on urban gating Zia Salim, Pages 119-121
Towards the Great Transformation: (5) Materialisms, old and new: theory, sources, and praxis (an introduction) Bob Catterall, Pages 122-125
“Austerity has become a strategic space for the contradictory reproduction of market rule, calling attention to the ways in which neoliberal rationalities have been resuscitated, reanimated, and to some degree rehabilitated in the wake of the Wall Street crash of 2008-2009. By definition, however, this does not define a sustainable course. Beyond its internal contradictions, austerity urbanism has already become a site of struggle in its own right, though it remains to be seen whether the latest wave of occupations, protests, and resistance efforts will mutate into a politics of transformation.” (Peck)
After the Wall Street crash, market rule seems to have re-established itself under the guise of a form of austerity, one that draws, following out here Jamie Peck’s powerful analysis, on neoliberal rationalities. Such a marketised and politically driven austerity involves an acutely skewed withdrawal, ‘extreme economy’, of resources and rights from workers and citizens, and reassertion by and for ruling elites of their own/owned rights and resources. It occupies a strategic space and time seeking to occupy (and therefore to negate the Occupy movement) a series of territorial spaces and moments. Its fluctuating fortunes as a hegemonic system and form of urbanism, seem to be determined by internal contradictions and internalised struggles. But are such struggles, as Peck’s analysis seems in the main to suggest, necessarily internalised, confined to neoliberal rationality, essentially reformist, and therefore with little chance of achieving socio-spatial transformation, of taking us beyond this increasingly repressive and severe form of austerity? This is one question that underlies the accounts of local, regional and global developments, urban and pre/post urban, in the latest issue of CITY, 16.6. If not, this is the second question, what forms of agency, where/ how/when, could bring that transformation about? Five contributions address these questions, implicitly and/or explicitly, on both a large-scale and a minute basis. The others deal with aspects of the questions.
Bleak prospects and counter-movements
Peck, in the first of these contributions, considers the increasingly bleak prospects, under this marketised austerity, ‘extreme economy’, as counterposed to existing and potential resistant struggles, for U.S. cities. His survey spells out a situation that applies to struggles in British cities as discussed here by Sarah Glyn in her account of struggles over social housing in Scotland, seeking to move beyond demolition policies towards alternative strategies, and by Alberto Duman, from ‘the frontline of gentrification in East London’, seen from his perspective as a street-trader and grounded analyst/activist seeking to move toward some form of libertarian/anarchist municipalism.() In the first of a new series, Act/ions, Celine Kuklowsky sees neoliberal, marketised rationalities at work in a much lauded London production of Shakespeare and Middleton’s agonised and satirical exploration of money and greed in Timon of Athens (much discussed by Marx) where the agony and satire are transmuted into stagey ‘flash’.()
For Hyun Shin, in a second scene-setting contribution, the prospects of ‘cities of spectacle’ in China are similarly bleak but he, too, sees other possibilities: ‘the re-emergence of the use of spectacles in China to realise state ambitions of accumulation might appear to be well guarded for the time being, but… it might turn out to have seeded greater cracks in the regulatory system.’ Turning from what might appear amid the bleak prospects, contributors to our feature on the Marxist and activist geographer Neil Smith move on to what must appear. He argued, Margit Mayer reports, that ‘it is not our job to tinker with redistributive measure or with taxes. Rather it is our job to organize movements that are able to create such revolutionary moments as of Tahrir Square!’ And Marcelo Lopes de Souza, taking up the reflexive, critical strand in Smith’s revolutionary commitment, argues for a transformative movement characterised by the distinctive and overlapping insights of anarchists and Marxists rather than their differences. Souza puts the case, for example, for ‘understanding more and more the relevance of the spatial dimension of society, for instance, the role of the social construction of scale and the politics of scale—a task to which Neil Smith contributed in a deep and original way…’
Tom Slater writes (in the comprehensive and passionate survey from which the photograph and epigraph are taken, Slater, T. (2012) “Rose Street and Revolution: A Tribute to Neil Smith (1954–2012)” http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/tslater/tributetoNeilSmith.html): ‘I took this picture of Neil in Sweden in October 2010. We were there for a conference, preceded by a fascinating walking tour of the gentrifying Gothenburg district of Kvillebäcken led by Catharina Thörn, a wonderful sociologist/activist who has been researching the class struggles there since they began. Behind Neil is a Kvillebäcken rent gap. Neil's delightful engagement with all the people we met during our stay in Gothenburg, and his masterful plenary lecture, are memories I will treasure.’ He adds, as further explanation of the scene: ‘Behind Neil is a building site, which used to be a light industrial area supporting a working class labour force, now awaiting construction of luxury condominium housing’ (email.19/11/2012)
‘A quite different set of ethics’
Returning now to Peck’s analysis, he does point to a way beyond the bleak prospects he presents.’ [I]f austerity defines a new normal, it is’, he concludes, ‘a state of normalcy at the very cusp of crisis’. It would take a supreme collective effort to uncover that ‘normalcy’ and begin to take us beyond the crisis. It would, as Peck argues earlier, require:
“historically new forms of interurban politics, based not on competitive or winner-takes-all principles, but instead founded on a quite different set of ethics, such as those of progressive redistribution, ecological sustainability and social responsibility.”
For the contributors to the first instalment of our new feature on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture the path to progressive redistribution, ecological sustainability and social responsibility leads to old/new actions in the old/new spaces in and around our runaway cities, to, as the editor of the series, Adrian Atkinson puts it, ‘the start of a return to farming as a main occupation for humanity.’ (See a preview of Adrian’s article here). In ‘A new world ordure’, Antony Richardson looks at the increasingly urgent need to conserve and re-direct our resources, in this case with particular reference to humanure, drawing on a survey of the practical possibilities in Australia. With a focus on developments in peri-urban Zurich, Marit Rosol and Paul Schweizer, look at ‘Urban agriculture as an economy of solidarity.’
Peak presents the principles of progressive redistribution, ecological sustainability and social responsibility as examples of ‘a quite different set of ethics’. Such an ethics is an undertheorised area in much Marxist and mainstream analysis. Ethics of a kind fit easily into the category of neoliberal rationalities and into ‘the economy of signs and symbols’ mentioned in the second section (‘Develop or default: the dynamics of urban austerity’) of his paper where he outlines ‘emergent features of austerity urbanism’. He mentions this in the fifth of these, ‘Placebo dependency’ which he defines as:
“the reliance of cities on symbolically resonant, market-oriented and low-cost initiatives that marry aspirational goals (creativity, sustainability, livability, etc.) with projects that work with the grain of localized incentives and business-as-usual interests.”
He mentions ‘the economy of signs and symbols’ in the concluding sentence of this brief account of ‘placebo dependency’:
“Occasional “successes” will inspire new rounds of interurban emulation and model-borrowing, further embedding the economy of signs and symbols in the (increasingly post-rational) field of urban development policy-making.”
Looking afresh at the economy of signs and symbols, it is a capitalist rendering (in fact, ‘extraordinary rendition’, the ‘handing-over’ of one realm of human conduct to another realm) of culture as economy, the handing-over of the aspirational goals that Peck refers to – ‘creativity, sustainability, livability, etc.’ and, which one should add translate back – to ‘localized incentives and business-as-usual interests.’ This is the insight that can be detected in the much-abused (by believers and non-believers) distinction between base and superstructure. Of course, art, biophilia and ethics – particularly if not assimilated, transmuted to non-conflictual conceptions of creativity, sustainability, livability – are essentially basic not superstructural. But it has been the accelerating project of capitalism to render them as superstructural, as base metals that are transmuted into gold, and then eventually, the story of our times, delivered up to the realm of gold, the base, ‘the economy’. This is the story that Debord captured in the notion of ‘the spectacle’, centrally relevant to much of our ongoing series on the Olympics (‘Unlinking the rings’), including Hyun Shin’s discussion here of mega-events in China.
This is placebo dependency on a massive scale, no longer low-cost because the targeted group is not local but national and global, not just ‘extreme economy’ but ‘extreme money’. For ‘extreme economy’ the logic is well summed-up as: ‘Cut. Economy shrinks. Firms don’t spend. People can’t. Debt dynamics worsen. So cut.’()
Extremes (economy, money, climate) – hedonistic totalitarianism and the Great Transformation
For the latter, Satyajit Das, an international financial consultant with particular expertise in derivatives and risk management and author of Extreme Money, does not come up with a succinct formula but comes up in the Prologue with a number of powerful characterizations. In one sequence he moves from financiers ‘slicing’ risk, through financialisation as colonization in the service of a new religion, through ‘extreme sports’ to extreme money as a game:
‘We live and work in the world of extreme money – spectacular, dangerous games with money that create new artificial highs in growth, prosperity, sophistication and wealth… But only skilled insiders get richer, running and rigging the game.’(italics in the original)()
Extreme economy, extreme money and, it must be added, extreme climate. As we go to press, a New Scientist editorial comments:
‘As yet, we cant say how much of the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy was attributable to climate change. It’s nonetheless suggestive of the extreme events that a changing climate will visit on us – much sooner than we had anticipated.’
The editorial draws on a feature based on evidence gathered by scientists for the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change. The writer. Michael Le Page, gives seven reasons why things are looking grimmer than they did at the time of the previous report (2007):
“the Arctic is warming faster than predicted; extreme weather is getting more extreme; food production is taking a hit; sea levels will rise faster than expected; greenhouse gas levels could keep rising even if our emission stop; we’re emitting more than ever; heat stress means big trouble.”()
The final scene-setting contribution, a hopefully forward-looking series on the ‘The Great Transformation’, is in gradually emerging dialogue with Karl Polanyi’s wartime classic, The Great Transformation (1941). The latter was principally a backward-looking account and analysis of the development of the model of the market model of society in the nineteenth-century and its hoped -for demise in the twentieth. The series which began (CITY 16.1-2) with an episode that introduced some vignettes and texts (including Polanyi’s book) of and/or for our contemporary situation, has continued with four episodes that refer particularly to Patrick Keiller’s project Robinson in Ruins which, like this series itself, treads on many of the taboos of socio-spatial studies. The series and recent issue editorials have also developed in dialogue with our series on the Olympics, of which Huyun Shin’s Cities of Spectacle is part. The overall trend, has been characterised here (Editorial, 16.4, pp. 392–394) as ‘a complex socio-economic, psychosocial yet deeply material, and political trend…’ It was suggested, in a section ‘Naming the trend’, that, though ‘neoliberalism’ covers the first and third aspects of that formula, it does not cover the second: psychosocial yet deeply material. It was argued that what is emerging is ‘‘a system of hedonistic totalitarianism controlled in the name of austerity, a system that was partly identified by Lefebvre in the 1960s when he named it “the bureaucratic society of controlled consumption.” It is now much more evident as an emerging system, now moving very rapidly towards completion but not quite yet fully established. It is both a counterrevolution, and a so far successful coup, one that could and can nevetheless be resisted and overcome.”
Das concludes that extreme money ‘was a one-way street. It is now too late to turn back.’ But from an alternative perspective, it is too late to turn back only if the intention is to return to the past but not if it is part of a move towards social transformation. We might, we must!
by Bob Catterall, Chief Editor of CITY
Editorial to CITY, Vol. 16 Issue 6; see contents list below.
Contents list for Issue 16.6
Bob Catteral, Pages 621-625
Austerity urbanism American cities under extreme economy Jamie Peck, Pages 626-655
You can’t demolish your way out of a housing crisis: A Scottish case study of what happens when neoliberalism becomes built into legislation Sarah Glynn, Pages 656-671
Dispatches from ‘the frontline of gentrification’ Alberto Duman, Pages 672-685
For the Possibility of Another World: Tributes to Neil Smith (1954–2012)
For the possibility of another world: Tributes to Neil Smith (1954–2012) Bob Catterall, Pages 686-688
Neil Smith: A tribute from Berlin Margit Mayer, Pages 689-691
Libertarians and Marxists in the 21st century: Thoughts on our contemporary specificities and their relevance to urban studies, as a tribute to Neil Smith Marcelo Lopes de Souza, Pages 692-698
Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture
Introduction Adrian Atkinson, Page 699
A New World Ordure? Thoughts on the use of Humanure in Developed Cities Anthony Richardson, Pages 700-712
ortoloco Zurich: Urban agriculture as an economy of solidarity Marit Rosol & Paul Schweizer, Pages 713-724
Un-linking the rings: cities and the Olympic Games: Part Three
Introduction: Unpacking the Olympic spectacle: ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ from London to Rio to China Nick Wolff & Andrea Gibbons, Pages 725-727
Unequal cities of spectacle and mega-events in China Hyun Bang Shin, Pages 728-744
Beyond the flash: reflections on Timon of Athens and the state of contemporary theatre Celine Kuklowsky, Pages 745-747
Towards the great transformation: (4) Agrarian and urban rebellion, the 2008 crisis, art/philosophy/science, and Keiller’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ Bob Catterall, Pages 748-757
by Celine Kuklowsky
As critical urban thinkers, activists and dilettantes, many of us share a common disillusionment by the current state of the arts, particularly the theatre. ‘Act/ions’ will invite artists and art lovers, activists, academics, dreamers, and others to reflect upon contemporary culture, at the intersection of art, politics and the urban. We do this in order to better understand and challenge ourselves and our cultures; to examine our collective imagination and the new questions being asked; to explore and contribute to propositions for the new, the thought-provoking, the bold, the ugly, the uncomfortable, the messy and the beautiful. Culture in acts and action.
In an interview in 2006, Michael Kahn, the Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Theater Company, said: “You can look at how society changes by looking at how Shakespeare has been produced and acted.” From Leslie Howard’s “effete, high class, somewhat passionless” Hamlet in 1936, to the “angry young men” performing the Bard in the 1960s, the National Theatre’s current production of Timon of Athens offers important insight into contemporary society and the state of theatre today.
Nicholas Hytner’s fast-paced production sets Shakespeare’s tale on greed and the power of money in modern-day London with the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis. The City’s corporate and political elite wine and dine in swanky clubs and at fine banquets, while Occupy Wall Street types demonstrate and eventually seize power.
TIMON OF ATHENS by Shakespeare, , Author - William Shakespeare , Director -Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Tim Hatley, Lighting Designer - Bruno Poet, The National Theatre, 2012, Credit: Johan Persson - www.perssonphotography.com
While I didn’t wholly dislike the modern aesthetic of the production, I had a hard time sitting through it. There was so much visual and aural stimulation – delivered by a revolving stage floor that swung the set from a museum, to Timon’s modern house, to the financial district and back again – that the actors appeared to be rushing through scenes just to reach the next set and costume change. The intricate and ever-shifting visual clutter ended up taking front stage to the text, which was delivered in such a rushed manner that it seemed to be getting in the performers’ way of the production. During part of Act II, the words were in fact entirely cut out and replaced by a series of tableaux of the OWS protesters miming negotiating scenes with the political elite while ‘Law and Order’ type music pulsed in the background.
