Battlegrounds

Discussions and policy debates around faultlines often become battlegrounds because the nature of debate is intense and contested. Yet there are other battlegrounds less concerned with ultimate purposes, although at times touching on them. They are usually about significant policy choices and thus more concerned with pragmatics. Each battleground has implications on the future of cities. To elaborate briefly on a few:

• Multiculturalism versus interculturalism. In the multicultural city we acknowledge and ideally celebrate our differing cultures and entrenched differences. In the intercultural city we move one step beyond and focus on what we can do together as diverse cultures sharing space. The contention is, as history tends to prove, that the latter leads to greater well-being and prosperity. Yet funding structures are usually predicated on the first.

• Environment matters versus the technology fix. Will the regulatory and incentives regime at differing levels (city, state, nation) be constructed to encourage recycling, renewable energy resources, energy efficiency and behaviour change in general or will it just be left to the market to produce new technologies?

• Social equity versus disparity. The inclusion and empowerment agenda will remain with us as the dynamic of capital tends to produce excluding effects which impact more strongly on the disadvantaged, who have the least capacity to respond. What power do cities have to bend markets to broader social needs?

• Sharing responsibility versus exporting problems to neighbouring jurisdictions. The compact cores of major cities have widespread assets. Some of these, ranging from transport networks to cultural infrastructure, need to be maintained by the public purse. Outlying suburbs which jump over jurisdic tions seek to avoid paying appropriate contributions for their use by their residents.

• Central versus local. The battle between central and more localized power is ever present, yet the trend is towards the local. If cities accrue greater powers, do they in aggregate have broader responsibilities for their countries? How do they activate this?

• Compaction versus dispersal. It is said that density creates a better urban fabric since it results in viable activities born of the increased vitality and economic efficiency that sprawl dissipates. Can cities counteract decades of city-building and habits that encourage sprawl? Can cities built with the car in mind be reconfigured to a pedestrian focus and to public transport? This is easier for highly textured European cities or dense Asian cities.

• Fear versus trust and openness. The pervasiveness of risk consciousness and fear come from deeper anxieties about life, from fears for personal safety and of crime to those of out-of-control technology, of the speed and scope of globalization and its unintended effects, and of unconstrained pollution. This has coincided with the decline of traditional ties, based on trust, whose value bases anchored people. We need to be open to compete and operate and not draw ourselves into voluntary ghettoes.

• Authenticity versus global markets. The contrast between the real, the virtual and the fake will move into a new gear. The search for the authentic, distinctive and the unique has become pervasive as our sense of the 'real' and the local is dislocated by virtual or constructed worlds such as those of cyberspace and theme parks and standardized, global mass products with little link to a particular place. Related to this is the battle between chain-store power and its homogeneity and locally distinctive shopping. Once basic facilities exist, it is difference not sameness that contributes the most.

• Holism versus specialisms. There is a battle between those who see issues such as urban decline or how cities as a whole operate as being composed of interacting wholes that are more than simply the sum of the parts and those who look at the fragments within narrow specialisms. Increasingly, we know we need to see the parts and the whole simultaneously.

• Hard versus soft indicators. What indicators are the most important in measuring the success or failure of organiza tions and cities? If competitiveness combines the hard and the soft, will hard indicators such as levels of employment, growth, income or GDP suffice? Soft factors of competitiveness are people-related, for example a city's networking strengths, governance capacity, cultural depth and creative milieus. How do we know where a city stands when these are not measured?

• Speed versus reflection. Competitive pressure with IT as an enabler speeds up life and makes it shrill to the extent that the slow is increasingly desirable, and not just for the old and infirm. From the Slow Cities movement to the 'clock of the long now' that will chime only once every 1000 years people are trying to avoid existence becoming a whistle-stop tour through life and then you are dead. This connects to another battle line between always emphasizing the next or the past, with the futurists fighting the nostalgics and rarely anyone living in the present.

• Forgetting versus remembering. The residue that remains from the past is a selection of what could have been remembered. For instance, the feminist movement helpfully reminds us of the women urbanists well beyond the remarkable Jane Jacobs.4 Equally, philosophical and psychological traditions get sidetracked. These are often more than mere battles of history -they reflect power struggles. What we choose to forget and remember reflects a society's priorities.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment