The Right to the City
Great things must be silenced or talked about with grandeur, that is, with cynicism and innocence...
I would claim as property and product of man all the beauty, nobility, which we have given to real or imaginary things...
— Frederic Nietzsche
This work will take an offensive form (that some will perhaps find offending). Why?
Because conceivably each reader will already have in mind a set of ideas systematized or in the process of being systematized. Conceivably, each reader is looking for a ‘system’ or has found his ‘system’. The System is fashionable, as much in thought as in terminologies and language.
Now all systems tend to close off reflection, to block off horizon. This work wants to break up systems, not to substitute another system, bur to open up through thought and action towards possibilities by showing the horizon and the road. Against a form of reflection which tends towards formalism, a thought which tends towards an opening leads the struggle.
Urbanism, almost as much as the system, is fashionable. Urbanistic questions and reflections are coming out of circles of technicians, specialists, intellectuals who see themselves as at the ‘avant-garde’. They enter the public domain through newspaper articles and writings of diverse import and ambitions. At one and the same time urbanism becomes ideology and practice. Meanwhile, questions relative to the city and to urban reality are not fully known and recognized, they have not yet acquired politically the importance and the meaning that they have in thought (in ideology) and in practice (we shall show an urban strategy already at work and in action). This little book does not only propose to critically analyse thoughts and activities related to urbanism. It’s aim is to allow its problems to enter into consciousness and political policies.
From the theoretical and practical situation of problems (from the problematic) concerning the city, reality and possibilities of urban life, let us begin by taking what used to the called a ‘cavalier attitude’.
Industrialization and Urbanization
To present and give an account of the ‘urban problematic’, the point of departure must be the process of industrialization. Beyond any doubt this process has been the dynamic of transformations in society for the last century and a half. If one distinguishes between the inductor and the induced, one can say that the process of industrialization is inductive and that one can count among the induced, problems related to growth and planning, questions concerning the city and the development of the urban reality, without omitting the growing importance of leisure activities and questions related in ‘culture’. Industrialization characterizes modern society. This does not inevitably carry with it terms of ‘industrial society’, if we want to define it. Although urbanization and the problematic of the urban figure among the induced effects and not among the causes or inductive reason, the preoccupation these words signify accentuate themselves in such a way that one can define as an urban society the social reality which arises around us. This definition retains a feature which becomes capital.
Industrialization provides the point of departure for reflection upon our time. Now the city existed prior to industrialization. A remark banal in itself but whose implications have not been fully formulated. The most eminent urban creations, the most ‘beautiful’ oeuvres of urban life (we say ‘beautiful,’ because they are oeuvres rather than products) date from epochs previous to that of industrialization. There was the oriental city (linked to the Asiatic mode of production), the antique city (Greek and Roman associated with the possession of slaves) and then the medieval city (in a complex situation embedded in feudal relations but struggling against a landed feudalism). The oriental and antique city was essentially political; the medieval city, without losing its political character, was principally related to commerce, crafts and banking. It absorbed merchants, who had previously been quasi nomadic and relegated outside the city.
When industrialization begins, and capitalism in competition with a specifically industrial bourgeoisie is born, the city is already a powerful reality. In Western Europe, after the virtual disappearance of the antique city, the decay of Roman influence, the city took off again. More or less nomadic merchants elected as centre of their activities what remained of the antique urban cores. Conversely, one can suppose that these degraded cores functioned as accelerators for what remained of exchange economies maintained by wandering merchants. From the growing surplus product of agriculture, to the detriment of feudal lords, cities accumulate riches: objects, treasures, virtual capitals. There already existed in these urban centres a great monetary wealth, acquired through usury and and commerce. Crafts prosper there, a production clearly distinct from agriculture. Cities support peasant communities and the enfranchisement of the peasants, not without benefit for themselves. In short, they are centres of social and political life where not only wealth is accumulated, but knowledge (connaissances), techniques, and oeuvres (works of art, monuments). This city is itself ‘oeuvre’, a feature which contrasts with the irreversible tendency towards money and commerce, towards exchange and products. Indeed the oeuvre is use value and the the product is exchange value. The eminent use of the city, that is, of its streets and squares, edifices and monuments, is la fête (a celebration which consumes unproductively, without other advantage but pleasure and prestige and enormous riches in money and objects).
A complex, but contradictory, reality. Medieval cities at the height of their development centralize wealth: powerful groups invest unproductively a large part of their wealth in the cities they dominate. At the same time, banking and commercial capital have already made wealth mobile and has established exchange networks enabling the transfer of money. When industrialization begins with the pre-eminence of a specific bourgeoisie (the entrepreneurs), wealth has ceased to be mainly in real estate. Agricultural production is no longer dominant and nor is landed property. Estates are lost to the feudal lords and pass into the hands of urban capitalises enriched by commerce, banking, usury. The outcome is that ‘society’ as a whole, made up of the city, the country and the institutions which regulate their relations, tend to constitute themselves as a network of cities, with a certain division of labour (technically, socially, politically) between cities linked together by road, river and seaways and by commercial and banking relations. One can think that the division of labour between cities was neither sufficiently advanced nor sufficiently aware to determine stable associations and put an end to to rivalries and competition. This urban system was not able to establish itself. What is erected on chis base is the State, or centralized power. Cause and effect of this particular centrality, that of power, one city wins over the others: the capital.
Such a process takes place very unevenly, very differently in Italy, Germany, France, Flanders, England, and Spain. The city predominates and yet it is no longer the City-State of antiquity. There are three different terms: society, State and city. In this urban system each city tends to constitute itself as an enclosed self-contained, self-functioning system. The city preserves the organic character of community which comes from the village and which translates itself into a corporate organization (or guild). Community life (comprising general or partial assemblies) does not prohibit class struggle. On the contrary. Violent contrasts between wealth and poverty, conflicts between the powerful and the oppressed, do not prevent either attachment to the city nor an active contribution to the beauty of the oeuvre. In the urban context, struggles between fractions, groups and classes strengthen the feeling of belonging. Political confrontations between the ‘minuto popolo’ the ‘popolo grosso’, the aristocracy and the oligarchy, have the city as their battle ground, their stake. These groups are rivals in their love of the city. As for the rich and powerful, they always feel threatened. They justify their privilege in the community by somptuously spending their fortune: buildings, foundations, palaces, embellishments, festivities. It is important to emphasize this paradox, for it is not a well understood historical fact: very oppressive societies were very creative and rich in producing oeuvres. Later, the production of products replaced the production of oeuvres and the social relations attached to them, notably the city. When exploitation replaces oppression, creative capacity disappears. The very notion of ‘creation’ is blurred or degenerates by miniaturizing itself into ‘making’ and ‘creativity’ (the ‘do-it-yourself,’ etc.). Which brings forth arguments to back up a thesis: city and urban reality are related to use value. Exchange value and the generalization of commodities by industrialization tend to destroy it by subordinating the city and urban reality which are refuges of use value, the origins of a virtual predominance and revalorization of use.
In the urban system we are attempting to analyse, action is exercized over specific conflicts: between use value and exchange value, between mobilization of wealth (in silver and in money) and unproductive investment in the city, between accumulation of capital and its squandering on festivities, between the extension of the dominated territory and the demands of a strict organization of this territory around the dominating city. The latter protects itself against all eventualities by a corporate organization which paralyses the initiatives of banking and commercial capitalism. The coporarion does not only regulate a craft. Each enters into an organic whole: the corporate system regulates the distribution of actions and activities over urban space (streets and neighbourhoods) and urban time (timetables and festivities). This whole tends to congeal itself into an immutable structure. The outcome of which is that industrialization supposes the destructuration of existing structures. Historians (since Marx) have showed the fixed nature of guilds. What perhaps remains to be shown is the tendency of the whole urban system towards a sort of crystallization and fixation. Where this system consolidated itself, capitalism and industrialization came late: in Germany, in Italy, a delay full of consequences.
There is therefore a certain discontinuity between an emerging industry and its historical conditions. They are neither the same thing nor the same people. The prodigious growth of exchanges, of a monetary economy, of merchant production, of the ‘world of commodities’ which will result from industrialization, implies a radical change. The passage of commercial and banking capitalism as well as craft production to industrial production and competitive capitalism is accompanied by a gigantic crisis, well studied by historians, except for what relates to the city and the ‘urban system’.
Emerging industry tends to establish itself outside cities. Not that it is an absolute law. No law can be totally general and absolute. This setting up of industrial enterprises, at first sporadic and dispersed, depended on multiple local regional and national circumstances. For example, printing seems to have been able in an urban context to go from a craft to the private enterprise stage. It was, otherwise for the textile industry, for mining, for metallurgy. The new industry establishes itself near energy sources (rivers, woods then charcoal), means of transport (rivers and canals, then railways), raw materials (minerals), pools of labour power (peasant crahmen, weavers and blacksmiths already providing skilled labour).
There still exist today in France numerous small textile centres (valleys in Normandy and the Vosges, etc.) which survive sometimes with difficulty. Is it not remarkable that a part of the heavy metallurgical industry was established in the valley of the Moselle, between two old cities, Nancy and Metz, the only real urban centres of this industrial region? At the same time old cities are markets, sources of available capital, the place where these capitals are managed (banks), the residences of economic and political leaders, reservoirs of labour (that is, the places where can subsist ‘the reserve army of labour’ as Marx calls it, which weighs on wages and enables the growth of surplus value). Moreover, the city, as workshop, allows the concentration over a limited space of the means of production: cools, raw materials, labour.
Since settlement outside of cities is not satisfactory for ‘entrepreneurs’, as soon as it is possible industry comes closer to urban centres. Inversely, the city prior to industrialization accelerates the process (in particular, it enables the rapid growth of productivity). The city has therefore played an important role in the take-off of industry. As Marx explained, urban concentrations have accompanied the concentration of capital. Industry was to produce its own urban centres, sometimes small cities and industrial agglomerations (le Creusot), at times medium-sized (Saint-Etienne) or gigantic (the Ruhr, considered as a ‘conurbation’). We shall come back to the deterioration of the centrality and urban character in these cities.
This process appears, in analysis, in all its complexity, which the word ‘industrialization’ represents badly. This complexity becomes apparent as soon as one ceases to think in terms of private enterprise on the one hand and global production statistics (so many tons of coal, steel) on the other — as soon as one reflects upon the distinction between the inductor and the induced, by observing the importance of the phenomena induced and their interaction with the inductors. Industry can do without the old city (pre-industrial, precapitalist) but does so by constituting agglomerations in which urban features are deteriorating. Is this not the case in North America where ‘cities’ in the way they are understood in France and in Europe, are few: New York, Montreal, San Francisco? Nevertheless, where there is a pre-existent network of old cities, industry assails it. It appropriates this network and refashions it according to its needs. It also attacks the city (each city), assaults it, takes it, ravages it. It tends to break up the old cores by taking them over. This does not prevent the extension of urban phenomena, cities and agglomerations, industrial towns and suburbs (with the addition of shanty towns where industrialization is unable to employ and fix available labour).
We have before us a double process or more precisely, a process with two aspects: industrialization and urbanization, growth and development, economic production and social life. The two ‘aspects’ of this inseparable process have a unity, and yet it is a conflictual process. Historically there is a violent clash between urban reality and industrial reality. As for the complexity of the process, it reveals itself more and more difficult to grasp, given that industrialization does not only produce firms (workers and leaders of private enterprises), but various offices — banking, financial, technical and political.
This dialectical process, far from being clear, is also far from over. Today it still provokes ‘problematic’ situations. A few examples would be sufficient here. In Venice, the active population leaves the city for the industrial agglomeration which parallels it on the mainland: Mestre. This city among the most beautiful cities bequeathed to us from pre-industrial times is threatened not so much by physical deterioration due to the sea or to its subsidence, as by the exodus of its inhabitants. In Athens a quite considerable industrialization has attracted to the capital people from small towns and peasants. Modern Athens has nothing more in common with the antique city covered over, absorbed, extended beyond measure. The monuments and sites (agora, Acropolis) which enable to locate ancient Greece are only places of tourist consumption and aesthetic pilgrimage. Yet the organizational core of the city remains very strong. Its surroundings of new neighbourhoods and semi-shanty towns inhabited by uprooted and disorganized people confer it an exorbitant power. This almost shapeless gigantic agglomeration enables the holders of decision-making centres to carry out the worst political ventures. All the more so that the economy of the country closely depends on this network: property speculation, the ‘creation’ of capitals by this means, investments of these capitals into construction and so on and so forth. It is this fragile network, always in danger of breaking, which defines a type of urbanization, without or with a weak industrialization, but with a rapid extension of the agglomeration, of property and speculation; a prosperity falsely maintained by the network.
We could in France cite many cities which have been recently submerged by industrialization: Grenoble, Dunkirk, etc. In other cases, such as Toulouse, there has been a massive extension of the city and urbanization (understood in the widest sense of the term) with little industrialization. Such is also the general case of Latin American and African cities encircled by shanty towns. In these regions and countries old agrarian structures are dissolving: dispossessed or ruined peasants crowd into these cities to find work and subsistence. Now these peasants come from farms destined to disappear because of world commodity prices, these being closely linked to industrialized countries and ‘growth poles’. These phenomena are still dependent on industrialization.
An induced process which one could call the ‘implosion-explosion’ of the city is at present deepening. The urban phenomenon extends itself over a very large part of the territory of great industrial countries. It happily crosses national boundaries: the Megalopolis of Northern Europe extends from the Ruhr to the sea and even to English cities, and from the Paris region to the Scandinavian countries. The urban fabric of this territory becomes increasingly tight, although not without its local differentiations and extension of the (technical and social) division of labour to the regions, agglomerations and cities. At the same time, there and even elsewhere, urban concentrations become gigantic: populations are heaped together reaching worrying densities (in surface and housing units). Again at the same time many old urban cores are deteriorating or exploding. People move to distant residential or productive peripheries. Offices replace housing in urban centres. Sometimes (in the United States) these centres are abandoned to the ‘poor’ and become ghettos for the underprivileged. Sometimes on the contrary, the most affluent people retain their strong positions at the heart of the city (around Central Park in New York, the Marais in Paris).
Let us now examine the urban fabric. This metaphor is not clear. More than a fabric thrown over a territory, these words designate a kind of biological proliferation of a net of uneven mesh, allowing more or less extended sectors to escape: hamlets or villages, entire regions. If these phenomena are placed into the perspective of the countryside and old agrarian structures, one can analyse a general movement of concentration: from populations in boroughs and small and large towns — of property and exploitation — of the organization of transports and commercial exchanges, etc. This leads at the same time to the depopulation and the ‘loss of the peasantry’ from the villages which remain rural while losing what was peasant life: crafts, small local shops. Old ‘ways of life’ become folklore. If the same phenomena are analysed from the perspective of cities, one can observe not only the extension of highly populated peripheries but also of banking, commercial and industrial networks and of housing (second homes, places and spaces of leisure, etc.).
The urban fabric can be described by using the concept of ecosystem, a coherent unity constituted around one or several cities, old and recent. Such a description may lose what is essential. Indeed, the significance of the urban fabric is not limited to its morphology. It is the support of a more or less intense, more or less degraded, ‘way of life’: urban society. On the economic base of the urban fabric appear phenomena of another order, that of social and ‘cultural’ life. Carried by the urban fabric, urban society and life penetrate the countryside. Such a way of living entails systems of objects and of values. The best known elements of the urban system of objects include water, electricity, gas (butane in the countryside), not to mention the car, the television, plastic utensils, ‘modern’ furniture, which entail new demands with regard to ‘services’. Among the elements of the system of values we can note urban leisure (dance and song), suits, the rapid adoption of fashions from the city. And also, preoccupations with security, the need to predict the future, in brief, a rationality communicated by the city. Generally youth, as an age group, actively contributes to this rapid assimilation of things and representations coming from the city. These are sociological trivialities which are useful to remember to show their implications. Within the mesh of the urban fabric survive islets and islands of ‘pure’ rurality, often (but not always) poor areas peopled with ageing peasants, badly ‘integrated’, stripped of what had been the nobility of peasant life in times of greatest misery and of oppression. The ‘urban-rural’ relation does not disappear. On the contrary, it intensifies itself down to the most industrialized countries. It interferes with other representations and other real relations: town and country, nature and artifice, etc. Here and there tensions become conflicts, latent conflicts are accentuated, and then what was hidden under the urban fabric appears in the open.
Moreover, urban cores do not disappear. The fabric erodes them or integrates them to its web. These cores survive by transforming themselves. There are still centres of intense urban life such as the Latin Quarter in Paris. The aesthetic qualities of these urban cores play an important role in their maintenance. They do not only contain monuments and institutional headquarters, but also spaces appropriated for entertainments, parades, promenades, festivities. In this way the urban core becomes a high quality consumption product for foreigners, tourists, people from the outskirts and suburbanites. It survives because of this double role: as place of consumption and consumption of place. Thus centres enter more completely into exchange and exchange value, not without retaining their use value due to spaces provided for specific activities. They become centres of consumption. The architectural and urbanistic resurgence of the commercial centre only gives a dull and mutilated version of what was the core of the old city, at one and the same time commercial, religious, intellectual, political and economic (productive). The notion and image of the commercial centre in fact date from the Middle Ages. It corresponds to the small and medium-sized medieval city. But today exchange value is so dominant over use and use value that it more or less suppresses it. There is nothing original in this notion. The creation which corresponds to our times, to their tendencies and (threatening) horizons is it not the centre of decision-making? This centre, gathering together training and information, capacities of organization and institutional decision-making, appears as a project in the making of a new centrality, chat of power. The greatest attention must be paid to this concept, the practice which it denotes and justifies.
We have in fact a number of terms (at least three) in complex relations with each other, definable by oppositions each on their own terms, although not exhausted by these oppositions. There is the rural and the urban (urban society). There is the urban fabric which carries this ‘urbanness’ and centrality, old, renovated, new. Hence a disquieting problematic, particularly if one wishes to go from analysis to synthesis, from observations to a project (the ‘normative’). Must one allow the urban fabric (what does this word mean?) to proliferate spontaneously? Is it appropriate to capture this force, direct this strange life, savage and artificial at the same time? How can one strengthen the centres? Is it useful or necessary? And which centres, which centralities? Finally, what is to be done about islands of ruralism?
Thus the crisis of the city can be perceived through distinct problems and problematical whole. This is a theoretical and practical crisis. In theory, the concept of the city (of urban reality) is made up of facts, representations and images borrowed from the ancient pre-industrial and precapitalist city, but in a process of transformation and new elaboration. In practice the urban core (an essential part of the image and the concept of the city) splits open and yet maintains itself: overrun, often deteriorated, sometimes rotting, the urban core does not disappear. If someone proclaims its end and its reabsorption into the fabric, this is a postulate, a statement without proof. In the same way, if someone proclaims the urgency of a restitution or reconstitution of urban cores, it is again a postulate, a statement without proof. The urban core has not given way to a new and well-defined ‘reality’, as the village allowed the city to be born. And yet its reign seems to be ending. Unless it asserts itself again even more strongly as centre of power...
Until now we have shown how the city has been attacked by industrialization, giving a dramatic and globally considered picture of this process. This analytical attempt could lead us to believe that it is a natural process, without intentions or volitions. There is something like this, but that vision would be truncated. The ruling classes or fractions of the ruling classes intervene actively and voluntarily in this process, possessing capital (the means of production) and managing not only the economic use of capital and productive investments, but also the whole society, using part of the wealth produced in ‘culture’, art, knowledge, ideology. Beside, or rather, in opposition to, dominant social groups (classes and class fractions), there is the working class: the proletariat, itself divided into strata, partial groups, various tendencies, according to industrial sectors and local and national traditions.
In the middle of the nineteenth century in Paris the situation was somewhat like this. The ruling bourgeoisie, a non-homogenous class, after a hard-fought struggle, has conquered the capital. Today the Marais is still a visible witness to this: before the Revolution it is an aristocratic quarter (despite the tendency of the capital and the wealthy to drift towards the west), an area of gardens and private mansions. It took but a few years, during the 1830s, for the Third Estate to appropriate it. A number of magnificem houses disappear, workshops and shops occupy others, tenements, stores, depots and warehouses, firms replace parks and gardens. Bourgeois ugliness, the greed for gain visible and legible in the streets takes the place of a somewhat cold beauty and aristocratic luxury. On the walls of the Marais can be read class struggle and the hatred between classes, a victorious meanness. It is impossible to make more perceptible this paradox of history which partially escaped Marx. The ‘progressive’ bourgeoisie taking charge of economic growth, endowed with ideological instruments suited to rational growth, moves towards democracy and replaces oppression by exploitation, this class as such no longer creates — it replaces the oeuvre, by the product. Those who retain this sense of the oeuvre, including writers and painters, think and see themselves as ‘non bourgeois’. As for oppressors, the masters of societies previous to the democratic bourgeoisie — princes, kings, lords, emperors — they had a sense and a taste of the oeuvre, especially in architecture and urban design. In fact the oeuvre is more closely related to use value than to exchange value.
After 1848, the French bourgeoisie solidly entrenched in the city (Paris) possesses considerable influence, but it sees itself hemmed in by the working class. Peasants flock in, settling around the ‘barriers’ and entrances of the fortifications, the immediate periphery. Former craftsmen and new proletarians penetrate right up to the heart of the city. They live in slums but also in tenements, where the better-off live on the ground floors and the workers on the upper ones. In this ‘disorder’ the workers threaten the ‘parvenus’, a danger which became obvious during the days of June 1848 and which the Commune was to confirm. A class strategy is elaborated, aimed at the replanning of the city, without any regard for reality, for its own life.
The life of Paris reaches its greatest intensity between 1848 and the Haussmann period — not what is understood by ‘la vie parisienne’, but the urban life of the capital. It engages itself into literature and poetry with great vigour and power. Then it will be over. Urban life suggests meetings, the confrontation of differences, reciprocal knowledge and acknowledgement (including ideological and political confrontation), ways of living, ‘patterns’ which coexist in the city. During the nineteenth century, a democracy of peasant origins which drove the revolutionaries could have transformed itself into an urban democracy. It was and it is still for history one of the beliefs of the Commune. As urban democracy threatened the privileges of the new ruling class, that class prevented it from being born. How? By expelling from the urban centre and the city itself the proletariat, by destroying ‘urbanity’.
Act One. Baron Haussmann, man of this Bonapartist State which erects itself over society to treat it cynically as the booty (and not only the stake) of the struggles for power. Haussmann replaces winding but lively streets by long avenues, sordid but animated ‘quartiers’ by bourgeois ones. If he forces through boulevards and plans open spaces, it is not for the beauty of views. It is to ‘comb Paris with machine guns’. The famous Baron makes no secret of it. Later we will be greateful to him for having opened up Paris to traffic. This was not the aim, the finality of Haussmann ‘planning’. The voids have a meaning: they cry out loud and dear the glory and power of the State which plans them, the violence which could occur. Later transfers towards other finalities take place which justify in another way these gashes into urban life. It should be noted that Haussmann did not achieve his goal. One strong aspect of the Paris Commune (1871) is the strength of the return towards the urban centre of workers pushed out towards the outskirts and peripheries, their reconquest of the city, this belonging among other belongings, this value, this oeuvre which had been torn from them.
Act Two. The goal was to be attained by a much vaster manoeuvre and with more important results. In the second half of the century, influential people, that is rich or powerful, or both, sometimes ideologues (Le Play) with ideas strongly marked by religions (Catholic and Protestant), sometimes informed politicians (belonging to the centre right) and who moreover do not constitute a coherent and unique group, in brief, a few notables, discover a new notion. The Third Republic will insure its fortune, that is, its realization on the ground. It will conceive the notion of habitat. Until then, ‘to inhabit’ meant to take part in a social life, a community, village or city. Urban life had, among other qualities, this attribute. It gave the right to inhabit, it allowed townsmen-citizens to inhabit. It is thus that ‘mortals inhabit while they save the earth, while they wait for the gods ... while they conduct their lives in preservation and use’. Thus speaks the poet and philosopher Heidegger of the concept to inhabit. Outside philosophy and poetry the same things have been said sociologically in prose. At the end of the nineteenth century the notables isolate a function, detach it from a very complex whole which was and remains the city, to project it over the ground, not without showing and signifying in this manner the society for which they provide an ideology and a practice. Certainly suburbs were created under the pressure of circumstances to respond to the blind (although motivated and directed) growth of industrialization, the massive arrival of peasants led to the urban centres by ‘rural exodus’. The process has none the less been oriented by a strategy.
A typical class strategy, does that mean a series of concerted actions, planned with a single aim? No. Class character seems that much deeper than several concerted actions, centered around several objectives, has nevertheless converged towards a final result. It goes without saying that all these notables were not proposing to open up a means to speculation: some of them, men of good will, philanthropists, humanists, seem even to wish the opposite. They have none the less mobilized property wealth around the city, the entrance without restriction into exchange and exchange value of the ground and housing. This had speculative implications. They were not proposing to demoralize the working classes, but on the contrary, to moralize it. They considered it beneficial to involve the workers (individuals and families) into a hierarchy clearly distinct from that which rules in the firm, that of property and landlords, houses and neighbourhoods. They wanted to give them another function, another status, other roles than those attached to the condition of the salaried producers. They meant in this way to give them a better everyday life than that of work. In this way they conceived the role of owner-occupied housing. A remarkably successful operation (although its political consequences were not always those anticipated by its promoters). Nevertheless, a result was achieved, predicted or otherwise, conscious or unconscious. Society orients itself ideologically and practically towards other problems than that of production. Little by little social consciousness ceased to refer to production and to focus on everyday life and consumption. With ‘suburbanization’ a process is set into motion which decentres the city. Isolated from the city, the proletariat will end its sense of the oeuvre. Isolated from places of production, available from a sector of habitation for scattered firms, the proletariat will allow its creative capacity to diminish in its conscience. Urban consciousness will vanish.
In France the beginnings of the suburb are also the beginnings of a violently anti-urban planning approach; a singular paradox. For decades during the Third Republic appeared documents authorizing and regulating owner-occupied suburbs and plots. What could be more accurately referred to here is the banlieue pavillonaire, a type of suburbanization begun in this period in France characterized by small owner-occupied houing whose nearest Anglo-Saxon equivalent in terms of typology and social relations is the ‘bungalow’.
A de-urbanized, yet dependent periphery is established around the city. Effectively, these new suburban dwellers are still urban even though they are unaware of it and believe themselves to be close to nature, to the sun and to greenery. One could call it a de-urbanizing and de-urbanized urbanization to emphasize the paradox.
Its excesses will slow this extension down. The movement it engenders will carry along the bourgeoisie and the well-off who will establish residential suburbs. City centres empty themselves for offices. The whole then begins to struggle with the inextricable. But it is not finished.
Act Three. After the Second World War it becomes evident that the picture changes according to various emergencies and constraints related to demographic and industrial growth and the influx of people from the provinces to Paris. The housing crisis, acknowledged and proven, turns into a catastrophe and threatens to worsen the political situation which is still unstable. ‘Emergencies’ overwhelm the initiatives of capitalism and ‘private’ enterprise, especially as the latter is not interested in construction, considered to be insufficiently profitable. The State can no longer be content with simply regulating land plots and the construction of informal suburban housing or fighting (badly) property speculation. By means of intermediary organisms it takes charge of housing construction and an era of ‘nouveaux ensembles’ (large-scale housing estates) and ‘new towns’ begins.
It could be said that public powers take charge of what hitherto was part of a market economy. Undoubtedly. But housing does not necessarily become a public service. It surfaces into social consciousness as a right. It is acknowledged in fact by the indignation raised by dramatic cases and by the discontent engendered by the crisis. Yet it is not formally or practically acknowledged except as an appendix to the ‘rights of man’. Construction taken in charge by the State does not change the orientations and conceptions adopted by the market economy. As Engels had predicted, the housing question, even aggravated, has politically played only a minor role. Groups and parties on the Left will be satisfied with demanding ‘more housing’. Moreover, what guides public and semi-public initiatives is not a conception of urban planning, it is simply the goal of providing as quickly as possible at the least cost, the greatest possible number of housing units. The new housing estates will be characterized by an abstract and functional character: the concept of habitat brought to its purest form by a State bureaucracy.
This notion of habitat is still somewhat ‘uncertain’. Individual owner-occupation will enable variations, particular or individual interpretations of habitat. There is a sort of plasticity which allows for modifications and appropriations. The space of the house — fence, garden, various and available corners — leaves a margin of initiative and freedom to inhabit, limited but real. State rationality is pushed to the limit. In the new housing estate habitat is established in its purest form, as a burden of constraints. Certain philosophers will say that large housing estates achieve the concept of habitat by excluding the notion of inhabit, that is, the plasticity of space, its modelling and the appropriation by groups and individuals of the conditions of their existence. It is also a complete way of living (functions, prescriptions, daily routine) which is inscribed and signifies itself in this habitat.
The villa habitat has proliferated in the suburban communes around Paris, by extending the built environment in a disorderly fashion. This urban, and at the same time non-urban, growth has only one law: speculation on plots and property. The interstices !eh by this growth have been filled by large social housing estates. To the speculation on plots, badly opposed, was added speculation in apartments when these were in to-ownership. Thus housing entered into property wealth and urban land into exchange value. Restrictions were disappearing.
If one defines urban reality by dependency vis-a-vis the centre, suburbs are urban. If one defines urban order by a perceptible (legible) relationship between centrality and periphery, suburbs are de-urbanized. And one can say that the ‘planning thought’ of large social housing estates has literally set itself against the city and the urban to eradicate them. All perceptible, legible urban reality has disappeared: streets, squares, monuments, meeting places. Even the cafe (the bistro) has encountered the resentment of the builders of those large housing estates, their taste for asceticism, the reduction of ‘to inhabit’ to habitat. They had to go to the end of their destruction of palpable urban reality before there could appear the demand for a restitution. Then one saw the timid, slow reappearance of the cafe, the commercial, centre, the street, ‘cultural’ amenities, in brief, a few elements of urban reality.
Urban order thus decomposes into two stages: individual and owner-occupied houses and housing estates. But there is no society without order, signified, perceptible, legible on the ground. Suburban disorder harbours an order: a glaring opposition of individually owner-occupied detached houses and housing estates. This opposition tends to constitute a system of significations still urban even into de-urbanization. Each sector defines itself (by and in the consciousness of the inhabitants) in relation to the other, against the ocher. The inhabitants themselves have little consciousness of the internal order of their sector, but the people from the housing estates see and perceive themselves as not being villa dwellers. This is reciprocal. At the heart of this opposition the people of the housing estates entrench themselves into the logic of the habitat and the people of owner-occupied houses entrench themselves into the make-believe of habitat. For some it is the rational organization (in appearance) of space. For others it is the presence of the dream, of nature, health, apart from the bad and unhealthy city. But the logic of the habitat is only perceived in relation to make-believe, and make-believe in relation to logic. People represent themselves to themselves by what they are lacking or believe to be lacking. In this relationship, the imaginary has more power. It overdetermines logic: the fact of inhabiting is perceived by reference to the owner-occupation of detached dwellings. These dwellers regret the absence of a spatial logic while the people of the housing estates regret not knowing the joys of living in a detached house. Hence the surprising results of surveys. More than 80 per cent of French people aspire to be owner-occupiers of a house, while a strong majority also declare themselves to be ‘satisfied’ with social housing estates. The outcome is not important here. What should be noted is that consciousness of the city and of urban reality is dulled for one or the other, so as to disappear. The practical and theoretical (ideological) destruction of the city cannot but leave an enormous emptiness, not including administrative and other problems increasingly difficult to resolve. This emptiness is less important for a critical analysis than the source of conflict expressed by the end of the city and by the extension of a mutilated and deteriorated, but real, urban society. The suburbs are urban, within a dissociated morphology, the empire of separation and scission between the elements of what had been created as unity and simultaneity.
Within this perspective critical analysis can distinguish three periods (which do not exactly correspond to the distinctions previously made in three acts of the drama of the city).
First period. Industry and the process of industrialization assault and ravage pre-existing urban reality, destroying it through practice and ideology, to the point of extirpating it from reality and consciousness. Led by a class strategy, industrialization acts as a negative force over urban reality: the urban social is denied by the industrial economic.
Second period (in part juxtaposed to the first). Urbanization spreads and urban society becomes general. Urban reality, in and by its own destruction makes itself acknowledged as socio-economic reality. One discovers that the whole society is liable to fall apart if it lacks the city and centrality: an essential means for the planned organization of production and consumption has disappeared.
Third period. One finds or reinvents urban reality, but not without suffering from its destruction in practice or in thinking. One attempts to restitute centrality. Would this suggest that class strategy has disappeared? This is not certain. It has changed. To the old centralities, to the decomposition of centres, it substitutes the centre of decision-making.
Thus is born or reborn urban thought. It follows an urbanism without thought. The masters of old had no need for an urban theory to embellish their cities. What sufficed was the pressure exercised by the people on their masters and the presence of a civilization and style which enabled the wealth derived from the labour of the people to be invested into ‘oeuvres’. The bourgeois period puts an end to this age-old tradition. At the same time this period brings a new rationality, different from the rationality elaborated by philosophers since ancient Greece.
Philosophical Reason proposed definitions of man, the world, history and society which were questionable but also underpinned by reasonings which had been given shape. Its democratic generalizations later gave way to a rationalism of opinions and attitudes. Each citizen was expected to have a reasoned opinion on every fact and problem concerning him, this wisdom spurning the irrational. From the confrontation of ideas and opinions, a superior reason was to emerge, a general wisdom inciting the general will. It is fruitless to insist upon the difficulties of this classical rationalism, linked to the political difficulties of democracy, and to the practical difficulties of humanism. In the nineteenth and especially in the twentieth century, organizing rationality, operation at various levels of social reality, takes shape. Is it coming from the capitalist firm and the management of units of production? Is it born at the level of the State and planning? What is important is that it is an analytical reason pushed to its extreme consequences. It begins from a most detailed methodical analysis of elements — productive operation, social and economic organization, structure and function. It then subordinates these elements to a finality. Where does this finality come from? Who formulates it and stipulates it? How and why? This is the gap and the failure of this operational rationalism. Its tenets purport to extract finality from the sequence of operations. Now, this is not so. Finality, that is, the whole and the orientation of the whole, decides itself. To say that it comes from the operations themselves, is to be locked into a vicious circle: the analysis giving itself as its own aim, for its own meaning. Finality is an object of decision. It is a strategy, more or less justified by an ideology. Rationalism which purports to extract from its own analyses the aim pursued by these analyses is itself an ideology. The notion of system overlays that of strategy. To critical analysis the system reveals itself as strategy, is unveiled as decision, that is, as decided finality. It has been shown above how a class strategy has oriented the analysis and division of urban reality, its destruction and restitution; and projections on the society where such strategic decisions have been taken.
However, from the point of view of a technicist rationalism, the results on the ground of the processes examined above represent only chaos. In the ‘reality’, which they critically observe — suburbs, urban fabric and surviving cores — these rationalists do not recognize the conditions of their own existence. What is before them is only contradiction and disorder. Only, in fact, dialectical reason can master (by reflective thought, by practice) multiple and paradoxically contradictory processes.
How to impose order in this chaotic confusion? It is in this way that organizational rationalism poses its problem. This is not a normal disorder. How can it be established as norm and normality? This is unconceivable. This disorder is unhealthy. The physician of modern society see himself as the physician of a sick social space. Finality? The cure? It is coherence. The rationalist will establish or re-establish coherence into a chaotic reality which he observes and which offers itself up to his action. This rationalist may not realize that coherence is a form, therefore a means rather than an end, and that he will systematize the logic of the habitat underlying the disorder and apparent incoherence, that he will take as point of departure towards the coherence of the real, his coherent approaches. There is in fact no single or unitary approach in planning thought, but several tendencies identifiable according to this operational rationalism. Among these tendencies, some assert themselves against, others for rationalism by leading it to extreme formulations. What interferes with the general tendencies of those involved with planning is understanding only what they can translate in terms of graphic operations: seeing, feeling at the end of a pencil, drawing.
One can therefore identify the following:
(1) The planning of men of good will (architects and writers). Their thinking and projects imply a certain philosophy. Generally they associate themselves to an old classical and liberal humanism. This not without a good dose of nostalgia. One wishes to build to the ‘human scale’, for ‘people’. These humanists present themselves at one and the same time as doctors of society and creators of new social relations. Their ideology, or rather, their idealism often come from agrarian models, adopted without reflection: the village, the community, the neighbourhood, the townsman- citizen who will be endowed with civic buildings, etc. They want to build buildings and cities to the ‘human scale’, ‘to its measure’, without conceiving that in the modern world ‘man’ has changed scale and the measure of yesteryear (village and city) has been transformed beyond measure. At best, this tradition leads to a formalism (the adoption of models which had neither content or meaning), or to an aestheticism, that is, the adoption for their beauty of ancient models which are then thrown as fodder to feed the appetites of consumers.
(2) The planning of these administrators linked to the public (State) sector. It sees itself as scientific. It relies sometimes on a science, sometimes on studies which call themselves synthetic (pluri or multidisciplinary). This scientism, which accompanies the deliberate forms of operational rationalism, tends to neglect the so-called ‘human factor’. It divides itself into tendencies. Sometimes through a particular science, a technique takes over and becomes the point of departure; it is generally a technique of communication and circulation. One extrapolates from a science, from a fragmentary analysis of the reality considered. One optimizes information and communication into a model. This technocratic and systematized planning, with its myths and its ideology (namely, the primacy of technique), would not hesitate to raze to the ground what is left of the city to leave way for cars, ascendant and descendant networks of communication and information. The models elaborated can only be put into practice by eradicating from social existence the very ruins of what was the city.
Sometimes, on the contrary, information and analytical knowledge coming from different sciences are oriented towards a synthetic finality. For all that, one should not conceive an urban life having at its disposal information provided by the sciences of society. These two aspects are confounded in the conception of centres of decision-making, a global vision, planning already unitary in its own way, linked to a philosophy, to a conception of society, a political strategy, that is, a global and total system.
(3) The planning of developers. They conceive and realize without hiding it, for the market, with profit in mind. What is new and recent is that they are no longer selling housing or buildings, but planning. With or without ideology, planning becomes an exchange value. The project of developers presents itself as opportunity and place of privilege: the place of happiness in a daily life miraculously and marvellously transformed. The make-believe world of habitat is inscribed in the logic of habitat and their unity provides a social practice which does not need a system. Hence these advertisements, which are already famous and which deserve posterity because publicity itself becomes ideology. Parly II (a new development) ‘gives birth to a new an of living’, a ‘new lifestyle’. Daily life resembles a fairy tale. ‘Leave your coat in the cloakroom and feeling lighter, do your shopping after having left the children in the nurseries of the shopping mall, meet your friends, have a drink together at the drugstore ...’ Here is the fulfilled make-believe of the joy of living. Consumer society is expressed by orders: the order of these elements on the ground, the order to be happy. Here is the context, the setting, the means of your happiness. If you do not know how to grasp the happiness offered so as to make it your own — don’t insist!
A global strategy, that is, what is already an unitary system and total planning, is outlined through these various tendencies. Some will put into practice and will concertize a directed consumer society. They will build not only commercial centres, but also centres of privileged consumption: the renewed city. They will by making ‘legible’ an ideology of happiness through consumption, joy by planning adapted to its new mission. This planning programmes a daily life generating satisfactions — (especially for receptive and participating women). A programmed and computerized consumption will become the rule and norm for the whole society. Others will erect decision-making centres, concentrating the means of power: information, training, organization, operation. And still: repression (constraints, including violence) and persuasion (ideology and advertising). Around these centres will be apportioned on the ground, in a dispersed order, according to the norms of foreseen constraints, the peripheries, de-urbanized urbanization. All the conditions come together thus for a perfect domination, for a refined exploitation of people as producers, consumers of products, consumers of space.
The convergence of these projects therefore entails the greatest dangers, for it raises politically the problem of urban society. It is possible that new contradictions will arise from these projects, impeding convergence. If a unitary strategy was to be successfully constituted, it might prove irretrievable.
Philosophy and the City
Having contextualized the ‘cavalier’ attitude mentioned at the beginning, particular aspects and problems concerning the urban can now be emphasized. In order to take up a radically critical analysis and to deepen the urban problematic, philosophy will be the starting point. This will come as a surprise. And yet, has not frequent reference to philosophy been made in the preceding pages? The purpose is not to present a philosophy of the city, but on the contrary, to refute such an approach by giving back to the whole of philosophy its place in history: that of a project of synthesis and totality which philosophy as such cannot accomplish. After which the analytical will be examined, that is, the ways fragmentary sciences have highlighted or partitioned urban reality. The rejection of the synthetic propositions of these specialized, fragmentary, and particular sciences will enable us — to pose better — in political terms — the problem of synthesis. During the course of this progress one will find again features and problems which will reappear more dearly. In particular, the opposition between use value (the city and urban life) and exchange value (spaces bought and sold, the consumption of products, goods, places and signs) will be highlighted.
For philosophical meditation aiming at a totality through speculative systematization, that is, classical philosophy from Plato to Hegel, the city was much more than a secondary theme, an object among others. The links between philosophical thought and urban life appear clearly upon reflection, although they need to be made explicit. The city and the town were not for philosophers and philosophy a simple objective condition, a sociological context, an exterior element. Philosophers have thought the city: they have brought to language and concept urban life.
Let us leave aside questions posed by the oriental city, the Asiatic mode of production, ‘town and country’ relations in this mode of production, and lastly the formation of ideologies (philosophies) on this base. Only the Greek and Roman antique city from which are derived societies and civilizations known as ‘Western’ will be considered. This city is generally the outcome of a synoecism, the coming together of several villages and tribes established on this territory. This unit allows the development of division of labour and landed property (money) without however destroying the collective, or rather ‘communal’ property of the land. In this way a community is constituted at the heart of which is a minority of free citizens who exercise power over other members of the city: women, children, slaves, foreigners. The city links its elements associated with the form of the communal property (‘common private property’, or ‘privatized appropriation’) of the active citizens, who are in opposition to the slaves. This form of association constitutes a democracy, the elements, of which are strictly hierarchical and submitted to the demands of the oneness of the city itself. It is the democracy of non-freedom (Marx). During the course of the history of the antique city, private property pure and simple (of money, land and slaves) hardens, concentrates, without abolishing the rights of the city over its territory.
The separation between town and country takes place among the first and fundamental divisions of labour, with the distribution of tasks according to age and sex (the biological division of labour), with the organization of labour according to tools and skills (technical division). The social division of labour between town and country corresponds to the separation between material and intellectual labour, and consequently, between the natural and the spiritual. Intellectual labour is incumbent upon the city: functions of organization and direction, political and military activities, elaboration of theoretical knowledge (philosophy and sciences). The whole divides itself, separations are established, including the separation between the Physics and the Logos, between theory and practice, and in practice, the separations between between praxis (action on human groups), poiesis (creation of ‘oeuvres’), techne (activities endowed with techniques and directed towards product). The countryside, both practical reality and representation, will carry images of nature, of being, of the innate. The city will carry images of effort, of will, of subjectivity, of contemplation, without these representations becoming disjointed from real activities. From these images confronted against each other great symbolisms will emerge. Around the Greek city, above it, there is the cosmos, luminous and ordered spaces, the apogee of place. The city has as centre a hole which is sacred and damned, inhabited by the forces of death and life, times dark with effort and ordeals, the world. The Apollonian spirit triumphs in the Greek city, although not without struggle, as the luminous symbol of reason which regulates, while in the Etruscan-Roman city what governs is the demonic side of the urban. But the philosopher and philosophy attempt to reclaim or create totality. The philosopher does not acknowledge separation, he does not conceive that the world, life, society, the cosmos (and later, history) can no longer make a Whole.
Philosophy is thus born from the city, with its division of labour and multiple modalities. It becomes itself a specialized activity in its own right. But it does not become fragmentary, for otherwise it would blend with science and the sciences, themselves in a process of emerging. just as philosophy refuses to engage in the opinions of craftsmen, soldiers and politicians, it refutes the reasons and arguments of specialists. It has totality as fundamental interest for its own sake, which is recovered or created by the system, that is, the oneness of thought and being, of discourse and act, of nature and contemplation, of the world (or the cosmos) and human reality. This does not exclude but includes meditation on differences (between Being and thought, between what comes from nature and what comes from the city, etc.). As Heidegger expressed it, the logos (element, context, mediation and end for philosophers and urban life) was simultaneously the following: to put forward, gather together and collect, then to recollect and collect oneself, speak and say, disclose. This gathering is the harvest and even its conclusion. ‘One goes to collect things and brings them back. Here sheltering dominates and with it in turn dominates the wish to preserve ... The harvest is in itself a choice of what needs a shelter.’ Thus, the harvest is already thought out. That which is gathered is put in reserve. To say is the act of collection which gathers together. This assumes the presence of ‘somebody’ before which, for whom and by whom is expressed the being of what is thus successful. This presence is produced with clarity (or as Heidegger says, with ‘non-mystery’). The city linked to philosophy thus gathers by and in its logos the wealth of the territory, dispersed activities and people, the spoken and the written (of which each assumes already its collection and recollection). It makes simultaneous what in the countryside and according to nature takes place and passes, and is distributed according to cycles and rhythms. It grasps and defends ‘everything’. If philosophy and the city are thus associated in the dawning logos (reason), it is not within a subjectivity akin to the Cartesian ‘cogito’. If they constitute a system, it is not in the usual way and in the current meaning of the term.
To the organization of the city itself can be linked the primordial whole of urban form and its content, of philosophical form and its meaning: a privileged centre, the core of a political space, the seat of the logos governed by the logos before which citizens are ‘equal’, the regions and distributions of space having a rationality justified before the logos (for it and by it).
The logos of the Greek city cannot be separated from the philosophical logos. The oeuvre of the city continues and is focused in the work of philosophers, who gather opinions and viewpoints, various oeuvres, and think them simultaneously and collect differences into a totality: urban places in the cosmos, times and rhythms of the city and that of the world (and inversely). It is therefore only for a superficial historicity that philosophy brings to language and concept urban life, that of the city. In truth, the city as emergence, language, meditation comes to theoretical light by means of the philosopher and philosophy.
After this first interpretation of the internal link between the city and philosophy, let us go to the European Middle Ages. It begins from the countryside. The Roman city and the Empire have been destroyed by Germanic tribes which are both primitive communities and military organizations. The feudal property of land is the outcome of the dissolution of this sovereignty (city, property, relations of production). Serfs replace slaves. With the rebirth of cities there is on the one hand the feudal organization of property and possession of land (peasant communities having a customary possession and lords having an ‘eminent’ domain as it will later be called), and on the other hand, a corporate organization of crafts and urban property. Although at the beginning seigneurial tenure of land dominates it, this double hierarchy contains the demise of this form of property and the supremacy of wealth in urban property from which arises a deep conflict, basic to medieval society. ‘The necessity to ally themselves against the plunderer lords associated themselves together; the need for common market halls at a time when industry was craft, when serfs in breach of their bondage and in competition with each other were flooding to the increasingly rich cities, the whole of feudal organization was giving birth to the corporations (or guilds). Small capitals, slowly saved by isolated craftsmen, their numbers stable in the middle of a growing population, developed a system of journeymen and apprentices which established in the cities a hierarchy similar to that of the countryside’ (Marx). In these conditions theology subordinates philosophy. The latter no longer meditates on the city. The philosopher (the theologian) deliberates upon the double hierarchy. He gives it shape, with or without raking conflicts into account. The symbols and notions relative to the cosmos (spaces, the hierarchy of matter in that space) and to the world (the actualization of finished matter, hierarchies in time, descent or fall, ascension and redemption) erase the consciousness of the city. From the moment when there are not two but three hierarchies (feudal landed property, guild organization, the king and his State apparatus), thought takes again a critical dimension. The philosopher and philosophy find themselves again, no longer having to choose between the Devil and the Lord. Philosophy will not however recognize its link to the city, although the rise of rationalism accompanies the rise of capitalism (commercial and banking, then industrial), and the development of cities. This rationalism is attached either to the State or to the individual.
For Hegel, at the height of speculative, systematic and contemplative philosophy, the unity between the perfect Thing, chat is, the Greek city, and the Idea, which animates society and the State, this admirable whole, has been irremediably broken by historic becoming. In modern society, the State subordinates these elements and materials, including the city. The latter, however remains as a sort of subsystem in the total philosophico-political system, with the system of needs, that of rights and obligations, and that of the family and estates (crafts and guilds), that of art and aesthetics, etc.
For Hegel, philosophy and the ‘real’ (practical and social) are not, or rather, are no longer external to each other. Separations disappear. Philosophy is not satisfied to meditate upon the real, to attempt the link up of the real and the ideal: it fulfills itself by achieving the ideal: the rational. The real is not satisfied with giving excuse to reflection, to knowledge, to consciousness. During a history which has a meaning — which has this meaning — it becomes rational. Thus the real and the rational tend towards each other; each from their own side moves towards an identity thus acknowledged. The rational is basically philosophy, the philosophical system. The real is society and law and the State which cements the edifice by crowning it. Consequently, in the modern State, the philosophical system, becomes real: in Hegel’s philosophy, the real acknowledge the rational. The system has a double side, philosophical and political. Hegel discovers the historical moment of this shift from the rational into the real and vice versa. He brings to light identity at the moment when history produces it. Philosophy achieves itself There is for Hegel, as Marx will articulate it, at one and the same time a becoming of a philosophy of the world and a becoming of the world of philosophy. An initial repercussion: there can no longer be a divide between philosophy and reality (historical, social, political). A second repercussion: the philosopher no longer has independence: he accomplishes a public function, as do other officials. Philosophy and the philosopher integrate themselves (by mediation of the body of civil servants and the middle class) in this rational reality of the State — no longer in the city, which was only a thing (perfect, it is true, but only thing), denied by a higher and more inclusive rationality.
One knows that Marx neither refuted nor refused the essential Hegelian affirmation: Philosophy achieves itself. The philosopher no longer has a right to independence vis-a-vis social practice. Philosophy inserts itself into it. There is indeed a simultaneous becoming-philosophy of the world and a becoming-world of philosophy, and therefore a tendency towards wholeness (knowledge and acknowledgement of non-separation). And yet Marx thrusts Hegelianism aside. History does not achieve itself. Wholeness is not reached, nor are contradictions resolved. It is not by and in the State, with bureaucracy as social support, that philosophy can be realized. The proletariat has this historic mission: only it can put an end to separations (alienations). Its mission has a double facet: to destroy bourgeois society by building another society — abolish philosophical speculation and abstraction, the alienating contemplation and systematization, to accomplish the philosophical project of the human being. It is from industry, from industrial production, from its relation with productive forces and labour, not from a moral or philosophical judgement, that the working class gets its possibilities. One must tum this world upside down: the meeting of the rational and the real will happen in another society.
The history of philosophy in relation to the city is far from being accomplished within this perspective. Indeed, this history would also suggest the analysis of themes whose emergence are linked to the representation of nature and the earth, to agriculture, to the sacralization of the land (and to its desacralization). Such themes, once born, are displaced and represented sometimes far from their starting points in time and space. The points of imputation and impact, conditions, implications, consequences do not coincide. The themes are enunciated and inserted into social contexts and categories different from those which distinguish their emergence, inasmuch as one can speak of ‘categories’. The urban problematic, for example that which refers to the destiny of the Greek city, used to disengage itself or hide itself, cosmic themes anterior or exterior to this city; the visions of a cyclical becoming or of the hidden immobility of the human being. The purpose of these remarks is to show that the relation considered has yet to receive an explicit formulation.
What relation is there today between philosophy and the city? An ambiguous one. The most emminent contemporary philosophers do not borrow their themes from the city. Bachelard has left wonderful pages on the house. Heidegger has meditated on the Greek city and the logos, and on the Greek temple. Nevertheless the metaphors which resume Heideggerian thought do not come from the city but from a primary and earlier life: the ‘shepherds of being’, the ‘forest paths’. It seems that it is from the Dwelling and the opposition between Dwelling and Wandering that Heidegger borrows his themes. As for so-called ‘existential’ thought, it is based on individual consciousness, on the subject and the ordeals of subjectivity, rather than on a practical, historical and social reality.
However, it is not proven that philosophy has said its last word on the city. For example, one can perfectly conceive of a phenomenological description of urban life. Or construct a semiology of urban reality which would correspond for the present city to what was the logos in the Greek city. Only philosophy and the philosopher propose a totality, the search for a global conception or vision. To consider ‘the city’ is it not already to extend philosophy, to reintroduce philosophy into the city or the city into philosophy? It is true that the concept of totality is in danger of remaining empty if it is only philosophical. Thus is formulated a problematic which does not reduce itself to the city but which concerns the world, history, ‘man’.
Moreover, a certain number of contemporary thinkers have pondered on the city. They see themselves, more or less clearly, as philosophers of the city. For this reason these thinkers want to inspire architects and planners, and make the link between urban preoccupations and the old humanism. But these philosophers lack breadth. The philosophers who claim to think the city and put forward a philosophy of the city by extending traditional philosophy, discourse on the ‘essence’ of the city or on the city as ‘spirit’, as ‘life’ or ‘life force’, as being or ‘organic whole’. In brief, sometime as subject, sometime as abstract system. This leads to nothing, thus a double conclusion. Firstly, the history of philosophical thought can and must reclaim itself from its relation with the city (the condition and content of this thought). It is a way of putting this history into perspective. Secondly, this articulation figures in the problematic of philosophy and the city (knowledge, the formulation of the urban problematic, a notion of this context, a strategy to envisage). Philosophical concepts are not operative and yet they situate the city and the urban — and the whole of society — as a totality, over and above analytical fragmentations. What is proclaimed here of philosophy and its history could equally be asserted for art and its history.
Fragmentary Sciences and Urban Reality
During the course of the nineteenth century, the sciences of social reality are constituted against philosophy which strives to grasp the global (by enclosing a real totality into a rational systematization). These sciences fragment reality in order to analyse it, each having their method or methods, their sector or domain. After a century, it is still under discussion whether these sciences bring distinct enlightenment to a unitary reality, or whether the analytical fragmemation chat they use corresponds to objective differences, articulations, levels and dimensions.
One cannot claim that the city has escaped the researches of historians, economists, demographers and sociologists. Each of these specialities contributes to a science of the city. It has already been ascertained and corroborated that history elucidates better the genesis of the city, and especially identifies better than any other science, the problematic of urban sociecy. Inversely, there is also no doubt that the knowledge of urban reality can relate to the possible (or possibilities) and not only to what is finished or from the past. If one wishes to build a commercial or cultural centre, taking into account functional and functioning needs, the economist has his word to say. In the analysis of urban reality, the geographer, the climatologist, the botanist also intervene. The environment, global and confused concept, fragments itself according to these specialities. In relation to the future and the conditions of the future, mathematical calculations provide essential evidence. Yet, what gathers these facts together? A project, or in other words, a strategy. On the other hand, a doubt remains and is even confirmed. Is the city the sum of indices and facts, of variables and parameters, of correlations, this collection of facts, of descriptions, of fragmentary analyses, because it is fragmentary? These analytical divisions do not lack rigour, but as has already been said, rigour is uninhabitable. The problem coincides with the general questioning of the specialist sciences. On the one hand, the only approach which seeks to find the global reminds us strangely of philosophy when it is not openly philosophical. On the ocher hand, the partial offers more positive but scattered facts. Is it possible to extract from fragmentary sciences a science of the city? No more than a holistic science of society, or of ‘man’, or of human and social reality. On the one hand, a concept without content, on the other, content or contents without concept. Either one declares that the ‘city’, the urban reality as such, does not exist but is only a series of correlations. The ‘subject’ is suppressed. Or the continues to assert the existence of the global: one approaches and locates it, either by extrapolations in the name of a discipline, or by wagering on an ‘interdisciplinary’ tactic. One does not grasp it except by an approach which transcends divisions.
Upon closer examination, one realizes that specialists who have studied urban reality have almost always (except in the case of a logically extremist positivism) introduced a global representation. They can hardly go without a synthesis, settling for a quantity of knowledge, of dividing and splitting urban reality. As specialists, they then claim to be able to go legitimately from their analyses to a final synthesis whose principle is borrowed from their speciality. By means of a discipline or interdisciplinary endeavour, they see themselves as ‘men of synthesis’. More often, they conceptualize the city (and society) as an organism. Historians have frequently linked these entities to an ‘evolution’ or to an ‘historical development’: cities. Sociologists have conceptualized them as a ‘collective being’, as a ‘social organism’. Organicism, evolutionism, continuism, have therefore dominated representations of the city elaborated by specialists who believed themselves to be scholars and only scholars. Philosophers without knowing it, they leapt, without legitimizing their approach, from the partial to the global as well as from fact to right.
Is there a dilemma? An impasse? Yes and no. Yes, there is an obstacle, or if one wants another metaphor, a hole is dug. No. One should be able to cross the obstacle because there is a quite recent practice which already spills over the speculative problem, or the partial facts of the real problem, and which tends to become global by gathering all the facts of experience and knowledge, namely, planning. What is involved here is nor a philosophical view on praxis, but the face that so-called planning thought becomes practice at a global level. For a few years now planning has gone beyond partial techniques and applications (regulation and administration of built space) to become a social practice concerning and of interest to the whole of society. The critical examination of this social practice (the focus being on critique) cannot not allow theory to resolve a theoretical difficulty arising from a theory which has separated itself from practice.
As social practice, planning (which it becomes without having reached a level of elaboration and action, which indeed it can only reach through confrontation with political strategies) has already crossed the initial stage, namely, the confrontation and communication of experts, and the gathering of fragmentary analyses, in brief, what is called the interdisciplinary. Either the planner is inspired by the practice of partial knowledge which he applies, or he puts into action hypotheses or projects at the level of a global reality. In the first case, the application of partial knowledge gives results which can determine the relative importance of this knowledge: these results, experimentally revealing absences and lacunae, enable us to specify on the ground what is lacking. In the second case, the failure (or success) allows the discernment of what is ideological in the presuppositions, and to identify what they define at the global level. Thus, what is effectively involved is a critical examination of the activity called ‘planning’, and not a belief in the word of planners or the unchallenged acceptance of their propositions and decisions. In particular, the displacements and distortions between practice and theory (ideology), between partial knowledge and results, come to the fore instead of being hidden. As does the questioning over use and users.
Philosophy of the City and Planning Ideology
In order to formulate the problematic of the city (to articulate problems by linking them), the following must be clearly distinguished:
The philosophers and philosophies of the city who define it speculatively as whole by defining the ‘homo urbanicus’ as man in general, the world or the cosmos, society, history.
Partial knowledge concerning the city (its elements, functions, structures).
The technical application of this knowledge (in a particular context defined by strategic and political decisions).
Planning as doctrine, that is, as ideology, interpreting partial knowledge, justifying its application and raising these (by extrapolation) to a poorly based or legitimated totality.
The aspects or elements which this analysis distinguishes do not appear separately in various works; they interest, reiforcing or neutralizing each other. Plato proposes a concept of the city and ideal town in Critias. In The Republic and The Laws, Platonic utopia is tempered by very concrete analyses. It is the same for Aristode’s political writings which study the constitution of Athens and other Greek cities.
Today, Lewis Mumford and G. Bardet among others still imagine a city made up not of townspeople, but of free citizens, free from the division of labour, social classes and class struggles, making up a community, freely associated for the management of this community. As philosophers, they make up a model of the ideal city. They conceive freedom in the twentieth century according to the freedom of the Greek city (this is an ideological travesty: only the city as such possessed freedom and not individuals and groups). Thus they think of the modern city according to a model of the antique city, which is at the same time identified with the ideal and rational city. The agora, place and symbol of a democracy limited to its citizens, and excluding women, slaves and foreigners, remains for a particular philosophy of the city the symbol of urban society in general. This is a typically ideological extrapolation. To this ideology these philosophers add partial knowledge, this purely ideological operation consisting in a passage (a leap), from the partial to the whole, from the elementary to the total, from the relative to the absolute. As for Le Corbusier, as philosopher of the city he describes the relationship between the urban dweller and dwelling with nature, air, sun, and trees, with cyclical time and the rhythms of the cosmos. To this metaphysical vision, he adds an unquestionable knowledge of the real problems of the modern city, a knowledge which gives rise to a planning practice and an ideology, a functionalism which reduces urban society to the achievement of a few predictable and prescribed functions laid out on the ground by the architecture. Such an architect sees himself as a ‘man of synthesis’, thinker and practitioner. He believes in and wants to create human relations by defining them, by clearing their environment and decor. Within this well-worn perspective, the architect perceives and imagines himself as architect of the world, human image of God the Creator.
Philosophy of the city (or if one wanes, urban ideology), was born as a superstructure of society into which structures entered a certain type of city. This philosophy, precious heritage of the past, extends itself into speculations which often are travesties of science just because they integrate a few bits of real knowledge.
Planning as ideology has acquired more and more precise definitions. To study the problems of circulation, of the conveying of orders and information in the great modern city, leads to real knowledge and to technical applications. To claim that the city is defined as a network of circulation and communication, as a centre of information and decision-making, is an absolute ideology; this ideology proceeding from a particularly arbitrary and dangerous reduction-extrapolation and using terrorist means, see itself as total truth and dogma. It leads to a planning of pipes, of roadworks and accounting, which one claims to impose in the name of science and scientific rigour. Or even worse!
This ideology has two interdependent aspects, mental and social. Mentally, it implies a theory of rationality and organization whose expression date from around 1910, a transformation in contemporary society (characterized by the beginning of a deep crisis and attempts to resolve it by organizational methods, firstly the scale of the firm, and then on a global scale). It is then that socially the notion of space comes to the fore, relegating into shadow time and becoming. Planning as ideology formulates all the problems of society into questions of space and transposes all that comes from history and consciousness into spatial terms. It is an ideology which immediately divides up. Since society does not function in a satisfactory manner, could there not be a pathology of space? Within this perspective, the virtually official recognition of the priority of space over time is not conceived of as indication of social pathology, as symptom among others of a reality which engenders social disease. On the contrary, what are represented are healthy and diseased spaces. The planner should be able to distinguish between sick spaces and spaces linked to mental and social health which are generators of this health. As physician of space, he should have the capacity to conceive of an harmonious social space, normal and normalizing. Its function would then be to grant to this space (perchance identical to geometrical space, that of abstract topologies) preexisting social realities.
The radical critique of philosophies of the city as well as of ideology is vital, as much on the theoretical as on the practical level. It can be made in the name of public health. However, it cannot be carried out without extensive research, rigorous analyses and the patient study of texts and contexts.
The Specificity of the City
A philosophy of the city answered questions raised by social practice in precapiralisr societies (or if one prefers this terminology, in pre-industrial societies). Planning as technique and ideology responds to demands arising from this vast crisis of the city already referred to, which starts with the rise of competitive and industrial capitalism and which has never stopped getting deeper. This world crisis gives rise to new aspects of urban reality. It sheds light on what was little or poorly understood; it unveils what had been badly perceived. It forces the reconsideration of not only the history of the city and knowledge of the city, but also of the history of philosophy and that of an. Until recently, theoretical thinking conceived the city as an entity, as an organism and a whole among others, and this in the best of cases when it was not being reduced to a partial phenomenon, to a secondary, elementary or accidental aspect, of evolution and history. One would elms see in it a simple result, a local effect reflecting purely and simply general history. These representations, which are classified and are given well-known terms (organicism, evolutionism, continuism), have been previously criticized. They did not contain theoretical knowledge of the city and did not lead to this knowledge; moreover, they blocked at a quite basic level the enquiry; they were ideologies rather than concepts and theories.
Only now are we beginning to grasp the specificity of the city (of urban phenomena). The city always had relations with society as a whole, with its constituting elements (countryside and agriculture, offensive and defensive force, political power, States, etc.), and with its history. it changes when society as a whole changes. Yet, the city’s transformations are not the passive outcomes of changes in the social whole. The city also depends as essentially on relations of immediacy, of direct relations between persons and groups which make up society (families, organized bodies, crafts and guilds, etc.). Furthermore, it is not reduced to the organization of these immediate and direct relations, nor its metamorphoses to their changes. It is situated at an interface, half-way between what is called the near order (relations of individuals in groups of variable size, more or less organized and structured and the relations of these groups among themselves), and the far order, that of society, regulated by large and powerful institutions (Church and State), by a legal code formalized or not, by a ‘culture’ and significant ensembles endowed with powers, by which the far order projects itself at this ‘higher’ level and imposes itself. Abstract, formal, supra-sensible and transcending in appearances, it is not conceptualized beyond ideologies (religious and political). It includes moral and legal principles. This far order projects itself into the practico-material reality and becomes visible by writing itself within this reality. It persuades through and by the near order, which confirms its compelling power. It becomes apparent by and in immediacy. The city is a mediation among mediations. Containing the near order, it supports it; it maintains relations of production and property; it is the place of their reproduction. Contained in the far order, it supports it; it incarnates it; it projects it over a terrain (the site) and on a plan, that of immediate life; it inscribes it, prescribes it, writes it. A text in a context so vast and ungraspable as such except by reflection.
And thus the city is an oeuvre, closer to a work of art than to a simple material product. If there is production of the city, and social relations in the city, it is a production and reproduction of human beings by human beings, rather than a production of objects. The city has a history; it is the work of a history, chat is, of dearly defined people and groups who accomplish this oeuvre, in historical conditions. Conditions which simultaneously enable and limit possibilities, are never sufficient to explain what was born of them, in them, by them. It was in this way that the city created by the Western Middle Ages was animated and dominated by merchants and bankers, this city was their oeuvre. Can the historian consider it as a simple object of commerce, a simple opportunity for lucre? Absolutely not, precisely not. These merchants and bankers acted to promote exchange and generalize it, to extend the domain of exchange value; and yet for them the city was much more use value than exchange value. These merchants of Italian, Flemish, English and French cities loved their cities like a work of art and adorned them with every kind of works of an. So that, paradoxically, the city of merchants and bankers remains for us the type and model of an urban real icy whereby use (pleasure, beauty, ornamentation of meeting places) still wins over lucre and profit, exchange value, the requirements and constraints of markets. At the same time, wealth arising from commerce in goods and money, the power of gold, the cynicism of this power, are also inscribed in this city and in it prescribe an order. So that, as such it still remains for some model and prototype.
By taking ‘production’ in its widest sense (the production of oeuvres and of social relations), there has been in history the production of cities as there has been production of knowledge, culture, works of art and civilization, and there also has been, of course, production of material goods and practico-material objects. These modalities of production cannot be disjointed unless one has the right to confuse them by reducing differences. The city was and remains object, but not in the way of particular, pliable and instrumental object: such as a pencil or a sheet of paper. Its objectivity, or ‘objectality’, might rather be closer to that of the language which individuals and groups receive before modifying it, or of language (a particular language, the work of a particular society, spoken by particular groups). One could also compare this ‘objectality’ to that of a cultural reality, such as the written book, instead of old abstract object of the philosophers or the immediate and everyday object. Moreover, one must take precautions. If I compare the city to a book, to a writing (a semiological system), I do not have the right to forget the aspect of mediation. I can separate it neither from what it contains nor from what contains it, by isolating it as a complete system. Moreover, at best, the city constitutes a sub-system, a sub-whole. On this book, with this writing, are projected mental and social forms and structures. Now, analysis can achieve this context from the text, but it is not given. Intellectual operations and reflective approaches are necessary to achieve it (deduction, induction, translation and transduction). The whole is not immediately present in this wrinen text, the city. There are other levels of reality which do not become transparent by definition. The city writes and assigns, that is, it signifies, orders, stipulates. What? That is to be discovered by reflection. This text has passed through idealogies, as it also ‘reflects’ them. The far order projects itself in/on the near order. However, the near order does not reflect transparently the far order. The later subordinates the immediate through mediations. it does not yield itself up. Moreover, it hides itself without discovering itself. This is how it acts without one having the right to speak of a transcendence of order, the Global or the Total.
If one considers the city as oeuvre of certain historical and social ‘agents’, the action and the result, the group (or groups) and their ‘product’ can be clearly identified without separating them. There is no oeuvre without a regulated succession of acts and actions, of decisions and conduces, messages and codes. Nor can an oeuvre exist without things, without something to shape, without practico-material reality, without a site, without a ‘nature’, a countryside, an environment. Social relations are achieved from the sensible. They cannot be reduced to this sensible world, and yet they do not float in air, they do not disappear into transcendence. If social reality suggests forms and relations, if it cannot be conceived in a way homologous to the isolated, sensible or technical object, it does not survive without ties, without attachment to objects and things. We must insist on this methodologically and theoretically important point. There is cause and reason to distinguish between material and social morphologies. We should perhaps here introduce a distinction between the city, a present and immediate reality, a practico-material and architectural fact, and the urban, a social reality made up of relations which are to be conceived of, conscructed or reconstructed by thought. This distinction none the less reveals itself to be dangerous and the designation proposed cannot be handled without risk. Thus designated, the urban seems not to need land and material morphology and is outlined according to a speculative mode of existence of entities, spirits and souls, freed from attachments and inscriptions; a kind of imaginary transcendence. If one adopts this terminology, the relations between the city and the urban will have to be determined with the greatest care, by avoiding separation as well as confusion, and metaphysics as well as reduction to the immediate and tangible. Urban life, urban sociecy, in a word, the urban, cannot go without a practico-material base, a morphology. They have it and do not have it. If they do not have it, if the urban and urban society are conceived without this basis, it is that they are perceived as possibilities, it is chat the virtualities of actual society are seeking, so to speak, their incorporation and incarnation through knowledge and planning thought: through our ‘reflections’. If they do not find them, these possibilities go into decline and are bound to disappear. The urban is not a soul, a spirit, a philosophical entity.
Continuities and Discontinuities
Organicism and its implications, namely the simplifying evolutionism of many historians and the naive continuism of many sociologists, has disguised the specific features of urban reality. The acts or events ‘producers’ of this reality as formation and social oeuvre escaped knowledge. In this sense, to produce is to create: to bring into being ‘something’ which did nor exist before the productive activity. For a long time knowledge has hesitated in the face of creation. Either creation appears to be irrational, spontaneity swelling up from the unknown and the unknowable. Or else it is denied and what comes to be is reduced to what was already existing. Science wants itself to be a science of determinisms, a knowledge of constraints. It abandons to philosophers the exploration of births, of decline, transitions, disappearances. In this, those who challenge philosophy abandon the idea of creation. The study of urban phenomena is linked to overcoming these obstacles and dilemmas, to the solution of these internal conflicts by reason which knows.
As much in the past as now, history and sociology conceived as an organicist model have not known better how to apprehend differences. Abusive reductions take place to the detriment of these differences and to the detriment of creation. It is quite easy to grasp the link between these reductive operations. The specific flees before simplifying schematas. In the rather troubled light shed by many confused crises (such as the city and the urban), among the crevices of a ‘reality’ which too often one believes to be as full as an egg or as a entirely written page, analysis can now perceive why and how global processes (economic, social, political, cultural) have formed urban space and shaped the city, without creative action arising instantaneously and deductively from these processes. Indeed, if they have influenced urban rhythms and spaces, it is by enabling groups to insert themselves, to cake charge of them, to appropriate them; and this by inventing, by sculpting space (to use a metaphor), by giving themselves rhythms. Such groups have also been innovative in how to live, to have a family, to raise and educate children, to leave a greater or lesser place to women, to use and transmit wealth. These transformations of everyday life modified urban reality, not without having from it their motivations. The city was at one and the same rime the place and the milieu, the theatre and the stake of these complex interactions.
The introduction of temporal and spatial discontinuities in the theory of the city (and the urban), in history and sociology, does not give one the right to abuse it. Separations must not be substituted for organicism and continuism by consecrating them by theory. If the city appears as a specific level of social reality, general processes (of which the most important and accessible were the generalization of commercial exchanges, industrialization in such a global context, the formation of competitive capitalism), did not take place above this specific mediation. Moreover, the level of immediate relations, personal and interpersonal (the family, the neighbourhood, crafts and guilds, the division of labour between crafts, etc.) is only separated from urban reality through an abstraction: the correct approach of knowledge cannot change this abstraction into separation. Reflection emphasizes articulations so that delineations do not disarticulate the real but follow articulations. The methodological rule is to avoid confusion in an illusory continuity as well as separations or absolute discontinuities. Consequently, the study of articulations between the levels of reality enables us to demonstrate the distortions and discrepancies between levels rather than to blurr them.
The city is transformed not only because of relatively continuous ‘global processes’ (such as the growth of material production over a long period of time with its consequences for exchanges, or the development of rationality) but also in relation to profound transformations in the mode of production, in the relations between •town and country’, in the relations of class and property. The correct approach consists in going from the most general knowledge to that which concerns historical processes and discontinuities, their projection or refraction onto the city and conversely, particular and specific knowledge of urban reality to its global context.
The city and the urban cannot be understood without institutions springing from relations of class and property. The city itself, perpetual oeuvre and act, gives rise to specific institutions: that is, municipal institutions. The most general institutions, those which belong to the State, to the dominant religion and ideology have their seat in the political, military and religious city. They coexist with properly urban, administrative, and cultural institutions. Hence a number of remarkable continuities through changes in society.
One knows that there was and there still is the oriental city, expression and projection on the ground, effect and cause, of the Asiatic mode of production; in this mode of production State power, resting on the city, organizes economically a more or less extensive agrarian zone, regulates and controls water, irrigation and drainage, the use of land, in brief, agricultural production. There was in the era of slavery, a city which organized its agricultural zone through violence and by juridical rationality, but which undermined its own base by replacing free peasants (landowners) with latifundial type properties. In the West there was also the medieval city, rooted in a feudal mode of production where agriculture was predominant, but which was also place of commerce, theatre of class struggle between an emerging bourgeoisie and territorial feudalism, the point of impact and lever of royal State action. Finally, in the West, and in North America, there has been the capitalist, commercial and industrial city, more or less delimited by the political State whose formation accompanied the rise of capitalism and whose bourgeoisie knew how to appropriate the management of the whole of society.
Discontinuities are not only situated between urban formations, but also between the most general of social relations, and the immediate relations of individuals and groups (between codes and sub-codes). The medieval city has however lasted for almost eight centuries. The rupture of the big city tends to disintegrate urban cores of medieval origins, although these persist in many small or medium-sized towns. Many urban centres, which today perpetuate or protect the image of centrality (which might have disappeared without them) are of very ancient origins. This can explain without inasmuch legitimizing the illusion of continuism and evolutionary ideology. This illusion and this ideology have disguised the dialectical movement in the metamorphoses of cities and the urban, and particularly in the relations of ‘continuity-discontinuity’. In the course of development some forms change themselves into functions and enter structures which take them back and transform them. Thus the extension of commercial exchanges from the European Middle Ages onwards, contributes to this extraordinary formation, the merchant city (integrating completely the merchants established around the market square and market hall). Since industrialization these local and localized markets have only one function in urban life, in the relations of the city with the surrounding countryside. A form which has become function enters into new structures. And yet, planners have recently come to believe that they have invented the commercial centre. Their thinking progressed from that of a denuded space, reduced to a residential function, to that of a commercial centrality which brought a difference, an enrichment. But planners were only rediscovering the medieval city laid bare of its historical relation to the countryside, of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and feudalism, of the political relation with a royal and despotic State, and as a consequence reduced to the unifunctionality of local exchanges.
Forms, structures, urban functions (in the city, in the relations of the city to the territory influenced or managed by it, in the relations with society and State) acted upon each other modifying themselves, a movement which thought can now reconstruct and master. Each urban formation knew an ascent, an apogee, a decline. Its fragments and debris were later used for/in other formations. Considered in its historical movement, at its specific level (above and beyond global transformations, hut above immediate and locally rooted relations, often linked to the consecration of the ground, and therefore durable and quasi-permanent in appearance), the city has gone through critical periods. Destructurations and restructurations are followed in time and space, always translated on the ground, inscribed in the practico-material, written in the urban text, but coming from elsewhere: from history and becoming. Not from the supersensible, but from another level. Local acts and agents left their mark on cities, but also impersonal relations of production and property, and consequently, of classes and class struggles, that is, ideologies (religious and philosophical, that is, ethical, a esthetical, legal, etc.). The projection of the global on the ground and on the specific plane of the city were accomplished only through mediations. In itself mediation, the city was the place, the product of mediations, the terrain of their activities, the object and objective of their propositions. Global processes, general relations inscribed themselves in the urban text only as transcribed by ideologies, interpreted by tendencies and political strategies. It is this difficulty upon which one must now insist, that of conceiving the city as a semantic system, semiotic or semiological system arising from linguistics, urban language or urban reality considered as grouping of signs. In the course of its projection on a specific level, the general code of society is modified: the specific code of the urban is an incomprehensible modulation, a version, a translation without the original or origins. Yes, the city can be read because it writes, because it was writing. However, it is not enough to examine this without recourse to context. To write on this writing or language, to elaborate the metalanguage of the city is not to know the city and the urban. The context, what is below the text to decipher (daily life, immediate relations, the unconscious of the urban, what is little said and of which even less is written), hides itself in the inhabited spaces — sexual and family life — and rarely confronts itself, and what is above this urban text (institutions, ideologies), cannot be neglected in the deciphering. A book is not enough. That one reads and re-reads it, well enough. That one goes as far as to undertake a critical reading of it, even better. It asks from knowledge questions such as ‘who and what? how? why? for whom?’ These questions announce and demand the restitution of the context. The city cannot therefore be conceived as a signifying system, determined and closed as a system. The taking into consideration the levels of reality forbids, here as elsewhere, this sytematization. None the less, the city has this singular capacity of appropriating all significations for saying them, for writing them (to stipulate and to ‘signify’ them), including those from the countryside, immediate life, religion and political ideology. In the cities, monuments and festivities had this meaning.
During each critical period, when the spontaneous growth of the city stagnates and when urban development oriented and characterized by hitherto dominant social relations ends, then appears a planning thought. This is more a symptom of change than of a continuously mounting rationality or of an internal harmony (although illusions on these points regularly reproduce themselves), as this thinking merges the philosophy of the city in search of a with the divisive schemes for urban space. To confuse this anxiety with rationality and organization it is the ideology previously denounced. Concepts and theories make a difficult path through this ideology.
At this point the city should be defined. If it is true that the concept emerges little by little from these ideologies which convey it, it must be conceived during this progress. We therefore here propose a first definition of the city as a projection of society on the ground, chat is, not only on the actual site, but at a specific level, perceived and conceived by thought, which determines the city and the urban. Long-term controversies over this definition have shown its lacunae. Firstly, it requires more accuracy. What is inscribed and projected is not only a far order, a social whole, a mode of production, a general code, it is also a time, or rather, times, rhythms. The city is heard as much as music as it is read as a discursive writing. Secondly, the definition calls for supplements. It brings to light certain historical and generic or genetic differences, but leaves aside other real differences: between the cypes of cities resulting from history, between the effects of the division of labour in the cities, between the persistent ‘city-territory’ relations. Hence another definition which perhaps does not destroy the first: the city as the ensemble of differences between cities. In turn, this definition reveals itself to be insufficient, as it places emphasis on particularities rather than on generalities, neglecting the singularities of urban life, the ways of living of the city, more properly understood as to inhabit. Hence another definition, of plurality, coexistence and simultaneity in the urban of patterns, ways of living urban life (the small house, the large social housing estates, to-ownership, location, daily life and its changes for intellectuals, craftsmen, shopkeepers, workers, etc.).
These definitions (relative to the levels of social reality), are not in themselves exhaustive and do not exclude other definitions. If a theoretician sees in the city the place of confrontations and of (conflictual) relations between desire and need, between satisfactions and dissatisfactions, if he goes as far as to describe the city as ‘site of desire’, these determinations will be examined and taken into consideration. It is not certain that they have a meaning limited to the fragmentary science of psychology. Moreover, there would be the need to emphasize the historical role of the city: the quickening of processes (exchange and the market, the accumulation of knowledge and capitals, the concentration of these capitals) and site of revolutions. Today, by becoming a centre of decision-making, or rather, by grouping centres of decision-making, the modern city intensifies by organizing the exploitation of the whole society (not only the working classes, but also other non-dominant social classes). This is not the passive place of production or the concentration of capitals, but that of the urban intervening as such in production (in the means of production).
Levels of Reality and Analysis
The preceding considerations are sufficient to show that the analysis of urban phenomena (the physical and social morphology of the city, or if one prefers, the city, the urban and their connexion) requires the use of all the methodological tools: form, function, structure, levels, dimensions, text, context, field and whole, writing and reading, system, signified and signifier, language and metalanguage, institutions, etc. One also knows that none of these terms can attain a rigorous purity, be defined without ambiguity, or escape multiple meaning. Thus the word form takes on various meanings for the logician, for the literary critic, for the aesthetician, and for the linguist.
The theoretician of the city and the urban will say that these terms are defined as form of simultaneity, as field of encounters and exchanges. This acceptance of the word form must be clarified. Let us again consider the term function. The analysis distinguishes the functions internal to the city, the functions of the city in relation to territory (countryside, agriculture, villages and hamlets, smaller towns subordinated within a network), and lastly, the functions of the city — each city — in the social whole (the technical and social division of labour between cities, various networks of relations, administrative and political hierarchies). It is the same for structures. There is the structure of the city (of each city, morphologically, socially, topologically and topically), then the urban structure of society, and finally the social structure of town-country relations. Hence a muddle of analytical and partial determinations and the difficulties of a global conception. Here as elsewhere three terms most often meet, whose conflictual and (dialectical) relations are hidden under term by term oppositions. There is the countryside, and the city and society with the State which manages and dominates it (in its relations with the class structure of that society). There is also as we have attempted to show, general (and global) processes, the city as specificity and intermediary level, then relations of immediacy (linked to a way of life, to inhabiting, and to regulating daily life). This requires therefore more precise definitions of each level, which we will not be able to separate or confuse, but of which we shall have to show the articulations and disarticulations, the projections of one upon the other, and the different connections.
The highest level is found at the same time above and in the city. This does not simplify the analysis. The social structure exists in the city, makes itself apparent, signifies an order. Inversely, the city is a part of the social whole; it reveals, because contains and incorporates them within sentient matter, institutions and ideologies. Royal, imperial and presidential buildings are a part of the city: the political part (the capital). These buildings do not coincide with institutions, with dominant social relations. And yet, these relations act upon them, by representing social efficacy and ‘presence’. At its specific level, the city also contains the projection of these relations. To elucidate this analysis by a particular case, social order in Paris is represented at the highest level in/by the Ministry of the Interior, and at the specific level by the prefecture of police and also by neighbourhood police stations, without forgetting various police agencies acting either at a global level, or in the subterranean shadow. Religious ideology is signified at the highest level by the cathedral, by seats of large religious organizations of the Church, and also by neighbourhood churches and presbyteries, various local investments of institutionalized religious practice.
At this level, the city manifests itself as a group of groups, with iu double morphology (practico-sensible or material, on the one hand, social on the other), It has a code of functioning focused around particular institutions, such as the municipality with its services and its problems, with its channels of information, its networks, its powers of decision-making. The social structure is projected on this plane, but this does not exclude phenomena unique to the city, to a particular city, and the most diverse manifestations of urban life. Paradoxically, taken at this level, the city is made up of uninhabited and even uninhabitable spaces: public buildings, monuments, squares, streets, large or small voids. It is so true that ‘habitat’ does not make up the city and that it cannot be defined by this isolated function.
At the ecological level, habitation becomes essential. The city envelops it; it is form, enveloping chis space of ‘private’ life, arrival and departure of networks of information and the communication of orders (imposing the far order to the near order).
Two approaches arc possible. The first goes from the most general to the most specific (from institutions to daily life) and then uncovers the city as specific and (relatively) privileged mediation. The second starts from this plan and constructs the general by identifying the elements and significations of what is observable in the urban. It proceeds in this manner to reach, from the observable, ‘private’, the concealed daily life: its rhythms, its occupations, its spatio-temporal organization, its clandestine ‘culture’, its underground life.
Isotopies are defined at each level: political, religious, commercial, etc. space. In relation to these isotopies, other levels are uncovered as heterotopies. Meanwhile, at each level spatial oppositions are uncovered which enter in chis relationship of isotopy-heterotopy. For example, the opposition between social and owner-occupied housing. Spaces at the specific level can also be classified according to the criterion of isotopy-heterotopy, the city as a whole being the most expanded isotopy, embracing others, or rather, superimposing itself over others (over the spatial sub-wholes which are at one and the same time subordinated and constitutive). Such a classification by opposition should not exclude the analysis of levels, nor that of the movement of the whole with its conflictual aspects (class relations among others), At the ecological level, that of inhabiting, are constituted significant ensembles, partial systems of signs, of which the ‘world of the detached house’ offers a particularly interesting case. The distinction between levels (each level implying in tum secondary levels) has the greatest use in the analysis of essential relations, for example in understanding how the ‘values of detached housing’ in France become the reference point of social consciousness and the ‘values’ of other types of housing. Only the analysis of relations of inclusion-exclusion, of belonging or non-belonging to a particular space of the city enables us to approach these phenomena of great importance for a theory of the city.
On its specific plane the city can appropriate existing political, religious and philosophical meanings. It seizes them to say them, to expose them by means — or through the voice — of buildings, monuments, and also by streets and squares, by voids, by the spontaneous theatricalization of encounters which take place in it, not forgetting festivities and ceremonies (with their appropriate and designated places). Beside the writing, there is also the even more important utterance of the urban, these utterances speaking of life and death, joy or sorrow. The city has this capacity which makes of it a significant whole. None the less, to stress a previous remark, the city does not accomplish this task gracefully or freely. One does not ask it. Aestheticism, phenomenon of decline, comes later. Such as planning! In the form of meaning, in the form of simultaneity and encounters, in the form, finally of an ‘urban’ language and writing, the city dispatches orders. The far order is projected into the near order. This far order is never or almost never unitary. There is religious order, political order, moral order, each referring to an ideology with its practical implications. Among these orders the city realizes on its plane a unity, or rather, a syncretism. It dissimulates and veils their rivalries and conflicts by making them imperative. It translates them as instructions for action, as time management. It stipulates (signifies) with the management of time a meticulous hierarchy of place, moments, occupations, people. Moreover, it refracts these imperatives in a style, inasmuch as there is a genuine urban life. This style characterizes itself as architectural and is associated to art and the study of art objects.
Therefore the semiology of the city is of greatest theoretical and practical interest. The city receives and emits messages. These messages are or are not understood (that is, are or are not coded or decoded). Therefore, it can be apprehended from concepts derived from linguistics: signifier and signified, signification and meaning. Nevertheless, it is not without the greatest reservation or without precautions that one can consider the city as a system, as a unique system of significations and meanings and therefore of values. Here as elsewhere, there are several systems (or if one prefers, several sub-systems). Moreover, semiology does not exhaust the practical and ideological reality of the city. The theory of the city as system of significations tends towards an ideology; it separates the urban from its morphological basis and from social practice, by reducing it to a ‘signifier-signified’ relation and by extrapolating from actually perceived significations. This is not without a great naivety. If it is true that a Bororo village signifies, and that the Greek city is full of meaning, are we to build vast Bororo villages full of signs of Modernity? Or restore the agora with its meaning at the centre of the new town?
The fetishization of the formal ‘signifier-signified’ relationship entails more serious inconveniences. It passively accepts the ideology of organised consumption. Or rather, it contributes to it. In the ideology of consumption and in ‘real’ consumption (in quotations), the consumption of signs plays an increasing role. It does not repress the consumption of ‘pure’ spectacles, without activity and participation, without oeuvre or product. It adds to it and superimposes itself upon it as a determination. It is thus that advertising of consumer goods becomes the principal means of consumption; it tends to incorporate art, literature, poetry and to supplant them by using them as rhetoric. It thus becomes itself the ideology of society; each ‘object’, each ‘good’ splits itself into a reality and an image, this being an essential part of consumption. One consumes signs as well as objects: signs of happiness, of satisfaction, of power, of wealth, of science, of technology, etc. The production of these signs is integrated to global production and plays a major integrative role in relation to other productive and organizing social activities. The sign is bought and sold; language becomes exchange value. Under the appearance of signs and significations in general, it is the significations of this society which are handed over to consumption. Consequently, he who conceives the city and urban reality as system of signs implicitly hands them over to consumption as integrally consumable: as exchange value in its pure state. Changing sites into signs and values, the practice — material into formal significations, this theory also changes into pure consumer of signs he who receives them. Would not the Paris bis or ter conceived by developers be the centres of consumption promoted to a superior level by the intensity of the consumption of signs? Urban semiology is in danger of placing itself at their service if it loses its naivety.
In truth, semiological analysis must distinguish between multiple levels and dimensions. There is the utterance of the city: what happens and takes place in the street, in the squares, in the voids, what is said there. There is the language of the city: particularities specific to each city which are expressed in discourses, gestures, clothing, in the words and use of words by the inhabitants. There is urban language, which one can consider as language of connotations, a secondary system and derived within the denotative system (to use here Hjemslev and Greimas’s terminology). Finally, there is the writing of the city: what is inscribed and prescribed on its walls, in the layout of places and their linkages, in brief, the use of time in the city by its inhabitants.
Semiological analysis must also distinguish between levels, that of semantemes or signifying elements (straight or cured lines, writing, elementary forms of entry, doors and windows, corners, angles, etc.), morphemes or signifying objects (buildings, streets, ere.) and lastly, significant ensembles or super-objects, of which the city irself.
One must study how the global is signified (the semiology of power), how the city is signified (that is the properly urban semiology) and how are signified ways of living and inhabiting (that is the semiology of daily life, of to inhabit and habitat). One cannot confuse the city as it apprehends and exposes significations coming from nature, the country and the landscape (the tree for example) and the city as place of consumption of signs. That would be to confuse festivities with ordinary consumption.
Let us not forget dimensions. The city has a symbolic dimension; monuments but also voids, squares and avenues, symbolizing the cosmos, the world, society, or simply the State. It has a paradigmatical dimension; it implies and shows oppositions, the inside and the outside, the centre and the periphery, the integrated and non-integrated to urban society. Finally, it also possesses the syntagmatic dimension: the connection of elements, the ariculation of isotopies and heterotopies. At its specific level, the city presents itself as a privileged sub-system because it is able to reflect and expose the other sub-systems and to present itself as a ‘world’, a unique whole, within the illusion of the immediate and the lived. In this capacity resides precisely the charm, the tonicity, and the tonality specific to urban life. But analysis dissipates this impression and unveils a number of systems hidden in the illusion of oneness. The analyst has no right to share this illusion and to consolidate it by maintaining himself at an urban level. He must uncover instead the features of a greater knowledge.
We have not finished making an inventory of sub-systems of significations, and therefore of what semiological analysis can bring to an understanding of the city and the urban. If we consider the sector of owner-occupation and that of new social housing estates, we already know that each of them constitutes a (partial) system of significations, and that another system which overdetermines each of them is established from their opposition. This is how the owner-occupiers of small houses perceive and conceive themselves in the make-believe of habitat, and in turn, the estates establish the logic of habitat and perceive themselves according to this coercive rationality. At the same time and at the same stroke, the sector of owner-occupation becomes the reference by which habitat and daily life are appreciated; that practice is cloaked in make-believe and signs.
Among systems of significations, those of architects deserve the greatest critical attention. It often happens that talented men believe themselves to be at the centre of knowledge and experience whereas they remain at the centre of systems of writing, projections on paper, visualizations. Architects tending on their part towards a system of significations which they often call ‘planning’, it is not impossible for analysts of urban reality, grouping together their piecemeal facts, to constitute a somewhat different system of significations that they can also baptize planning while they leave its programming to machines.
Critical analysis dissipates the privilege of the lived in urban society. It is only a ‘plane’, or a level. Yet analysis does not make this plane disappear. It exists — as a book. Who reads this open book? Who crosses over its writing? It is not a well-defined subject and yet a succession of acts and encounters constitute on this plane itself urban life, the urban. This urban life tends to turn against themselves the messages, orders and constraints coming from above. It attempts to appropriate time and space by foiling dominations, by diverting them from their goal, by deceit. It also intervenes more or less at the level of the city and the way of inhabiting. In this way the urban is more or less the oeuvre of its citizens instead of imposing itself upon them as a system, as an already dosed book.
Town and Country
A theme which has been used and over-used, hyperinflated and extrapolated, namely, ‘nature and culture’, originates from the relation between town and country and deflects it. There are three terms in this relation. In the same way, there are three terminologies in existing reality (rurality, urban fabric, centrality) whose dialectical relations are hidden beneath term to term oppositions, but also come to reveal themselves in them. Nature as such escapes the hold of rationally pursued action, as well as from domination and appropriation. More precisely, it remains outside of these influences: it ‘is’ what flees: it is reached by the imaginary; one pursues it and it flees into the cosmos, or in the underground depths of the world. The countryside is the place of production and oeuvres. Agricultural production gives birth to products: the landscape is an oeuvre. This oeuvre emerges from the earth slowly moulded, linked originally to the groups which occupy it by a reciprocal consecration, later to be desecrated by the city and urban life (which capture this consecration, condense it, then dissolve it over through the ages by absorbing it into rationalicy). Where does this ancient consecration of the ground to the tribes, peoples and nations come from? From the obscure and menacing presence/absence of nature? From the occupation of the ground which excludes strangers from this possessed ground? From the social pyramid, which has its basis on this ground and which exacts many sacrifices for the maintenance of a threatened edifice? One does not prevent the other. What is important is the complex movement by which the political city uses this sacred-damned character of the ground, so that the economic (commercial) city can desecrate it.
Urban life includes original mediations between town, country and nature. As the village, whose relationship with the city, in history and in actuality, is far from being well known. As are parks, gardens, channelled waters. These mediations cannot be understood as such by city dwellers without symbolisms and representations (ideological and imaginary) of nature and the countryside.
The town and country relation has changed deeply during the course of history, according to different periods and to modes of production. It has been sometimes profoundly conflictual, and at other times appeased and close to an association. Moreover, during the same period, very different kinds of relations are manifested. Thus in Western feudalism, the territorial lord threatens the re-emerging city, where the merchants find their meeting place, their homebase, the place of their strategy. The city responds to this action of landed power, and a class struggle ensues, sometimes quiescent, sometimes violent. The city liberates itself, not by integrating itself by becoming an aristocracy of commoners, but by integraring itself with the monarchic State (for which it provided an essential condition). On the other hand, during the same period, in so far as one can speak of an Islamic feudalism, the ‘lord’ rules over the city of craftsmen and shopkeepers and from it, over a surrounding countryside, often reduced to gardens and to sparse and insignificant cultivations. In such a relationship, there is neither the kernel nor the possibility of a class struggle. From the outset this takes away any historical dynamism and future from this social structure, although not without conferring upon it other charms, those of an exquisite urbanism. The class struggle, creative, productive of oeuvres and new relations, takes place with a certain barbarism which characterizes the West (including the most ‘beautiful’ of its cities).
Today, the town and country relation is changing, an important aspect of a general transformation. In industrial countries, the old exploitation by the city, centre of capital accumulation, of the surrounding countryside, gives way to more subtle forms of domination and exploitation, the city becoming centre of decision-making and apparently also of association. However that may be, the expanding city attacks the countryside, corrodes and dissolves it. This is not without the paradoxical effects already mentioned. Urban life penetrates peasant life, dispossessing it of its traditional features: crafts, small centres which decline to the benefit of urban centres (commercial, industrial, distribution networks, centres of decision-making, etc.). Villages become ruralized by losing their peasant specificity. They align themselves with the city but by resisting and sometimes by fiercely keeping themselves to themselves.
Will the urban fabric, with its greater or lesser meshes, catch in its nets all the territory of industrialized countries? Is this how the old opposition between town and country is overcome? One can assume it, but not without some critical reservations. If a generalized confusion is thus perceived, the countryside losing itself into the heart of the city, and the city absorbing the countryside and losing itself in it, this confusion can be theoretically challenged. Theory can refute all strategies resting on this conception of the urban fabric. Geographers have coined to name this confusion an ugly but meaningful neologism: the rurban. Within this hypothesis, the expansion of the city and urbanization would cause the urban (the urban life) to disappear. This seems inadmissible. In other words, the overcoming of opposition cannot be conceived as a reciprocal neutralization. There is no theoretical reason to accept the disappearance of centrality in the course of the fusion of urban society with the countryside. The ‘urbanity-rurality’ opposition is accentuated rather than dissipated, while the town and country opposition is lessened. There is a shifting of opposition and conflict. What is more, we all know that worldwide, the town and country conflict is far from being resolved. If it is true that the town and country separation and contradiction (which envelops without reducing to itself the opposition of the two terms) is part of the social division of labour, it must be acknowledged that this division is neither overcome nor mastered. Far from it. No more than the separation of nature and society, and that of the material and the intellectual (spiritual). Overcoming this today cannot not take place from the opposition between urban fabric and centrality. It presupposes the invention of new urban forms.
As far as industrial countries are concerned, one can conceive polycentric cities, differentiated and renovated centralities, even mobile centralities (cultural ones for example). The critique of planning as ideology can be about such and such a conception of centrality (for example, the distinction between the urban and the centres of information and decision-making). Neither traditional city (separated from the countryside to better dominate it), nor the Megalopolis without form or fabric, without woof or warp, would be the guiding idea. The disappearance of centrality is neither called for theoretically nor practically. The only question that can be asked is this one: ‘What social and political forms, what theory will one entrust with the realization on the ground of a renovated centrality and fabric, freed from their degradations?’
Around the Critical Point
Let us trace hypothetically from left to right an axis going from zero point in urbanization (the non-existence of the city, the complete predominance of agrarian life, agricultural production and the countryside) to full urbanization (the absorption of the countryside by the city and the total predominance of industrial production, including agriculture). This abstract picture momentarily places the discontinuities in parentheses. To a certain extent it will enable us to locate the critical points, that is, the breaks and discontinuities themselves. Quite quickly on the axis, quite near to the beginning, let us mark the political city (in effect achieved and maintained in the Asiatic mode of production) which organizes an agrarian environment by dominating it. A little further, let us mark the appearance of the commercial city, which begins by relegating commerce to its periphery (a heterotopy of outlying areas, fairs and markets, places assigned to foreigners, to strangers specialized in exchanges) and which later integrates the market by integrating itself to a social structure based on exchanges, expanded communications, money and movable wealth. There then comes a decisive critical point, where the importance of agriculrure retreats before the importance of craft and industrial production, of the market, exchange value and a rising capitalism. This critical point is located in Western Europe around the sixteenth century. Soon it is the arrival of the industrial city, with its implications (emigration of dispossed and disaggregated peasant populations cowards the city — a period of great urban concentration). Urban society is heralded long after society as a whole has tilted towards the urban. Then there is the period when the expanding city proliferates, produces far-flung peripheries (suburbs), and invades the countryside. Paradoxically, in this period when the city expands inordinately, the form (the practicomaterial morphology, the form of urban life) of the traditional city explodes. This double process (industrialization-urbanization) produces the double movement: explosion-implosion, condensation-dispersion (the explosion already mentioned). It is therefore around this critical point that can be found the present problematic of the city and urban reality.
The phenomena which unfold around the situation of crisis are nor less complex than the physical phenomena which accompany the breaking of the sound barrier (to use a simple metaphor). It is to this end — the analysis in the proximity of the critical point — that we have previously attempted to assemble the essential conceptual tools. Knowledge which would dissociate itself from this situation would fall back into blind speculation or myopic specialization.
Too badly placed, the critical points, breaks and lacunae can have as serious consequences as organicist, evolutionist or continuist negligence. Today, sociological thinking and political strategy, and so-called planning thought, tend to jump from the level of habitat and to inhabit (ecological level, housing, buildings, neighbourhood and thus the domain of the architect), to the general level (scale of land use planning, planned industrial production, global urbanization), passing over the city and the urban. Mediation is placed into parentheses and the specific level is omitted. Why? For significant reasons related firstly to the disregard of the critical point.
The rational planning of production, land use planning, global industrialization and urbanization are essential aspects of the “socialization of society”. Let us pause for a moment on these words. A Marxist tradition with reformist inflections uses them to designate the complexification of society and social relations, the rupture of cornpartimentalization, the growing multiplicity of connexions, communications and information, the fact that an accentuated technical and social division of labour implies a stronger unity in branches of industry, market functions and production itself. This approach insists on exchanges and places of exchange: it emphasizes the quantity of economic exchanges and leaves aside quality, the essential difference between use value and exchange value. In this perspective, the exchanges of merchandise and of consumer goods level and align direct exchanges to themselves, that is, communications which do not go through existing networks, and through institutions (namely at the ‘inferior’ level, the immediate relations, and at the ‘superior’ level, the political relations resulting from knowledge). The answer given to reformist continuism is the thesis of disconrinuism and radical revolutionary voluntarism: a rupture, a break, are essential for the social character of productive labour to abolish relations of production linked to private ownership of these means of production. However, the thesis of the ‘socialization of society’, an evolutionist, continuist and reformist interpretation, takes on another meaning if one observes that these words refer to, badly and incompletely, the urbanization of society. The multiplication and complexification of exchanges in the widest sense of the term cannot take place without the existence of privileged places and moments, without these places and moments of meeting freeing themselves from the constraints of the market, without the law of exchange value being mastered, and without the relations which condition profits be altered. Until then culture dissolves, becoming an object of consumption, an opportunity for profit, production for the market: the ‘cultural’ dissimulates more than one trap. Until now a revolutionary interpretation has not taken into account these new elements. Would it not be possible that the more rigorous definition of the relations between industrialization and urbanization, in the situation of crisis, and around the critical point, will help to overcome the contradiction of absolute continuism and discontinuism, of reformist evolutionism and total revolution? If one wants to go beyond the market, the law of exchange value, money and profit, is it not necessary to define the place of this possibility: urban society, the city as use value?
The paradox of this critical situation, a crucial element of the problem, is that the crisis of the city is world-wide. It presents itself as a dominant aspect of universality in progress as do technology and the rational organization of industry. Yet, the practical causes and ideological reasons of this crisis vary according to political regimes, the societies, and even the countries concerned. A critical analysis of these phenomena could only be legitimated by comparison, but many elements of this comparison are missing. In underdeveloped countries, highly industrialized capitalist countries, socialist countries unevenly developed, everywhere the city explodes. The traditional form of agrarian society is transforming itself, but differently. In a number of poor countries, shanty towns are a characteristic phenomenon, while in highly industrialized countries, the proliferation of the city into ‘urban fabric’, suburbs, residential areas, and its relation with urban life is what causes the problem.
How gather together the elements of such a comparison? In the United States, the difficulties of Federal administration, its conflicts with local authorities, the terms of reference of ‘urban government’, divided among the manager, the political boss and the mayor and his municipality, cannot be explained in the same way as the power conflicts (administrative and juridical) in Europe and in France, where the consequences of industrialization besiege and explode urban cores dating from precapitalist or pre-industrial times. In the United States, the urban core hardly exists except in some privileged cities, yer local authorities have greater legal guarantees and more extensive powers than in France where monarchical centralization attacked these urban ‘freedoms’ very early on. In Europe, as elsewhere, one cannot attribute only to the growth of cities, or only to problems of traffic, difficulties which are both different and comparable. Here and there, from one part or another, the whole society is questioned one way or another. As it is preoccupied (through ideologues and statesmen) to principally plan industry and organize enterprise, modern society appears little able to give solutions to the urban problematic and to act otherwise than by small technical measures which only protract the current state of affairs. Everywhere the relation between the three levels analysed above becomes confused and conflictual, the dynamic element of the contradiction changing according to the social and political context. In so-called developing countries, the breakdown of agrarian structure pushes dispossessed peasants, ruined and eager for change, towards the cities. The shanty town welcomes them and becomes the (inadequate) mediator between town and country, agricultural and industrial production. It often consolidates itself and offers a substitute of urban life, miserable and yet intense, to those which it shelters. In other countries, particularly in socialist countries, planned urban growth attracts labour to the cities recruited from the countryside resulting in overcrowding, the construction of neighbourhoods or residential sectors whose relation to urban life is not always discernible. To sum up, a world-wide crisis in agriculture and traditional peasant life accompanies, underlies and aggravates a world-wide crisis of the traditional city. This is a change on a planetary scale. The old rural animal and urban animal (Marx), disappear together. Do they leave room to ‘man’? That is the basic problem. The major theoretical and practical difficulty comes from the fact that the urbanization of industrial society does not happen without the breakup of what we still call ‘the city’. Given that urban society is built on the ruins of the city, how can we grasp the breadth and manifold contradictions of these phenomena? That is the critical point. The distinction between the three levels (global process of industrialization and urbanization — urban society, the specific scale of the city-ways of living and conditions of daily life in the urban) tends to become blurred as does the distinction between town and country. And yet, this difference between the three levels is more than ever crucial to avoid confusion and misunderstandings, to combat strategies which find in this conjuncture an opportunity to disintegrate the urban into industrial and or residential planning.