Shakespeare’s greatness lies in his ability to transcend time. He asks questions that get to the very core of human nature and for that he is eternal (and beautiful). Hytner was not wrong to set this tale in today’s London – the parallels are there – but rather than elevate the story and bring the audience to question ourselves and our own society, the play was drowned out by its staging. In the end, all the modern cultural references felt patronizing. Having an old man push a shopping cart full of trash and a woman carry “Iceland” bags to represent poverty, felt cheap. It simply read like television. The audience is not invited to think when clichés of human beings – see the protesters with Keffiyehs and Northern Irish accents – are running around the stage. Rather, we are asked to watch and be entertained by parading stereotypes.
If Kahn is right, then this production speaks of theatre as television (soundtrack and all) and the audience as mass consumers of this simplified, fast-paced good…and I would have to agree with him. In fact, I would say it’s an accurate description of most mainstream and even fringe theatre productions today. The most obvious example of this perhaps is the ever-growing number of films turned into stage and musical adaptations. Financially tied to box office numbers, modern theatre in the US and in Western Europe has become increasingly ‘disneyfied’ and white to satisfy the imperatives of the market. Audiences are not asked to think; they are there to be distracted.
This raises a few questions. Most urgently perhaps, what is the point of theatre today? Should theatre try to rival film, television and other forms of mainstream media? Or should it not on the contrary deliberately combat that tendency and aspire to something greater?
Must theatre appeal to the greatest number of people? Or should it strive to explore and illuminate new areas, at the risk of losing some audience members?
This isn’t a call for a more elitist theatre, but rather a cry of despair for truly new, edgy, thought-provoking explorations in theatre. I do believe Timon’s story is still a contemporary one, but I did not gain any new perspectives from this production. (Is then, setting a challenging play in a modern context social commentary in itself? Is it enough?)
Perhaps we can look to Shakespeare to answer some of these questions and to find newness and relevance in our theatre today. As Michael Kahn puts it beautifully, “Shakespeare opens our minds. He helps us to see deeper and farther into what it means to be human. Each generation shares that legacy and each generation has a responsibility to carry it forward.”
The first quote is from an interview of Michael Kahn by Kenneth L. Adelman at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2006. The title of the talk is “Is Classical Theater Relevant?” and was accessed here: http://www.aspenideas.org/session/classical-theater-relevant
The last quote is from an interview with Charlie Rose aired on 23 April 2012 on PBS and accessed http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12315
Is a new phase of neoliberal capitalism on the horizon?
‘Danger. Deep excavations. Deep water. Private property. Keep out’
If we were to seek to tell the story of our current moment, global and domestic, in five words, these could perhaps hardly be bettered. It is a moment of economic, social and environmental danger. Deep excavations abound, both neoliberal and alternative. Some, many, a multitude might learn to swim in these waters, but others have already claimed them: ‘Private property. Keep out.’
There are, of course, other ways of telling the story. A much more specific one runs:
“As the economic crisis for the industrial economies is far from over – but a spring of resistance movements is challenging governments in their blatant support for financial capital – a new phase of neoliberal capitalism seems to be on the horizon.”
We start here with this more specific telling, first as told in three sentences () (of which the above is the first), and as further presented and explored in this issue of CITY, returning eventually to the ‘Danger’ sign and its landscape. The specific telling focuses on what the new phase of neoliberalism, if that is what it is (), imposes in terms of deliberate socio-economic outcomes, and then on alternative needs, on what is needed in order to overcome these impositions.
“It looks as if it will be forcing more injuries and dispossession upon ‘the 99%’ while militarising its response to protest movements.” (Mayer, )
We begin with ‘The New Urban Enclosures’ in which Stuart Hodkinson notes, after Glassman, that “the notion that acts of enclosure are somehow returning or are recurrent in spaces previously considered to have gone through the spatial violence of primitive accumulation marks a significant shift in our understanding of global transformations integral to contemporary capitalism.” He then applies this understanding to contemporary British housing and urban policy. Christopher McMichael in his account of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa tells a similar story with a focus on ‘the new military urbanism’. Such a story emerges from our continuing feature on and beyond the London Olympics where one of its editors, Andrea Gibbons, while acknowledging “the post Olympic glow of immense human achievement and aspiration”, points to what she sees as its emerging legacy:
“state-led gentrification and development for the wealthy; surveillance technologies and cooperation strategies between police, army personnel and private security forces; and increasing losses in democratic accountability and transparency as more and more is removed from the public to the private sphere.” (t is no coincidence that Britain is the only country to have ever boasted residents from all 204 of the Olympic nations. They all seemed at home. And so, for a few hours on Friday, did we.” (July 30, 2012) As to whether this symbolic counterblow can last for more than a few hours (or weeks) is a matter of a sustaining vision and a matching praxis. For a negative take on this, see Aditya Chakrabortty’s ‘What the Olympics opening ceremony tells us about our economy’, subtitled ‘You may have thought it was just a brilliant and bonkers portrait of Britain’s history – but was it actually about a country coming to terms with its own decline?’ (The Guardian, Monday 30 July 2012). But see also his ‘Why Osborne should pay heed to our Olympics triumph’ (‘If we ran Olympic sport in the same way we ran the economy, our athletes would be running races in their socks.’ The Guardian, Monday 20 August 2012). Though whether Osborne, of all people, could learn anything from Britain’s Olympic triumph is implicitly answered by a caption that runs with the article: ‘Jessica Ennis … would she have flourished under a laissez faire system?’])
and a contributor, Marcelo Lopes de Souza, analyses the increasing denial of ‘the right to the city’ in Rio de Janeiro as the 2016 Olympic Games approach. In our continuing feature on NEOutopia, the contributors draw attention to the obfuscatory allure of the ‘neo’ in neoliberalism, its architecture, urbanism, and politics. The feature’s editor, Emma Cummins, in part referring to an earlier contribution by Louis Moreno, suggests that ‘‘the aspirational claims of development disguise a dangerous ‘social pathology’: the inability of capitalism to produce a genuine form of ‘newness’” and goes on to quote from another earlier contributor, Francesco Sebregondi:
“As bold and contemporary as . . . newly built forms might appear; they leave intact, and indeed actively sustain, the structural logics of the neoliberal city; ravenous commodification and relentless expansion of the market.”
A contributor to the current instalment of the feature, Caspar Pearson, shows how aspects of the fifteenth and sixteenth century Italian Renaissance were misappropriated in New Labour’s ‘millenarian’ rhetoric of urban renaissance. Navigating this miasma of neos, neologisms and neologic it is scarcely surprising, then, that the group of young artists, curators and practicing writers, city-bound collective, whose work led to and shaped this feature, opt in their ‘Notes on NEOutopia’ not for ‘the new’ but for ‘the now’: “by placing the burden on the future, there is a risk that the realities of the present are glossed over or underappreciated.”
“Thus the need to create connections and coalitions across different urban divides becomes ever more crucial, and the need for critical urban theory to penetrate the obfuscations.”(Mayer, )
Margit Mayer begins to amplify her third sentence (above) from her previous paper in a second contribution, ‘Beyond austerity urbanism and creative city politics’, to our continuing series, Beyond ‘Cities for People, Not for Profit’. By applying the framework of critical urban theory to “the comparatively privileged Western cities of the global North”, she:
“first identifies the particularities of neoliberal urbanism and its implications for (divisions and/or solidarities between) urban social movements, and secondly looks at the impact which the so-called Occupy movements . . . have had had on urban protest.”
