Gazing down upon the city, looking at the development of the metropolis, one is struck by many things. Perhaps one of the more obvious, regardless of what one thinks of the process that led to its development, is that it’s often rather ugly. Not just in the way it looks (jungles of concrete and steel), but even more so in what it does: how the city operates as a factory, isolating people from each other, channelling social relations into prescribed routes and preventing others from forming, transforming our relationship with nature, and so on. David Harvey, the renowned Marxist geographer, responded to this observation with the comment that it was “really quite a strange thing that the bourgeois has no imagination”, no sense of creativity that can devise anything more appealing in its domination and transformation of the social space and the urban environment. This may seem a minor point or trite observation. What does it matter how aesthetically appealing, how well designed or not, an area is, when there are more crucial questions and ongoing issues of communities being displaced, workers being exploited, and the nature of social life being shaped by the needs of capital? is is true enough to a degree. But what is interesting about such an observation is the process it hints at and what this can tell us about the development of capitalism today and our struggles to shape social life and interactions otherwise.
Kanngieser, A and Shukaitis, S 2010 Cultural workers, throw down your tools, the metropolis is on strike in Critical Cities: Ideas, Knowledge and Agitation from Emerging Urbanists. Edited by Deepa Naik and Trenton Oldfield. London: Myrdle Court Press, 64-75.