Yes, this city which has gone through so much adversity and so many metamorphoses, since its archaic cores so dose to the village, this admirable social form, this exquisite oeuvre of praxis and civilization, unmakes and remakes itself under our very eyes. The urgency of the housing question in conditions of industrial growth has concealed and still conceals the problems of the city. Political strategists, more attentive to the immediate, perceived and still perceive only these issues. When these overall problems emerged, under the name of planning, they have been subordinated to the general organization of industry. Attacked both from above and below, the city is associated to industrial enterprise: it figures in planning as a cog: it becomes the material device apt to organize production, control the daily life of the producers and the consumption of products. Having been reduced to the status of device, it extends this management to the consumers and consumption; it serves to regulate, to lay one over the other, the production of goods and the destruction of products with that devouring activity, ‘consumption’. It did not have, it has no meaning but as an oeuvre, as an end, as place of free enjoyment, as domain of use value. Or, it is subjugated to constraints, to the imperatives of an ‘equilibrium’ within narrowly restrictive conditions; it is no more than the instrument of an organization which moreover is unable to consolidate itself by determining its conditions of stability and equilibrium, an organization according to whose catalogue and teleguide individual needs are satisfied by annihilating catalogued objects whose probability of durability (obsolescence) is itself a scientific field. In the past, reason had its place of birth, its seat, its home in the city. In the face of rurality, and of peasant life gripped by nature and the sacralized earth full of obscure powers, urbanity asserted itself as reasonable. Today, rationality seems to be (or appears to be, or pretends to be) far from the city, above it, on a national or continental scale. It refuses the city as a moment, as an element, as a condition; it acknowledges it only as an instrument and a means. In France and elsewhere, State bureaucratic rationalism and that of industrial organization supported by the demands of large private enterprises, are going the same way. Simultaneously there is enforced a simplifying functionalism and social groups which go beyond the urban. The organism disappears under the guise of organization, so that organicism coming from the philosophers appears as an ideal model. The statutes of urban ‘zones’ and ‘areas’ are reduced to a juxtaposition of spaces, of functions, of elements on the ground. Sectors and functions are tightly subordinated to centres of decision-making. Homogeneity overwhelms the differences originating from nature (the site), from peasant surroundings (territory and the soil), from history. The city, or what remains of it, is built or is rearranged, in the likeness of a sum or combination of elements. Now, as soon as the combination is conceived, perceived and anticipated as such, combinations are not easily recognizable; the differences fall into the perception of their whole. So chat while one may rationally look for diversity, a feeling of monotony covers these diversities and prevails, whether housing, buildings, alleged urban centres, organized areas are concerned. The urban, not conceived as such but attacked face on and from the side, corroded and gnawed, has lost the features and characteristics of the oeuvre, of appropriation. Only constraints are projected on the ground, in a state of permanent dislocation. From the point of view of housing, the ordering and arrangement of daily life, the massive use of the car (‘private’ means of transpon), mobility (besides contained and insufficient), and the influence of the mass media, have detached from site and territory individuals and groups (families, organized bodies). Neighbourhood and district fade and crumble away: the people (the ‘inhabitants’) move about in a space which tends towards a geometric isotopy, full of instructions and signals, where qualitative differences of places and moments no longer matter. Certainly these are inevitable processes of dissolution of ancient forms, but which produce contempt, mental and social misery. There is a poverty of daily life as soon as nothing has replaced the symbols, the appropriations, the styles, the monuments, the times and rhythms, the different and qualified spaces of the traditional city. Urban society, because of the dissolution of this city submitted to pressures which it cannot withstand, tends on the one hand to blend with the planned land use of the territory into the ‘urban fabric’ determined by the constraints of traffic, and on the other hand, into dwelling units such as those of the detached house and the housing estates. The extension of the city produced suburbs, then the suburb engulfed the urban core. The problems have been inversed, when they are not misunderstood. Would it not be more coherent, more rational and agreeable to work in the suburbs and live in the city rather than work in the city while living in a hardly habitable suburb? The centralized management of ‘things’ and of ‘culture’ tries to avoid this intermediary tier, the city. And more: the State, centres of decision-making, the ideological, economic and political powers, can only consider with a growing suspicion this social form which tends towards autonomy, which can only live specifically, which comes between them and the ‘inhabitant’, worker or not, productive or unproductive worker, but man and citizen as well as city dweller. Since the last century, what is the essence of the city for power? It ferments, full of suspect activities, of delinquence, a hotbed of agitation. State powers and powerful economic interests can think only of one strategy: to devalorize, degrade, destroy, urban society. In the course of these processes, there are determinisms, there are strategies, spontaneities and concened acts. Subjective and ideological contradictions, ‘humanist’ worries impede but do not halt these strategic actions. The city prevents the powers that be from manipulating at will the citizen-city dweller, individuals, groups, bodies. As a result, the crisis of the city is linked not to rationality as such, definable from a philosophical tradition, it relates to explicit forms of rationality: state, bureaucratic, economic, or rather, ‘economistic’, economism being an ideology endowed with an apparatus. This crisis of the city is accompanied here and there with a crisis of urban institutions (municipal) due to the double pressure from the State and industrial enterprise. Sometimes the State, sometimes private enterprise, sometimes both (rivals in competition, but often associates) tend to commandeer the functions, duties, and prerogatives of urban society. In certain capitalist countries, does ‘private’ enterprise leave to the State, to institutions, and ‘public’ bodies any other thing than what it refuses to assume because it is too costly?
And yet, it is on this shaky foundation that urban society and the urban persist and even intensify. Social relations continue to become more complex, to multiply and intensify through the most painful contradictions. The form of the urban, its supreme reason, namely simultaneity and encounter, cannot disappear. Urban reality, at the very heart of its dislocation, persists and becomes more dense in the centres of decision-making and information. The inhabitants (which ones? — it’s up to research and researchers to find them!) reconstitute centres, using places to restitute even derisory encounters. The use (use value) of places, monuments, differences, escape the demands of exchange, of exchange value. A big game is played before us, with various episodes whose meaning is not always evident. The satisfaction of basic needs is unable to kill the disaffectation of fundamental desires (or of the fundamental desire). As a place of encounters, focus of communication and information, the urban becomes what it always was: place of desire, permanent disequilibrium, seat of the dissolution of normalities and constraints, the moment of play and of the unpredictable. This moment includes the implosion-explosion of latent violence under the terrible constraints of a rationality which identifies itself with the absurd. From this situation is born a critical contradiction: a tendency towards destruction of the city, as well as a tendency towards the intensification of the urban and the urban problematic.
This critical analysis calls for a decisive addition. To attribute the crisis of the city to a confining rationality, productivism and economism, and to a planning centralization first and foremost concerned with growth, to the bureaucracy of State and enterprise is not incorrect. Yet, this viewpoint does not go much beyond the horizon of the most classical philosophical rationalism, that of liberal humanism. He who wishes to propose the form of a new urban society by strengthening this kernel, the urban, which survives in the fissures of planned and programmed order, must go further. If one wants to conceive an ‘urban man’ no longer in the image of classical humanism, theoretical elaboration owes it to itself to refine concepts. Until now, in theory as in practice, the double process of industrialization and of urbanization has not been mastered. The incomplete teachings of Marx and Marxist thought have been misunderstood. For Marx himself, industrialization contained its finality and meaning, later giving rise to the dissociation of Marxist thought into economism and philosophism. Marx did not show (and in his time he could not) that urbanization and the urban contain the meaning of industrialization. He did not see that industrial production implied the urbanization of society, and that the mastery of industrial potentials required specific knowledge concerning urbanization. Industrial production, after a certain growth, produces urbanization, providing it with conditions, and possibilities. The problematic is displaced and becomes that of urban development. The works of Marx (notably Capital) contained precious indications on the city and particularly on the historical relations between town and country. They do not pose the urban problem. In Marx’s time, only the housing problem was raised and studied by Engels. Now, the problem of the city is immensely greater than that of housing. The limits of Marxist thought have not been really understood. Supporters as well as adversaries have sowned trouble, by poorly assimilating the methodological and theoretical principles of this thought. Neither criticism from the right, nor criticism from the left have assessed the contributions and the limits. These limits have not yet been overtaken by an approach which does not reject, but deepens acquired knowledge. The implicit sense of industrialization has therefore been badly clarified. In theoretical reflection chis process has not acquired its meaning. Moreover, one has looked for meaning elsewhere, or one has abandoned the meaning and the research of meaning.
The ‘socialization of society’, misunderstood by reformists has prevented urban transformation (in, by, for, the city). It has not been understood chat this socialization has urbanization as its essence. What has been ‘socialized’? By turning them over to consumption, signs. Signs of the city, of urban life, as the signs of nature and the countryside, as those of joy and happiness, delivered to consumption without an effective social practice enabling the urban to enter daily life. Urban life faces needs only reluctantly, through the poverty of social needs of ‘socialized society’, through daily consumption and its own signs in advertising, fashion, aestheticism. At this new moment of analysis, is thus conceived the dialectical movement which carries the forms, the contours, the determinisms and the constraints, the servitudes and the appropriations towards a troubled horizon.
Urban life, urban society and the urban, detached by a particular social practice (whose analysis will continue) from their half ruined morphological base, and searching for a new base, these are the contexts of the critical point. The urban cannot be defined either as attached to a material morphology (on the ground, in the practicomaterial), or as being able to detach itself from it. It is not an intemporal essence, nor a system among ocher systems or above other systems. It is a mental and social form, that of simultaneity, of gathering, of convergence, of encounter (or rather, encounters). It is a quality born from quantities (spaces, objects, products). It is a difference, or rather, an ensemble of differences. The urban contains the meaning of industrial production, as appropriation contains the sense of technical domination over nature, the latter becoming absurd without the former. It is a field of relations including notably the relation of time (or of times; cyclical rhythms and linear durations) with space (or spaces: isotopics and heterotopies). As place of desire and bond of times, the urban could present itself as signifiers whose signified we are presently looking for (that is, practico-material ‘realities’ which would enable, with an adequate morphological and material base, to realize it in space).
Lacking adequate theoretical elaboration, the double process (industrialization- urbanization) has been severed and its aspects separated, to be therefore consigned to the absurd. Grasped by a higher and dialectical rationality, conceived in its duality and contradictions, this process could not leave the urban aside. On the contrary: it understands it. Therefore, what should be incriminated is not reason, but a particular rationalism, a constricted rationality, and its limits. The world of merchandise has its immanent logic of money and exchange value generalized without limits. Such a form, that of exchange and equivalence, is indifferent towards urban form; it reduces simultaneity and encounters to those of the exchanges and the meeting place to where the contract or quasi-contract of equivalent exchange is concluded: the market. Urban society, a collection of acts taking place in time, privileging a space (site, place) and privileged by it, in turn signifiers and signified, has a logic different from that of merchandise. It is another world. The urban is based on use value. This conflict cannot be avoided. At most, economic and productivist rationality seeks to push beyond all limits the production of products (exchangeable objects of exchange value) by suppressing the oeuvre, this productivist rationality makes itself out to be knowledge, while containing an ideological component tied to its very essence. Maybe it is only ideology, valorizing constraints, those which come from existing determinisms, those of industrial production and the market of products, those coming from its fetishism of policy. Ideology presents these real constraints as rational. Such a rationality is not innocuous. The worse danger which it harbours comes from it wanting itself and calling itself synthetical. It purports to lead to synthesis and make ‘men of synthesis’ (either from philosophy, or from science, or lastly, from an ‘interdisciplinary’ research). Now, this is an ideological illusion. Who has right of synthesis? Certainly not a civil servant of synthesis, accomplishing this function in a way guaranteed by institutions. Certainly not he who extrapolates from an analysis or several analyses. Only the practical capacity of realization has the right to collect the theoretical elements of synthesis, by doing it. Is it the role of political power? Maybe, but not any political force: not the political State as an institution or sum of institutions, not statesmen as such. Only the critical examination of strategies enables us to give an answer to this questioning. The urban can only be confined to a strategy prioritizing the urban problematic, the intensification of urban life, the effective realization of urban society (that is, its morphological, material and practice-material base).
On Urban Form
The ambiguity, or more exactly, the polysemy or plurality of meanings, of this term, ‘form’, has already been remarked upon. It was not really necessary, being obvious. The same goes for the polysemy of the terms ‘function’, ‘structure’ etc. None the less we cannot rest there and accept the situation. How many people believe they have said and resolved everything when they use one of these fetish words! The plurality and confusion of the meanings serve an absence of thought and poverty which takes itself for wealth.
The only way to clarify the meaning of the term is to begin from its most abstract acceptance. Only scientific abstraction without contents, distinguished from verbal abstraction and opposed to speculative abstraction, enables transparent definitions. Therefore, to define form, one must begin from formal logic and logico-mathematical structures. Not so as to isolate or fetishize them, but, on the contrary, to catch their relation to the ‘real’. This is not without some difficulties and disadvantages. The transparency and clarity of ‘pure’ abstraction are not accessible to all. Most people are either myopic or blind to it. A ‘culture’ is necessary not only to understand the abstract, but far more to attain the disturbing frontiers which at one and the same time distinguish and unite the concrete and the abstract, knowledge and art, mathematics and poetry. To elucidate the meaning of the word ‘form’, one will have to refer to a very general, very abstract theory, the theory of forms. It is dose to a philosophical theory of knowledge, extending it and yet very different, since on the one hand it designates its own historical and ‘cultural’ conditions and on the other it rests upon difficult logico-mathematical considerations.
Proceeding by stages a socially recognized ‘form’ will be examined; for example, the contract. There are many kinds of contracts: the marriage contract, the work contract, the sales contract, etc. The contents of social acts defined as contractual are therefore very different. Sometimes they relate to the regulation of relations between two individuals of different sexes (the sexual relationship taking second place in the social regulation of assets and their transmission as they relate to children and inheritance). Sometimes they relate to the regulation of relations between two individuals of different social and even class status: employer and employee, boss and worker. Sometimes what is involved is the submission to a social regularity of the relationship between seller and buyer, etc. These particular situations have none the less a common feature: reciprocity in a socially constituted and instituted engagement. Each engages himself vis-a-vis the other to accomplish a certain sort of action explicitly or implicitly stipulated. Moreover, one knows that this reciprocity entails some fiction, or rather, that as soon as it is concluded, it reveals itself to be fictional, inasmuch as it does not fall into contractual stipulation and under the rule of law. Sexual reciprocity between spouses becomes social and moral fiction (the ‘conjugal duty’). The reciprocity of engagement between boss and worker establishes them on the same level only fictionally. And so on and so forth. Nevertheless, these fictions have a social existence and influence. They are the various contents of a general juridical form with which jurists operate and which become the codification of social relations: the civil code.
It is the same for reflective thought which has extremely diverse contents: objects, situations, activities. From this diversity emerge more or less fictional or real domains: science, philosophy, art, etc. These many objects, these domains somewhat small in number, relate to a logical formulation. Reflection is codified by a form common to all contents, which is born out of their differences.
Form detaches itself from content, or rather, contents. Thus freed, it emerges pure and transparent: intelligible. That much more intelligible as decanted from content, ‘purer’. Bte here is the paradox. As such, in its purity, it has no existence. It is not real, it is not. By detaching itself from its content, form detaches itself from the concrete. The summit, the crest of the real, the key to the real (of its penetration by knowledge and the action which changes it), it places itself outside the real. Philosophers have tried to understand for two thousand years.
None the less, philosophy brings the theoretical elements to this knowledge. The approach is in several stages and has a strategic objective. That is to grasp through the movement of reflection which purifies forms and its own form, and which codifies and formalizes the inherent and hidden movement of the relation between form and content. There is no form without content. No content without form. What offers itself to analysis is always a unity of form and content. Analysis breaks this unity. It allows the purity of form to appear, and form refers back to content. Yet, this indissoluble unity, broken by analysis, is conflictual (dialectical). By turns thought goes from transparent form to the opacity of contents, of the substantiality of these contents to the inexistence of ‘pure’ form, in a ceaseless if not momentary movement. Nevertheless, on the one hand, reflection tends to dissociate forms (and its own logical form) from contents, by constituting absolute ‘essences’, by establishing the reign of essences. And on the other hand, practice and empiricism tend to ascertain contents, to be satisfied with such certitude, to sojourn in the opacity of various contents, accepted in their differences. For dialectical reason, contents overflow form and form gives access to contents. Thus form has a double ‘existence’. It is and is not. It has reality only in contents, and yet detaches itself from them. It has a mental and a social existence. Mentally the contract is defined by a form quite close to logic: reciprocity. Socially, this form regulates countless situations and activities; it confers upon them a structure, it maintains them and even valorizes them, including as form an evaluation and involving a ‘consensus’. As for the logico-mathematical form, its mental existence is obvious. What is less obvious is that it involves a fiction: the purely reflective disembodied theoretical man. As for its social existence, it should be shown at length. Indeed, to this form are attached multitudinous social activities: to count, define, classify (objects, situations, activities), rationally organized, predicted, planned and even programmed.
Reflection which (in new terms) extends the long meditation and the problematic of philosophers, can elaborate a scheme of forms. It is a sort of analytical grid to decipher the relations between the real and thought. This (provisional and modifiable) grid moves from the most abstract to the most concrete, and therefore from the least to the most immediate. Each form presents itself in its double existence as mental and social.
I. Logical form
Mentally: it is the principle of identity: A=A. It is void essence without content. In its absolute purity it is supreme transparency (difficult to grasp, for reflection can neither hold it or keep itself within it and yet it has tautology as its point of departure and return). Indeed, this tautology is what all propositions have in common which otherwise have nothing in common with each other by content, or the designated (designatum, denoted). As Wittgenstein has shown, this tautology A=A is the centre, emptied of substance of all enunciated, of all propositions.
Socially: understanding and the conventions of understanding over and above misunderstandings. The impossible possibility to make effective stopping, to define everything, to say everything and to agree on the rules of understanding. But also, verbalism, verbiage, repetitions, pure talk. But again pleonasms, vicious circles (including the great social pleonasms, for bureaucracy which engenders bureacracy to maintain the bureaucratic form — social logics which tend towards their pure maintenance to the extent of destroying their content and thus themselves, showing their emptiness).
II. Mathematical form
Mentally: identity and difference, equality in difference. Enumeration (of the elements of a whole, etc). Order and measure.
Socially: distributions and classifications (in space, generally privileged as such, but also in time). Scheduling. Quantification and quantitative rationality. Order and measure subordinating to themselves desires and desire, quality and qualities.
III. Form of language
Mentally: coherence, the capacity to articulate distinct elements, to confer to them significations and meanings, to emit and decipher messages according to their coded conventions.
Socially: the cohesion of relations, their subordination to the demands and constraints of cohesion, the ritualization of relations, their formalization and codification.
IV. Form of exchange
Mentally: confrontation and discussion, comparison and adjustments of activities, needs, produces of labour, etc., that is, equivalence.
Socially: exchange value, the commodity form (as identified, formulated and formalized by Marx in chapter I of Capital, with an implicit reference to formal logic and to logico-mathemacical formalism).
V. Contractual form
Socially: the codification of social relations based on murual engagement.
VI. Form of the practico-material object
Mentally: incernal equilibrium perceived and conceived as ‘objective’ (or ‘objectal’) property. Symmetry.
Socially: the anticipation of this equilibrium and this symmetry, demanded by objects or denied (including among living and thinking ‘being;’), as well as social objects such as houses, buildings, utensils and instruments, etc.
VII. Written form
Mentally: recurrence, synchronic fixation of what has occurred over time, going backwards and returning along a fixed becoming.
Socially: the accumulation in time on the basis of fixation and the conversation of what is acquired, the constraint of writing and writings, terror before the written and the scruggle of the spirit against the letter, the power of speech against the inscribed and the prescribed, the becoming against the immutable and the reified.
VIII. Urban form
Mentally: simultaneity (of events, perceptions, and elements of a whole in the ‘real’).
Socially: the encounter and the concentration of what exists around, in the environment (assets and products, acts and activities, wealth) and consequently, urban society as privileged social site, as meaning of productive and consuming activities, as meeting between the oeuvre and the product.
We will leave aside repetition which some (among them Nietzsche), have considered to be the supreme form, existential form, or form of existence.
It is almost evident that in so~called modern society, simultaneity is intensified and becomes more dense, that the capacities for encounter and assembly become strengthened. Communications speed up to quasi-instantaneity. Ascendent or descendent circuits of information flow and are diffused from this centrality. This aspect of the ‘socialization of society’ has already been emphasized (reservations having been made about the ‘reformist’ nature of this well-known formulation).