The identification of these particularities and their implications is pursued in two papers on the Greek situation. In her ‘Athens 2012’ Myrto Tsilimpounidi makes a call: ‘‘ ‘in navigating street politics, civilian performances and political street art; to rework ‘the right to the city’ as the ability to transform the self and imagine the city to come.’ In ‘Beyond Spontaneity’ Dimitris Dalakoglou, revisits, critically, the Marxist dichotomy between spontaneity and leadership in the context of the re-emergence of extreme-Right violence in the streets of Athens – spiralling to levels of ‘a low-intensity war condition’ (as his colleague Antonis Vradis describes it) – and the need for appropriate collective action.
All in all, where does seeking to meet these needs leave us?() It leads us with and beyond Cities for People, Not for Profit, particularly to four of CITY’s list of seven shortcomings in that book: insufficient attention to ‘‘urbanization as an accelerating denial of ‘the city’, the possible social/economic/ environmental collapse of cities (). . ., to feminist and anarchist/autonomist critiques, to shortcomings in the way we write socio-spatial studies . . .’’
‘Deep excavations. Deep water.’
For the contributors to the first instalment of our new feature on Urban and peri-urban agriculture it leads us to old/new actions in the old/new spaces in and around our runaway cities, to, as the editor of the series, Adrian Atkinson puts it, “the start of a return to farming as a main occupation for humanity.” In ‘A new world ordure’, Antony Richardson looks at the increasingly urgent need to conserve and re-direct our resources, in this case with particular reference to humanure, drawing on a survey of the practical possibilities in Australia. With a focus on developments in peri-urban Zurich, Marit Rosol and Paul Schweizer, look at ‘Urban agriculture as an economy of solidarity.’ ()
Refocussing these concerns within academic research, Anna Krzwoszyska reviews work in a recent collection (edited by Tony Bennett and Patrick Joyce), identified with the ‘material turn’ in the social sciences. “Grounded in the work of Bruno Latour and Michel Foucault, and indebted to feminist academics and phenomenologists. . . it strives to create fuller understandings of social life by recognising objects and materials as active participants in the creation of social structures.”
Further steps towards these deep waters are taken in the endpiece, one in a series, ‘Towards the Great Transformation’. It is an episode, ‘Research, Marx’s ‘Old Mole’, and ‘Robinson’/Keiller’s journey’, which focuses on the challengingly innovative research of Patrick Keiller() in which his semi-fictional investigator Robinson leads us to one site, a ruined cement works and quarry. The sign at that site warns, ‘Danger. . . Private property. Keep out.’ But Robinson proposes the establishment of:
“an experimental settlement: in spaces of extraordinary biomorphic architecture, we would devise ways to reform land ownership and democratic government; we would pioneer the renewal of industry and agriculture, after the decline of the global dollar, and the disappearance of cheap oil.’’
by Bob Catterall, Chief Editor of CITY
Editorial to CITY, Vol. 16 Issue 5; see contents list below.
Contents list for Issue 16.5
Bob Catteral, Pages 495-499
The new urban enclosures Stuart Hodkinson, Pages 500-518
‘Hosting the world’. The 2010 World Cup and the new military urbanism Christopher McMichael, Pages 519-534
Beyond Spontaneity. Crisis, violence and collective action in Athens Dimitris Dalakoglou, Pages 535-545
Athens 2012. Performances ‘in crisis’ or what happens when a city goes soft? Myrto Tsilimpounidi, Pages 546-556
Beyond ‘Cities for People, Not for Profit’: Part Four
Introduction: Moving On Bob Catterall, Page 557
Beyond austerity urbanism and creative city politics (A preview of the fourth CITY-UCL-Bartlett School lecture; given at UCL on October 2nd 2012) Margit Mayer, Pages 558-559
Un-linking the rings: cities and the Olympic Games: Part two
Introduction: Spotlight on Olympic Rio: Critical implications of ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ Andrea Gibbons, Pages 561-562
Panem et circenses versus the right to the city (centre) in Rio de Janeiro: A short report Marcelo Lopes de Souza, Pages 563-572
NEOutopia: Architecture and the Politics of ‘the New’: Part Two
NEOutopia: Architecture and the Politics of ‘the New’: Part Two Introduction Emma Cummins, Pages 573-575
New Labour—new renaissance Caspar Pearson, Pages 576-594
Notes on NEOutopia city-bound collective, Pages 595-606
We are all surprised by action: Writing materials from a cultural perspective Anna Krzywoszynska, Pages 607-609
Towards the great transformation: (3) Research, Marx’s ‘Old Mole’, and ‘Robinson’/Keiller’s Journey Bob Catterall, Pages 610-620
Annual UCL Urban Laboratory and CITY journal lecture: with Professor Margit Mayer
“Beyond austerity urbanism and creative city politics”
Supported by the Bartlett School of Planning.
2 October 2012 18.30 – 20.00
Archaeology Lecture Theatre
31-34 Gordon Square, UCL, WC1H 0PY
Editor’s Introduction: Moving On
In the first part of this series to move with/against/beyond ‘Cities for People, Not for Profit’ CfP (read more about the project here >>), we invited reviews from colleagues new to the book and/or the project, William Tabb, Mark Davidson and Fran Tonkiss. In the second we invited one of the original editorial critics of CfP to return to his initial response to the first version, as published in CITY, in his’ Cities for People, Not for Profit – from a radical-libertarian and Latin American perspective’ (2009, 13/4) but also to move on to a review of the subsequent book (2011). This response, ‘Marxists, libertarians and the city – A necessary debate’, together with an introductory suggestion that dialogue had been inhibited by an element of dogmatic resistance, was published in our previous issue (2012, 16.3).
In the third part of the series we published the first response to come from the editors of CfP, one by Margit Mayer. In a sensitive and helpful short paper (based on her contribution to CITY’s session at the 2012 American Association of Geographers in New York) she acknowledge that ‘a new phase of neoliberal capitalism seems to be on the horizon… Thus, the need to create connections and coalitions across the urban divide… and for critical urban theory to penetrate the obfuscations and help identify the real bases for our alliances …’(). We also published an equally sensitive and helpful paper, ‘Unsettling critical urban theory’ (also based on a contribution to that that AAG session), by one of our editors, Sharon Meagher. In seeking to unsettle one of the hierarchical (or unilateral) binaries, urban/rural (incorporating, one should add, “modern/backward”), that distort much analysis from the global North, she brought good news, some at least, from the South.
In this fourth installment of the series, we invited Margit to set out and document her own position more fully. This takes two forms. The first is an outline of a paper she is to given as the fourth annual CITY-UCL-Bartlett School lecture (to be given at UCL on October 2nd 2012). The second is a selected bibliography of her work for the period.
Bob Catterall, CITY Editor-in-Chief
Note: This and the subsequent paper, as currently outlined, are discussed briefly in the editorial of Issue 16.5.
Beyond austerity urbanism and creative city politics
Preview of the fourth CITY-UCL-Bartlett School lecture; to be given at UCL on 2 October 2012.
by Margit Mayer
The talk looks at contemporary urban activism as it mobilizes around policies and conflicts characteristic of the comparatively privileged Western cities of the global North. It thus moves beyond ‘Cities for People, not for Profit’ by zeroing in on the specificities of urbanization processes and the reorganization of socio-spatial infrastructures, as well as their contestations, in one particular region of the ongoing, global and uneven development of capitalist accumulation.
By applying the framework of critical urban theory to the analysis of ongoing struggles in this region, it first identifies the particularities of neoliberal urbanism and its implications for (divisions and/or solidarities between) urban social movements (1), and secondly looks at the impact which the so-called Occupy movements that have rippled across cities in North America as well as Western Europe have had on urban protest (2).
1. As opposed to the previous Keynesian form of urbanism, when the Fordist city provided openings for struggles around improved collective infrastructures, neoliberal urbanism (thanks to intensified accumulation by dispossession) enhances socio-spatial polarization coupled with austerity politics, dismantling of social infrastructures, and stricter policing, while it also incorporates and harnesses many elements of urban alternative movements that feed cultural creativity and entrepreneurial activation. These dynamics create distances and sometimes collisions between more culturally oriented and more politically oriented activist groups, but also enforce affinities and solidarities between anti-privatization and anti-eviction struggles in the global South with those of (ethnically or migrant-based) organizing in the global North.
2. The effect of and responses to the 2008 financial meltdown have aggravated social marginalization and polarization processes, exacerbated the housing crisis in many regions of the world, and enforced systemic austerity politics. This catalyzed the15M movement in Spain, which inspired similar “real democracy” movements of Indignados across Europe, as well as the Occupy movement in North America. Their powerful resistance energy has, after the eviction of occupied squares and plazas, in many cities turned to urban neighborhoods and community struggles and infused these heterogeneous contestations with a radical critique of financial and political power and with direct-democratic and prefigurative organizing styles. In this process, distances and divisions between a (racialized) “global proletariat” and progressive or radical middle-class based activists may come to the surface and begin to be respected and bridged.
Note: Margit Mayer will also do a smaller seminar at the Bartlett School of Planning on 3 October. Details to follow Public lecture – all welcome. No RSVP necessary – first-come, first-served. Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayer, M., (2010) Social Movements in the (Post-)Neoliberal City. Civic City Cahier 1. London: Bedford Press.
Mayer, M., Jenny Künkel, eds., (2012) Neoliberal Urbanism and Its Contestations – Crossing Theoretical Boundaries. London: Palgrave Publishers.
Brenner, N., Marcuse, P., Mayer, M., eds., (2012) Cities for People, Not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City. London: Routledge.
A Selected Bibliography of Margit Mayer’s Work (2000-2012):
with Pierre Hamel, Henri Lustiger-Thaler, eds., (2000) Urban Movements in a Globalising World. London: Routledge.
with Neil Brenner and Peter Marcuse, eds., (2012) Cities for People, not for Profit. Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City. London: Routledge.
with Jenny Künkel, eds., (2012) Neoliberal Urbanism and Its Contestations – Crossing Theoretical Boundaries. London: Palgrave Publishers.
“The Onward Sweep of Social Capital: Causes and Consequences for Understanding Cities, Communities and Urban Movements,” (International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27/1, March 2003, pp. 110-132.
“Urban Social Movements in an Era of Globalization,” in: Neil Brenner/Roger Keil, eds., The Global Cities Reader. Routledge, 2006, pp. 296-304.
“Manuel Castells’ The City and the Grassroots,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30/1, march 2006, 202-206.
“Contesting the Neoliberalization of Urban Governance,” in: Helga Leitner, Jamie Peck, Eric Sheppard, eds., Contesting Neoliberalism; The Urban Frontier. New York: Guilford Press, 2007, 90-115.
“To what end do we theorize sociospatial relations?,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26/3, 2008, 414-419.
“The ‘Right to the City’ in the Context of Shifting Mottos of Urban Social Movements,” City. Analysis of Urban Trends 13/2-3, July 2009, 362-374.
with Neil Brenner, John Friedmann, Allen J. Scott and Edward W. Soja, “Urban Restructuring and the Crisis: A Symposium,” Critical Planning, vol. 16, summer 2009, 35-59.
“Social Cohesion and Anti-Poverty Policies in US Cities,” in: Harlan Koff, ed., Social cohesion in Europe and the Americas/ Cohesión social en Europa y las Américas, Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, 2009, 311-334.
“Punishing the Poor – a Debate. Some Questions on Wacquant’s Theorizing the Neoliberal State, ” Theoretical Criminology vol. 14 no. 1, 2010, 93-103
“Social Movements in the (Post-)Neoliberal City,” Civic City Cahier 1, London: Bedford Press, 2010, 15-45.
“Neoliberal Urbanization and the Politics of Contestation,” in: Tahl Kaminer, Miguel Robles-Duran, Heidi Sohn, eds., Urban Asymmetries. Studies and Projects on Neoliberal Urbanization. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2011, 46-61.
“Multiscalar mobilization for the just city: New spatial politics of urban movements,” in: Justin Beaumont, Byron Miller, Walter Nicholls, eds., Space of Contention: Spatialities and Social Movements, Ashgate Publishing Ltd 2012.
with Julie-Ann Boudreau, “Social Movements in Urban Politics: Trends in Research and Practice,” in: Oxford Handbook on Urban Politics, Oxford UP 2012.
by Alberto Duman,
“Pissed off” market trader, artist and lecturer from Hackney, on commodification and gentrification, and how to resist it…
‘The first sign is a crisp white painted house front. Outside, one of those continental biscuit-tin cars, a Renault 4L or a Citroen 2CV. Inside, through the window –it has blinds not curtains- one spots a Japanese paper lampshade, a smart little bookcase of the kind you get on mailorder through The Observer, stacked with glossy volumes of reproduction.’()
The Marxist Cheesecake Market Trader
Alberto Duman, featured in The Observer
The lifestyle depiction of the early gentrifying pioneers in the London of the mid 70s in Jonathan Raban’s novel still resonates as a vivid observation of a city and its people in transition, and reads as an important marker into a continuing process of social and aesthetic transformation of London from post-industrial to world-class city status, a period of drastic changes also highlighted in Joe Kerr and Andrew Gibson’s edited collection of essays ‘London: from Punk to Blair’.()
In Clapton, where I am writing from, house fronts are now repainted in Victorian heritage inspired hues of browns, mauve and dark greys, the blinds (wooden) are still a relevant point of distinction from curtains, but the rare sight of two 2CV around the block is a pale reminder of a long distance connection to Raban’s masterful description of London’s soft city ‘of experience, of illusion, myth, aspiration and nightmare’; only The Observer still remains an up-to date point of reference and measuring of the political temperature of a left-leaning urban liberal readership in its ongoing migrations, flights and returns.
I should know, since I am the moustached, long-haired and smiling market trader being interviewed holding a cheesecake and ‘pissed off of East London being sold as a product’ in the article on The Observer of 8.7.2012, declaring Chatsworth Road in Clapton as ‘The Frontline of Hackney Gentrification’.()
My contribution to that article -as a result of which, between other more productive conversations following its publication, I have earned the namesake of ‘Marxist cheesecake market trader’- is the entry point into this text.
Mindful of the cardboard cut-out effect to which one’s own contribution into the preconceived editorial line of a national newspaper is clearly subjected to, I will not try here to respond or critique the article directly. It will suffice to point out that since its publication, it has elicited 356 comments on The Guardian website providing a substantially relevant account of the range of attitudes and responses that the subject of class and urban inequalities in London today can still provoke.()
My intention is to recuperate from the experience of being ‘framed’ a better and more productive sense of the kind of ‘dark matter’() that The Observer’s article has simply agitated and rehashed from other sources without watching it settle and learn from. For example, it might be instructive to review a series of local contributions that preceded it of more than a year; an article in the blog Hackney Hive in April 2011 titled ‘Clapton gentrification: at what costs?’ () was followed in September 2011 by an article on the Hackney Citizen titled ‘Gentrification and the battle for Clapton’s Soul’ () both of which have provided background research material for The Observer article on July 2012.
