Reenchanting the city

In imagining what the city could be, enchantment lies at the heart.2 The reimaginings of the city required are far more than physical improvement, although that matters too. Enchantment asks us to rediscover and reanimate social tissues and repair the severances between us. The desire to reconnect lurks everywhere, bursting to get out given the chance. It expresses itself best in small acts of daily and ordinary consideration. These seek to resolve any fissure between being 'me', the individual, and being 'us', the collective.

This feeling of urban solidarity enchants. At its core this means letting the city enrapture, enthral and enamour us and to cast a spell, because we are surprised by an open response. Within it lies chant, a slow, repetitive, monotonous melody, persistent yet rhythmic. It builds over time, encompassing its environs. Enchanting is a metaphor for the repetitive acts of kindness which form the texture and glue from which social capital grows. This is the only form of capital that grows by frequent use, rather than depleting. It is the nervous system of the lived city. Ash Amin calls this the 'habit of solidarity' towards the stranger or the 'urban solidarity of related-ness'. He redefines the good city as 'an expanding habit of solidarity', 'as a practical but unsettled achievement, constantly building on experiments through which difference and multiplicity can be mobilized for common gain and against harm and want'. He focuses on the ethic of care, incorporating the principles of social justice, equality and mutuality and resists the notion of imagined socially cohesive communities.3 Differences, diversities and conflicts remain in continuous negotiation.

The trajectory followed so far has taken us through a description of the sensory city and the materially unhinged and unsustainable dynamics of urban life and through a conceptual framework that seeks to simplify complexity. This should allow us to stand back and review how cities might be put back together again and reassembled differently.

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