Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis’: A Recorded Presentation by Erik Swyngedouw

From [polis} a  dissertation on alternatives to top-down design with the limited purpose of serving vested financial and political influences for the benefit of its population – this is particularly relevant to our situation here in Cape Town with the current emphasis on Central Improvement Districts, IRT systems which serve more affluent suburbs rather than the urban poor stuck in ghettos on the periphery and Soccer World Cup stadiums that are now white elephants and a financial noose around the cities neck while the profits accrue in the hands of vested international interests – is there a way to resist this is the focus of a recorded presentation by Eric Swyngedouw on “Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis.” Swyngedouw is a professor of geography at the University of Manchester School of Environment and Development.
 

Swyngedouw points to a climate of global consensus that has become pervasive over the past twenty years, effectively suppressing dissent and excluding most people from governance. He explains this consensus as limited to a select group (e.g., elite politicians, business leaders, NGOs, experts from a variety of fields) and perpetuated through “empty signifiers” like the sustainable/creative/world-class city. He argues that this consensus serves a “post-political” neoliberal order in which governments fail to address citizens’ most basic needs in order to subsidize the financial sector and take on grandiose projects designed to attract global capital. He adds that the flipside of management through limited consensus is rebellion on the part of the excluded, which he views as insurgent architecture and planning that claims a place in the order of things. Swyngedouw calls for open institutional channels for enacting dissent, fostering a democratic politics based on equal opportunity for all in shaping the decisions that affect our lives. He envisions the city as “insurgent polis” — a new agora where democratic politics can take place, where anyone can make a case for changing the existing framework

Listen to the presentation and read more on [polis]

Interview with Benjamin H Bratton via LAND Reader

This interview is an example of how far “left-field” thinking is needed to go to contemplate an alternative to “Global Capital” to rather an idea of “Global Commonwealth” – is this another type of utopian dream?

BY DAMIAN HOLMES of LAND Reader : ” The Guardian has published an Interview with Benjamin H Bratton, director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics, Calit2 and University of California, San Diego as part of their Activate New York event to be held in late April. Bratton gives interesting insights into design, technology and urbanism including:

“Better design is a way of doing good in and of itself, one would assume. But what is better design? Better for what end?” – Can we design a more harmonious world?

“Tell us who you work for and what you do.

I am a writer. My work is a mix of social and political philosophy, architectural and urban theory, and computing and information infrastructure. I direct the Center for Design and Geopolitics at Calit2 at University of California, San Diego, where I work side-by-side with nanoengineers, biotechnologists, computational physicists, neuro-ontologists, and, of course, crazy artists. A lot of my recent thinking is at bratton.info and @bratton. Right now, I am writing a book on the the fate of cosmopolitanism in the era of planetary computation and post-humanism.

Cities cover 2% of the earth’s crust and account for 50% of the world’s population. Does this statistic fully highlight the importance of architects and designers in facilitating a harmonious world?

Only if we assume that architects and designers are responsible for the architecture and design of cities. They are and they aren’t. Cities are almost living things unto themselves, which we can certainly effect in particular ways, but which evolve according patterns in migratory networks, logistical networks, financial networks, informational networks, and so on. We may soon take for granted the notion that these impersonal processes have more to with the character of cities than any single master plan. This is not to say that we shouldn’t think hard about design, quite to the contrary. But our focus should be on thinking of the world’s cities as a single, massively-distributed urban organism, instead of little isolated fortresses.

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