I will also scrutinise the uses of the term ‘gentrification’ in the particular case of Chatsworth Road whilst investigating the ‘high-level ambition’ of the CRTRA () drafted neighbourhood plan () for which the street market is a manifestation of.
The impetus of the CRTRA’s ambitions is also paradigmatic of the frantic activity registered at the level of local high streets all over the UK, stimulated both by the publication of the Localism Bill as well as the availability of several ‘revitalisation’ funds –public () and private () – aimed at reverting the economic downturn and the ‘empty shop’ phenomena.
But if in the near future the planning system in UK is to move towards some form of libertarian municipalism () as a form of urban governance, the space for rethinking an urban commons must move beyond the chimera of a market-delivered social mix and the hazardous expectations of a localism formulated in a political climate where the main proponents of a ‘Big Society’ also think that ‘Multiculturalism is dead’ ().
Ersatz neighbourhood improvers, eager locavores and urban design professionals see great potential in the rhetorical populism of the localism Bill; the risk is that of ending up reproducing inherited hierarchies of social and cultural capital as well as urban planning and design current alternative orthodoxies.
The kind of people’s views that The Observer’s article has activated are too abruptly closed down in a formalised and rushed sense of indignation that merely gestures towards a much needed refreshing of an agenda of social justice in our cities, but missing out more tangential indicators of a fascinating area in transition from which much can be learned.
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything ()
Gentrification, the core argument of the newspaper article, has acquired since its first printed appearance in 1964 such a depth of analysis and weight in academic discourse, media attention and popular currency that its deployment can range from benign aesthetic and social operations of improvement –city districts defining themselves as safe, clean and valuable investments-, to an incensed indictment of prevarication of one social group above others, depending on its narration.
‘We define gentrification as the movement of middle-income people into low-income neighbourhoods causing the displacement of all, or many, of the pre-existing low-income residents’. ()
Here is an example of an established view across a consistent body of academic literature on the subject; ‘gentrification’ is a movement that causes shifts and ultimately displacement. The terms of this binding relationship are asserted with such clarity that its opposite therefore becomes also true: without displacement –seemingly- there is no gentrification.
Elsewhere -with vested interest-, estate agents Sterling Ackroyd description of the Hackney housing market is also telling as ‘one of London’s newest up and coming areas and the large stock of Georgian and Victorian terrace properties in Hackney are going through a rapid process of gentrification.’ ()
Having made their fortunes in East London during the years of booming Hoxton and Shoreditch conversions in the early 90s, Sterling Ackroyd are bolstering their credentials by appropriating the ‘G-word’ and converting the value of individual terraced house refurbishments as aggregate value for the housing market in the area as a whole, onto which they then speculate as the property and land value increases.
Concurrently, UK and London policy makers informed by academic research and mindful of their objectives, have been at pains to avoid the inherent conflictuality of the term gentrification and in the last 10 years have chosen to adopt the more morally persuasive and neutered terms of ‘mixed communities’, ‘social mix’ and ‘diversity’, a position defined by some as ‘gentrification by stealth’.()
Ultimately, the point of friction between such diverging views is the measure in which the observer of these phenomena is positioned in terms of social justice as the basic principle of urban cohabitation from which other ambitions can then be envisioned.()
For the estate agents, gentrification is simply an aesthetic practice of urban improvement that increases property values, whilst for those living in areas where these improvements take place it is mostly a social process with clear economic and ethnic lines of separation.
Given these broad interpretations on the duplicitous uses of the word gentrification, the situation of Chatsworth Road Market and the Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association who brought it back to life in early 2011 deserves some particular attention both because it is a restoration project of a previously existing street market which ceased to exist in the 1990s due to Hackney Council disinvestment, but also because the CRTRA it is both a ‘Traders’ and a ‘Residents’ association, therefore not only concerned with the running of the street market but mostly with setting an agenda incorporating guiding ambitions for the neighbourhood based on five ‘high-level aspirations’. ()
The choice of initiating a Sunday street market as the core action of the CRTRA so far, situates its ambitions within the existing policies of street improvement and ‘social mix’ –managed gentrification- but sits at odd with the findings outlined in the London’s Retail Street Markets report of June 2010 prepared by Regeneris Consulting for the now-defunct LDA:
The report also “illustrates a clear relationship between the most deprived parts of the capital in inner city areas and east London and concentrations of street markets. This is unsurprising given the fact that street markets have typically sold cheaper goods, catering to poorer people. The fact that street markets continue to provide cheaper prices than supermarkets, in particular for fresh produce, highlights their ongoing importance for wider regeneration efforts.” ().
The resulting relationship between street markets, deprived area and low prices would have suggested a perfect fit for the situation of Chatsworth Road, given that in order to make its case the CRTRA acknowledges the high ranking of the area in the deprivation indexes, but priorities were different:
“It was felt that it was important that CRTRA was about more than just setting up a market, and that the general desire to improve the local street environment, safety and to make a stronger community should be reflected in the objectives.” ()
There is a mix of reformist zeal and sound city marketing language that permeates these undertakings, certainly aided by the palpable sense of vacuum and abdication of interest that an historically troubled, overstretched, bankrupted and now Olympic regeneration-euphoric local authority left behind in Chatsworth Road in previous years.
“Come on, this was a dump!” it’s the peremptory statement offered by a woman who introduced herself by saying: “Did you really mean to say those horrible things?” in the wake of my statements in The Observer. When nothing of value is registered in the culturally educated aesthetic experience of a given individual or group, the casual response is to say: “there is nothing here, only trash.”
CRTRA is not the only active group in the area promoting similarly decentralised agenda of neighbourhood autonomy in terms of either conservation agenda/aesthetic preservation or ‘place improvement schemes’. The void left by the lack of an official area plan by the local authority for Clapton has set the most dynamic citizens in motion.
Whether it is by tapping into the sustainable credentials of building preservation, the protection of specific groups of existing occupants, the proposed institution of a ‘creative quarter’ or the opposition towards the penetration of large retailers in the area () a variety of grassroots local groups with various urban imperatives at their heart has spruced up in the area.()
In the words of the Clapton Improvement Society declaration: “we have come together simply to get things done in our area”.()
A glance at the five ‘high-level ambitions’ emerged through consultation by the CRTRA vision exercise reveals the following guiding principles for the proposed neighbourhood plan:()
The admirable target of carbon-neutral street market is proposed together with generalised diversity indexes and mixed with notions of area marketing through ‘distinction’, an offering that replicates on a local scale the idea of cities competing with each other for commerce and tourism. The ambition of ‘accessibility’ seems to recall that of ‘affordability’, a quality particularly lost in a specialty market dedicated to local entrepreneurial starter-ups. On this note, it’s important to notice that the stark alternative to big business that the localists’ philosophy pitches at its core value as an alternative socio-economic model, is an ambivalent ethos at best, encompassing a broad spectrum of positions.()
Most notably the list of ‘high-end’ ambitions proposed by CRTRA does not include any notion of social justice or urban equality as a goal for a liveable neighbourhood; groups see each other’s recognizable members across the divide and constitute their imaginary commons on the basis of this mutual recognition and produce their visions on these basis.
