Comment 33077

By LL (registered) - website | Posted August 29, 2009 at 20:59:31

markwhittle:

Fair enough. I hesitated to post my comment after I typed it, not sure if you meant there is no lobbying, or there is all this unregistered lobbying. I apologise.

Ryan:

I find the term "pro-business" to be obfuscatory. It seems to suggest that anyone who objects to the way society is organized is against economic prosperity per se and wants economic failure to happen. Im not "anti-business"; I'm anti-capitalist. In positive terms, I want a society that is truly democratic, eqitable, and sustainable. I'm arguing that that can never happen when a narrow class interest has power.

Secondly, we have to distinguish between capitalism and markets. An independent shopkeeper who contributes most of the value of their service through her own labour, and pays a good wage to those she does employ is consistent with libertarian-social'ism.

Having said all that, I understand the strategy of claiming new urbanism is "good for business". After all, the reconfiguration of the urban world has been a common strategy for the state-capitilist system at key junctures in the past. How do you think we ended up with this sprawl shit after WWII? The architects of the system got their heads together and decided that it was a good way to consume surplus productive capacity (that and the arms race). The state got behind it with subsidies and the rest is history.

Today, urban densification, transit projects and the like could play a similar role in the reorginization of the economy. This could stabilize the capitalist system, bring some benefits to workers (especially white collar ones), and make some limited gains toward ecological sustainability. So I don't object to you invoking economic growth and investment opportunities to pressure the local government for light rail, better planning etc. New urbanism is a solid design concept. I hope it starts happening.

However, I think you are kidding yourself if you think this is going to solve anything in the long run. Poverty will still exist (maybe not downtown) and the capitalist economy as a whole will still outgrow the support system of the biosphere. In short, I see this "neither left nor right" line as a load of pahooey.

I didn't get into urban design questions because I thought they could benefit economic growth and accumulation. I did so because well-designed streets, parks, convivial transportation are of direct USE VALUE to people. Conversely, I see structural auto dependence and other forms of waste as creating extra work for wage earners. Moreover, I see the inevitable tumult of urban re-organization as a chance to involve a grassroots polity with more participatory design processes. Combined with class struggle, sustainable urbanism can lead to a shortening of the workday and the growth of community.

Economic and ecological realities tell us that cities have to change. Let's make it happen on our terms.

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