The image of the city in its aestheticised regime is always a powerful tool for advocacy of neighbourhood action; privately managed ‘Area Improvement Districts’ are nowadays recognised and promoted urban actors that cover a wide spectrum, from well-off areas -see Holborn rebranded as Midtown () – to rundown high streets, all of them attending to more or less stringent aesthetic clean-up and make-up operations for which contemporary urban design provides the imaginary and the tools for the job.
It’s a subtle cosmetic science that runs through every regeneration process.
As a result we tend to praise or damn urban form rather than what lies behind it, and we invest time and energies to change its form to follow our preferred image. The image of a street market is permeated by the cultural recognition of a model of display that instantly defines the ‘good city’ in its smaller, tangible human scale. In times when the image of other markets of global magnitude can be easily thought of as ominous, shapeless and destructive entities, the street market is the preferred image of choice to signify a lost sense of ‘authenticity’ and locality.
For these and more reasons, the ‘street market model’ it’s currently reproduced everywhere and it features in most renewal plans for ‘deprived’ neighbourhoods in London and elsewhere.
“Because authenticity begins as an aesthetic category, it appeals to cultural consumers, especially young people, today. But it also has a lot to do with economics and power.” ()
Intended in this way, the ‘good gentrification’ at the core of the CRTRA argument means introducing an independent third-party broker that takes over and expands -thanks to its more flexible constitutional legal status- some management and area improvement roles previously assigned to the local authority that undersigns the public benefit agenda necessary for the legitimacy of the broker. Clearly one of these roles is that of local arbiter of taste in urban forms before anything else.
“A lot of this change is good as it brings money and people into the area, but if it goes unmanaged we risk undermining the very things that make the neighbourhood attractive in the first place.”()
If coffee shops are the measure of the ‘attractiveness’ sought after by the CRTRA or other local organisations, then a ‘single espresso price index’ for Chatsworth Road should become a valuable indicator of the tipping point beyond which the risk of “undermining the very things that make the neighbourhood attractive in the first place” materialises.
Interestingly enough, the much maligned Venetia Coffee Shop in which the opening scene of The Observer article takes place, offers single espresso at £1.30, whilst the most recent addition to Chatsworth road retail ecology (46B The Espresso Hut) charges £1.90. I am holding on to the alarm bell for the £2.00 threshold.
The Chatsworth Road street market is clearly an incubator for local rising land values at both entry and exit points, whilst it also purports to make efforts to manage its development for the benefit of its residents. But what tools can be used on a local level to effectively manage such processes, other than the small discounts to local shops offered as part of the yearly memberships to the CRTRA?
Either way, given the outline of this predicament, CRTRA’s role is proposed as a necessary mediator of local needs and desires pre-emptively occupying the space opened by the forthcoming arrival of the Localism Bill and its planning reform, particularly strategic because of the ‘policy vacuum’ created by the absence of a local area development plan for Clapton.
“Instead of local people being told what to do, the Government thinks that local communities should have genuine opportunities to influence the future of the places where they live. The Bill will introduce a new right for communities to draw up a ‘neighbourhood development plan’. ()
In an article in the Hackney Citizen in Sep 2011, Euan Mills is quoted as saying that: “Broadway Market is an example of the bad way that change can happen because it creates problems such as the displacement of some of the local population. Our role is to make sure that doesn’t happen here.”()
The comparison with the case of Broadway Market is important since it is presented as the bad ‘other’ to which Chatsworth Market and the CRTRA high-level ambitions are seen as antidote. This negative benchmark of failure, suggests that good practice of ‘gentrification management’ is intended as achieving an optimal threshold between enclosure and flow through the area and negotiation between different types of gentrifiers: the families with means of renovation of house stock and the more nomadic AAS (Artistic Affluent Single) who are the propellant of the buoyant local rent market, stimulated by the lower availability of property mortgages on the market.
Leaving aside the issue of displacement, it is not clear at this stage what kind of mechanism can be used by CRTRA to avoid the kind of market value fluctuations that the increased attractiveness set as one of their targets will eventually produce, and its consequences on the neighbourhood. Will the management of gentrification involve –for example- forms of subsidies from market revenues to support struggling businesses that provide community values but are experiencing mounting financial pressures from landlords pushing the real estate value of their property?
It is telling that the indictment of gentrification absorbed in the promotion of the CRTRA neighbourhood as an argument for its necessary role as manager, is articulated through two main threats: residents’ displacement and rent prices: both indexes are difficult to measure if not on a generic, anecdotal level or average quantification, and difficult to act upon since they cross areas of national and local policy and global economies of cultural consumption well beyond even local authorities reach or willingness to act.
Still, –perhaps involuntarily- the Chatsworth Road street market on Sunday has helped to visualise more clearly the dense local stratification of individuals and groups inhabiting and passing through the area at various speed; as a focal point of a cultural display of attitudes as well as a retail experience, it has activated and revealed as ‘performative’ some ways of being together in the city who were in need of a platform to observe, be part of and invest in.
Conclusion: the visionaries of Capitalist Realism()
If the ethos of an urban agenda driven through the localism structure is to impugn the existing layering and distribution of social strata at any given point in their capacity of mobilization (leveraging funds and supports) without conceiving of ways of redistributing social justice in its catchment, then social equity has a long way to go to emerge out of such an institutionalised uneven situation where stakeholders are abandoned to their own devices, either part of the problem or the solution.
Rather than ‘vision statements’ that spell out ‘proactive’ and dynamic responses accepting the challenge of ‘engage in or lose out’ thrown up by the idea of ‘gentrification management’ and the localism Bill, perhaps the most significant testimonial of The Observer article is the resigned ‘capitalist realism’ of Solly, the bicycle shop owner in Chatsworth Road, who in a stark rendition of a housing market reality morphed into street wisdom, says: “you can’t have a good area and affordable housing”.()
Why not placing that as a ‘high-end aspiration’ of a neighbourhood vision?
I rent in Clapton, and my landlord has showed me that another world is possible. Last year he lowered our monthly rent. Honest.
Nonsense isn’t it?
Alberto Duman is an artist, university lecturer and independent researcher. He currently teaches fine art at Middlesex University, London. Duman’s photo-essay on the branding legacy of London 2012 is published in the anthology ‘The Art of Dissent: adventures in London Olympic State’. For more of his work see www.albertoduman.me.uk, www.albertoduman.me.uk/photography, http://www.onehundredpoundshop.com/ or contact: albertoduman [at] yahoo.co.uk
The full version of this article will appear in a forthcoming issue of CITY.
Excerpt from Stephen Graham,
Despite the evident success of the Olympics, is London now ‘locked-down’ against social justice?
London's militarised 2012 Olympics.
As a metaphor for the London Olympics, it could hardly be more stark (). The much-derided ‘Wenlock’ Olympic mascot is now available in London Olympic stores dressed, no less, as a Metropolitan police officer. For £10.25 you, too, can own the ultimate symbol of the Games: a member of by far the biggest and most expensive security operation in recent British history packaged as tourist commodity. Rather eerily, his single panoptic-style eye, peering out from beneath the police helmet, is reminiscent of the all-seeing eye of God so commonly depicted at the top of Enlightenment paintings. In these, God’s eye maintained a custodial and omniscient surveillance on His unruly subjects far below on terra firma.
The imminent Olympics takesplace in an Olympic city still recovering from riots, which the Guardian–LSE (2011) ‘Reading the Riots’ project showed were partly fuelled by resentment at their lavish cost. On 9 March 2012, the UK spending watchdog warned that the overall costs of the Games were set to be at least £11 billion—£2 billion over even recently inflated budgets (Syal and Gibson, 2012, ). When major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, speeded up for the Games, are factored in, Sky News, in an admittedly rather cursory investigation, put that figure as high as £24 billion (2012). The estimated cost put forward only seven years ago when the Games were won was £2.37 billion.
With the required numbers of security staff more than doubling in the last year, estimates of the Games’ immediate security costs have doubled from £282 to £553 million. With the final security budget of the 2004 Athens Olympics around £1 billion, even these figures are likely to end up as dramatic underestimates (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009a, ).
All this in a city convulsed by massive welfare, housing benefit and legal aid cuts, spiralling unemployment and rising social protests. It is darkly ironic, indeed, that large swathes of London and the UK are being thrown into ever-deeper insecurity whilst being asked to pay for a massive security operation, of unprecedented scale, largely to protect wealthy and powerful people and corporations.
Community protests against the militarisation of the Games.
Critics of the Olympics have not been slow to point out the dark ironies surrounding the police Wenlock figure. ‘Water cannon and steel cordon sold separately’, mocks Dan Hancox (2012, ) on the influential Games Monitor website (read CITY’s interview with the team also on this website). ‘Baton rounds may be unsuitable for small children.’
Beyond the concentration of sporting talent and global media, the London Olympics will host the biggest mobilisation of military and security forces seen in the UK since the Second World War. More troops—around 13,500—will be deployed than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure.
During the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface to air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadia and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11 mile, £80 million, 5000-volt electric fence.
Beyond these security spectaculars, more stealthy changes are underway. New, punitive and potentially invasive laws such as the London Olympic Games Act 2006 are in force (see UK Archives, 2006, ). These legitimise the use of force, potentially by private security companies, to proscribe Occupy-style protests. They also allow Olympic security personnel to deal forcibly with the display of any commercial material that is deemed to challenge the complete management of London as a ‘clean city’ to be branded for the global TV audience wholly by prime corporate sponsors (McDonalds, Visa and, controversially, Dow chemicals).
An image that was circulating in social media protesting the 2012 Olympics; Image: http://www.bewareofimages.com/
London is also being wired-up with a whole new range of scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints. These will further intensify the sense of lockdown in a city, which is already a byword across the world for remarkably intensive surveillance.
Many such systems, deliberately installed to exploit unparalleled security budgets and relatively little scrutiny or protest, have been designed to linger long after the athletes and VIPs have left. Already the Dorset police are proudly boasting that their new number-plate recognition cameras, built for sailing events, are allowing them to catch criminals more effectively.
In Athens, the $300 million ‘super-panopticon’ CCTV and information system built for the Games after intense US pressure remained after the event, along with the disused sports facilities. In fact, the system has been used by Greek police to try in vain to control the mass uprisings responding to the crash and savage austerity measures in the country (Samatas, n.d.; also see Kompreser Collective, this issue).
It is important to remember that all this is ostensibly designed to secure the spectacle of 17,000 athletes competing for 17 days. Even if London’s overall security budget remains similar to that of Athens, that works out at the startling figure of £59,000 of public money to secure each competitor or £3500 per competitor per day.
In 2004, the cost in now-bankrupt Athens was £90,000 per competitor. This was a major contributor, as part of the overall £10 billion costs, to Greece’s subsequent debt crisis.
In the context of post-austerity Britain, these figures are eye-watering. Even more remarkably, given that Olympics budgets have drawn down from many other public and lottery funds, and are no doubt adding hugely to UK national debt, the Daily Telegraph recently argued that the security operation for the Olympics was ‘key to aiding the recovery of UK plc’ (White, 2012, ).
How can we make sense of this situation? Four connected points are needed to build an explanation. The first is that, amidst a global economic crash, so-called ‘homeland security’ industries—sometimes more accurately labelled by critical commentators the ‘pacification industries’—are in bonanza mode. As the post-9/11 US paradigm of ‘Homeland security’ is being diffused around the world, the industry—worth $142 billion in 2009—is expected to be worth a staggering $2.7 trillion globally between 2010 and 2012. Growth rates are between 5 and 12% per year (Middle East Homeland Security Summit, 2012, ).
The UK, long an exemplar ‘surveillance society’, is especially attractive to these industries, especially when hosting the Olympics. Recent security industry magazines have been full of articles excitedly extolling the Olympics as a ‘key driver of the industry’ or as ‘keeping the market buoyant’ (Boxell, 2009).
Nation-states, and the EU, are struggling to ensure that their corporations get a piece of the action in markets long dominated by US and Israeli corporations. Ramping up surveillance is thus now as much a part of economic policy as a response to purported threats.
The security boom is unaffected, or perhaps even fuelled, by the global crash, as wealthy and powerful elites across the world seek ever-more fortified lifestyles. Essentially, it is about defence and security corporations building huge new income streams by systematically exploiting three linked trends: the lucrative possibilities created by post-9/11 fears; widening privatisation and out-sourcing in the context of deep austerity programmes; and the desire of big city and national governments to brand themselves as secure destinations for major ‘global’ events.
Another image from social media, criticising the militarisation of the Games.
The final point to emphasise is how the security operations of Olympics have major long-term legacies for their host cities and nations. The security preoccupations of Olympics present unprecedented opportunities to push through highly elitist, authoritarian and speculative urban planning efforts that otherwise would be much more heavily contested—especially in democracies. These often work to ‘purify’ or ‘cleanse’ diverse and messy realities of city life and portray existing places as ‘waste’ or ‘derelict’ spaces to be transformed by mysterious ‘trickle-down effects’. The scale and nature of evictions and the clearance of streets of those deemed not to befit such events can seem like systematic ethnic or social cleansing. A total of 1.5 million were evicted to make way for the Beijing Games; clearances of local businesses and residents in London, though more stealthy, have been marked.
Such efforts often amount in effect to expensive, privatised, elitist and gentrifying projects like the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford (the first UK shopping centre, incidentally, to have explosives scanners at all entrances).
During the Games themselves, such so-called ‘Olympic Divides’ are especially stark. In London, a citywide system of dedicated VIP ‘Games lanes’ are being installed (Boffey, 2012, ). Using normally public road space, these will use 4000 luxury, chauffeur-driven BMWs to shuttle 40,000 Olympic officials, national bureaucrats, politicians and corporate sponsors speedily between five-star hotels and the largest collection of super-yachts ever seen and cordoned off VIP lounges within the arenas. It’s recently been shown that wealthy tourists will be able to enter the VIP lanes by purchasing £20,000 package trips (Boffey, 2012, ).
Ordinary Londoners, meanwhile—who are paying heavily for the Games through council tax hikes—will experience much worse congestion. Even their ambulances will be proscribed from the lanes if they are not running blue lights.
More broadly, huge increase in land values tends to value only the wealthy property speculators and financiers that are best placed to ride the wave. Already, the Qatar royal family have bought the 1400 homes of the Olympic village in a deal worth £557 million (BBC, 2011, ).
Looking at these various points together shows one thing: contemporary Olympics are society on steroids. They exaggerate wider trends in contemporary society. Far removed from their notional or founding ideals, these events dramatically embody changes in the wider world: fast-increasing inequality, growing corporate power, the rise of ‘homeland security’ and the shift toward much more authoritarian styles of governance utterly obsessed by the global gaze and prestige of media spectacles.
The full article is available in CITY 16.4 here.
Stephen Graham is Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle University, and author of the book Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism; Verso Books.
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