It is just as evident that under the same conditions dispersion increases: the division of labour is pushed to the extreme segregation of social groups and material and spiritual separations. These dispersions can only be conceived or appreciated by reference to the form of simultaneity. Without this form, dispersion and separation are purely and simply glimpsed, accepted, confirmed as facts. Thus form enables us to designate the content, or rather, contents. Movement in its emergence reveals a hidden movement, the dialectical (conflictual) movement of content and urban form: the problematic. The form in which is inscribed this problematic asks questions which are a part of it. Before whom and for whom is simultaneity established, the contents of urban life assembled?
In fact, the rationality we see used in practice (including applied planning), this limited rationality is exercised especially according to the modalities of a very advanced and prepared analytical intelligence, endowed with great means of pressure. This analytical intellect endows itself with the privileges and prestige of synthesis. In this way it hides what it conceals: strategies. One could impute it with the peremptory concern of the functional, or rather, the unifunctional, as well as the subordination of details minutely inventoried for the representation of a social globality. Thus disappear mediations between an ideological ensemble assumed to be rational (technologically or economically) and detailed measures, objects of tactics and prediction. This placing in parenthesis of theoretical, practical, social and mental mediations does not lack black humour in a society where intermediaries (shopkeepers, financiers, publicists, etc.) have immense privileges. One covers the other! Thus a gulf is dug between the global (which hovers over the void) and the manipulated and repressed partial, upon which institutions weigh.
What is questioned here is not an uncertain ‘globality’, it is an ideology and the class strategy which uses and supports this ideology. After a sort of ‘spectral’ analysis of social elements, the already mentioned use of analytical intelligence is related as much to extreme fragmentation of work and specialization pushed to the limits (including specialized planning studies), as projection on the ground. Segregation must be highlighted, with its three aspects, sometimes simultaneous, sometimes successive: spontaneous (coming from revenues and ideologies) — voluntary (establishing separate spaces) — programmed: under the guise of planning and the plan).
There are unquestionably strong tendencies in all countries opposing segregationist tendencies. One cannot state that the segregation of groups, ethnic groups, social strata and classes comes from a constant and uniform strategy of the powers, nor that one should see in it the efficient projection of institutions or the will of political leaders. Moreover, there exist the will and organized actions to combat it. And yet, even where separation of social groups does not seem to be patently evident on the ground, such a pressure and traces of segregation appear under examination. The extreme case, the last instance, the ghetto. We can observe that there are several types of ghetto: those of Jews and the blacks, and also those of intellectuals or workers. In their own way residential areas are also ghettos; high status people because of wealth or power isolate themselves in ghettos of wealth. Leisure has its ghettos. Wherever an organized action has attempted to mix social strata and classes, a spontaneous decantation soon follows. The phenomenon of segregation must be analysed according to various indices and criteria: ecological (shanty towns, slums, the rot in the heart of the city), formal (the deterioration of signs and meanings of the city, the degradation of the urban by the dislocation of its architectural elements), and sociological (standards of living and life styles, ethnic groups, cultures and sub-cultures, etc.)
Anti-segregationist tendencies would be rather more ideological. They sometimes relate to liberal humanism, sometimes to a philosophy of the city considered as ‘subject’ (as a community or social organism). Despite good humanist intentions and philosophical goodwill, practice tends towards segregation. Why? For theoretical reasons and by virtue of social and political causes. At the theoretical level, analytical thought separates and delineates. It fails when it wants to reach a synthesis. Socially and politically (conscious or unconscious) class strategies aim for segregation.
In democratic countries public powers cannot overtly decree segregation as such. Therefore they often adopt a humanist ideology which in the most old-fashioned sense becomes a utopia, when it does not become a demagogy. Segregation always wins over, even in those parts of social life more or less easily and more or less thoroughly controlled by public powers. Let us say that the State and private enterprise strive to absorb and suppress the city as such. The State proceeds rather from above and private enterprise from below (by ensuring housing and the function of inhabiting in workers’ towns and housing estates, which depending on a ‘society’ and also assuring leisure, even culture and social promotion). Despite their differences and sometimes their conflicts, the State and private enterprise both converge towards segregation.
Let us leave open the issue of knowing whether the political forms of the State (capitalist, socialist or in transition, etc.), engender different strategies cowards the city. Let us not attempt for the time being to know where or how, at whom and with whom these strategies are developed. We substantiate strategies by observing them as significant orientations. Segregations which morphologically destroyed the city and threaten urban life cannot be passed off as the effect of hazards or local conjunctures. Let us be contented with the notion that the democratic character of a regime is identifiable by its attitude towards the city, urban ‘liberties’ and urban reality, and therefore towards segregation. Among the criteria to retain would nor this one be one of the most important? It is fundamental in what concerns the city and its problematic. Nevertheless one must distinguish between political power and social pressures which can annihilate the effects of (good or bad) will of politicians. With regards to private enterprise, let us also leave this an open question. What are the relations between (ideological and practical) rationality in general, between (general and urban) planning on the one hand, and on the other the rational management of large firms? We can nevertheless put forward a hypothesis and research direction. Rationality in the firm always implies an analysis pushed to the extreme of tasks, operations and sequences. In addition, the reasons and causes of class strategy are fully played out in the capitalist firm. It is therefore highly probable that the firm as such favours the extreme segregation, acts accordingly and applies social pressure when this is not a decision.
The State and the firm seek to appropriate urban functions and to assume and ensure them by destroying the form of the urban. Can they? Do not these strategic objectives exceed their strengths, combined or not? It would be most interesting to investigate this point. The conditions and modalities of the crisis of the city are gradually uncovered and accompanied by a city-wide institutional crisis of urban jurisdiction and administration. What was specific to the city (the municipality, local expenditures and investments, schools and educational programmes, universities, etc.) fall increasingly under the control of the State, and by institutionalizing itself in a global context, the city tends to disappear as a specific institution. This abolishes it as an oeuvre of original groups which were themselves specific. However, can the powers and institutions at the top dispense with this relay, this mediation, the city? This, of course, would need to be shown by researches into juridical, economic, cultural and administrative sociology. Can they abolish the urban? It is at this level that daily life, governed by institutions which regulate it from above, consolidated and set up according to multiple constraints, constitutes itself. Productivist rationality which tends to suppress the city at the level of general planning rediscovers it in the controlled and organized consumption of a supervised market. After having been kept away from the global level of decision-making, the city is reconstituted at the level of executions and application, by institutions of power. The outcome — inasmuch as such a situation in France and elsewhere can make sense — is an incredible entanglement of measures (all reasonable), regulations (all very complicated), and constraints (all motivated). The functioning of bureaucratic rationality becomes confused with its own presuppositions and consequences which overcome and elude it. Conflicts and contradictions resurface, giving rise to ‘structuring’ activities and ‘concerted’ actions aimed at their revocation. It is here on the ground that the absurdity of a limited rationality of bureaucracy and technocracy becomes evident. Here is grasped the falsehood of an illusory identification between the rational and the real in the State, and the true identity between the absurd and a certain authoritarian rationalism.
On our horizon, the city and the urban are outlined as virtual objects, as projects of a synthetic reconstitution. Critical analysis confirms the failure of an analytical but uncritical thought. What does chis analytical practice retain of the city and the urban whose results one can detect on the ground? Aspects, elements and fragments. It places before our eyes the spectre, the spectral analysis of the city. When we speak of spectral analysis, its meaning is almost literal and not metaphorical. Before our eyes, under our gaze, we have the ‘spectre’ of the city, that of urban society and perhaps simply of society. If the spectre of Communism no longer haunts Europe, the shadow of the city, the regret of what has died because it was killed, perhaps guilt, have replaced the old dread. The image of urban hell in the making is not less fascinating, and people rush cowards the ruins of ancient cities to consume them touristically, in the belief that they will heal their nostalgia. Before us, as a spectacle (for spectators ‘unconscious’ of what is before their ‘conscience’) are the dissociated and inert elements of social life and the urban. Here are ‘social housing estates’ without teenagers or old people. Here are women dozing while the men work far away and come home exhausted. Here are private housing developments which form a microcosm and yet remain urban because they depend on centres of decision-making and each house has a television. Here is a daily life well divided into fragments: work, transport, private life, leisure. Analytical separation has isolated them as ingredients and chemical elements, as raw materials (whereas they are the outcome of a long history and imply an appropriation of materiality). It is not finished. Here is the dismembered and dissociated human being. Here are the senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing — some atrophied, some hypertrophied. Here is functioning separately perception, intelligence and reason. Here is speech, discourse and writing. Here is daily life and celebration, the latter moribund. It is obvious, urgently. Synthesis then becomes an item on the order of the day, the order of the century. But this synthesis, with its analytical intellect, appears only as a combination of separate elements. But combination is not and can never be synthesis. The city and the urban cannot be recomposed from the signs of the city, the semanthemes of the urban, although the city is a signifying whole. The city is not only a language, but also a practice. Nobody therefore, and we have no fear to repeat it, is entitled to pronounce or announce this synthesis. No more is the sociologist or community worker than the architect, the economist, the demographer, the linguist or semiologist. Nobody has the power or the right. Only the philosopher might perhaps have the right, if philosophy in the course of the centuries had not demonstrated its incapacity to attain concentrate totalities (although it has always aimed at totality and has posed global and general questions). Only a praxis, under conditions to be determined, can take charge of the possibility and demand of a synthesis this objective: the gathering together of what gives itself as dispersed, dissociated, separated, and this in the form of simultaneity and encounters.
We have here therefore before us, projected separately on the ground, groups, ethnic groups, ages and sexes, activities, tasks and functions, knowledge. Here is all that is necessary to create a world, an urban society, or the developed urban. But this world is absent, this society is before us only in a state of virtuality. It may perish in the bud. Under existing conditions, it dies before being born. The conditions which give rise to possibilities can also sustain them in a virtual state, in presence-absence. Would this not be the root of this drama, the point of emergence of nostalgia? The urban obsesses those who live in need, in poverty, in the frustration of possibilities which remain only possibilities. Thus the integration and participation obsess the non-participants, the non-integrated, those who survive among the fragments of a possible society and the ruins of the past: excluded from the city, at the gates of the urban. The road travelled is staked out with contradictions between the total (global) and the partial, between analysis and synthesis. Here is a new one which reveals itself, high and deep. It does interest theory but practice. The same social practice, that of society today (in France, in the second half of the twentieth century) offers to critical analysis a double character which cannot be reduced to a significant opposition, although it signifies.
On the one hand, chis social practice is integrative. It attempts to integrate its elements and aspects into a coherent whole. Integration is accomplished at different levels and according to various modalities. The market, the ‘world of commodities’, that is, by consumption and ideology of consumption, by ‘culture’, put forward as unitary and global; by ‘values’, including art; by the actions of the State, including national consciousness and the political options and strategies at national level. This integration is firstly aimed at the working class, but also the intelligentsia and intellectuals, and critical thought (not excluding Marxism). Planning could well become essential to this integrative practice.
At the same time this society practices segregation. This same rationality which sees itself as global (organizing, planning, unitary and unifying) concretizes itself at the analytical level. On the ground it projects separation. It tends (as in the United States), to form ghettos or parking lots, those of workers, intellectuals, students (the campus), foreigners, and so forth, not forgetting the ghetto of leisure or ‘creativity’, reduced to miniaturization or hobbies. Ghetto in space and ghetto in time. In planning, the term ‘zoning’ already implies separation, segregation, isolation in planned ghettos. The fact becomes rationality in the project.
This society wants itself and sees itself as coherent. It seeks coherence, linked to rationality both as feature of efficient organizational action, and as value and criterion. Under examination the ideology of coherence reveals a hidden but none the less blatant incoherence. Would coherence not be the obsession of an incoherent society, which searches the way towards coherence by wishing to stop in a conflictual situation denied as such?
This is not the only obsession. Integration also becomes an obsessional theme, an aimless aspiration. The term ‘integration’ used in all its meanings, appears in texts (newspapers, books, and speeches) with such frequency that it must reveal something. On the one hand, this term designates a concept concerning and enclosing social practice divulging a strategy. On the other, it is a social connotator, without concept, objective or objectivity, revealing an obsession with integrating (to this or that, to a group, an ensemble or a whole). How could it be otherwise in a society which superimposes the whole to the pans, synthesis to analysis, coherence to incoherence, organization to dislocation? It is from the city that the urban problematic reveals this constitutive duality with its conflictual content. What results from this? Without a doubt paradoxical phenomena of disintegrating integration which refer particularly to urban reality.
This does not mean that this society is disintegrating and falling apart. No. It is functionning. How? Why? That creates a problem. It must also mean that this functioning is not without an enormous malaise — its obsession. Another obsessional theme is participation, linked to integration. This is not a simple obsession. In practice, the ideology of participation enables us to have the acquiescence of interested and concerned people at a small price. After a more or less elaborate pretence at information and social activity, they return to their tranquil passivity and retirement. Is it not clear that real and active participation already has a name? It is called self-management. Which poses other problems.
Very powerful forces tend to destroy the city. A particular kind of planning projects on the ideological terrain a practice whose aim is the death of the city. These social and political forces ravage the urban in the making. This kernel, so powerful, in its own way, can it grow in the cracks which still subsist between these masses? Does science, or rather, scientificity, which puts itself at the service of existing rationality, legitimize these masses of the State, private enterprise, culture which allow the city to perish while offering its images and “oeuvres” for consumption sentence. ‘Does science ... legitimize these masses ... for consumption?’ Construction is? Could urban life recover and strengthen its capacities of integration and participation of the city, which are almost entirely lost, and which cannot be stimulated either by authoritarian means or by administrative prescription, or by the intervention of specialists? The foremost theoretical problem can be formulated thus. The political meaning of class segregation is clear, whether it is a ‘subject’ for analysis, whether it is the end result of a series of unplanned actions, or whether it is the effect of a will. For the working class, victim of segregation and expelled from the traditional city, deprived of a present or possible urban life, there is a practical and therefore political problem even if it is not posed politically and even if until now the housing question has for it and its representatives concealed the problematic of the city and the urban.
The Right to the City
Theoretical thought sees itself compelled to redefine the forms, functions and structures of the city (economic, political, cultural, etc.) as well as the social needs inherent to urban society. Until now, only those individual needs, motivated by the so-called society of consumption (a bureaucratic society of managed consumption) have been prospected, and moreover manipulated rather than effectively known and recognized. Social needs have an anthropological foundation. Opposed and complimentary, they include the need for security and opening, the need for certainty and adventure, that of organization of work and of play, the needs for the predictable and the unpredictable, of similarity and difference, of isolation and encounter, exchange and investments, of independence (even solitude) and communication, of immediate and long-term prospects. The human being has the need to accumulate energies and to spend them, even waste them in play. He has a need to see, to hear, to touch, to taste and the need to gather these perceptions in a ‘world’. To these anthropological needs which are socially elaborated (that is, sometimes separated, sometimes joined together, here compressed and there hypertrophied), can be added specific needs which are not satisfied by those commercial and cultural infrastructures which are somewhat parsimoniously taken into account by planners. This refers to the need for creative activity, for the oeuvre (not only of products and consumable material goods), of the need for information, symbolism, the imaginary and play. Through these specified needs lives and survives a fundamental desire of which play, sexuality, physical activities such as sport, creative activity, art and knowledge are particular expressions and moments, which can more or less overcome the fragmentary division of tasks. Finally, the need of the city and urban life can only be freely expressed within a perspective which here attempts to become clearer and to open up the horizon. Would not specific urban needs be those of qualified places, places of simultaneity and encounters, places where exchange would not go through exchange value, commerce and profit? Would there not also be the need for a time for these encounters, these exchanges?
At present, an analytical science of the city, which is necessary, is only at the outline stage. At the beginning of their elaboration, concepts and theories can only move forward with urban reality in the making, with the praxis (social practice) of urban society. Now, not without effort, the ideologies and practices which blocked the horizon and which were only bottlenecks of knowledge and action, are being overcome.
The science of the city has the city as object. This science borrows its methods, approaches and concepts from the fragmentary sciences, but synthesis escapes it in two ways. Firstly, because this synthesis which would wish itself as total, starting from the analytic, can only be strategic systematization and programming. Secondly, because the object, the city, as consummate reality is falling apart. Knowledge holds in front of itself the historic city already modified, to cut it up and put it together again from fragments. As social text, this historic city no longer has a coherent set of prescriptions, of use of time linked to symbols and to a style. This text is moving away. It takes the form of a document, or an exhibition, or a museum. The city histocically constructed is no longer lived and is no longer understood practically. It is only an object of cultural consumption for tourists, for a estheticism, avid for spectacles and the picturesque. Even for those who seek to understand it with warmth, it is gone. Yet, the urban remains in a state of dispersed and alienated actuality, as kernel and virtuality. What the eyes and analysis perceive on the ground can at best pass for the shadow of a future object in the light of a rising sun. It is impossible to envisage the reconstitution of the old city, only the construction of a new one on new foundations, on another scale and in other conditions, in another society. The prescription is: there cannot be a going back (towards the traditional city), nor a headlong flight, towards a colossal and shapeless agglomeration. In other words, for what concerns the city the object of science is not given. The past, the present, the possible cannot be separated. What is being studied is a virtual object, which thought studies, which calls for new approaches.
The career of the old classical humanism ended long ago and badly. It is dead. Its mummified and embalmed corpse weighs heavily and does not smell good. It occupies many spaces, public or otherwise, thus transforms into cultural cemeteries under the guise of the human: museums, universities, various publications, not to mention new towns and planning procedures. Trivialities and platitudes are wrapped up in this ‘human scale’, as they say, whereas what we should take charge of are the excesses and create ‘something’ to the scale of the universe.
This old humanism died during the World Wars, during the demographic growth which accompanied great massacres, and before the brutal demands of economic growth and competition and the pressure of poorly controlled techniques. It is not even an ideology, barely a theme for official speeches.
Recently there have been great cries of ‘God is dead, man too’ as if the death of classical humanism was that of man. These formulae spread in best-sellers, and taken in by a publicity not really responsible, are nothing new. Nietzschean meditation, a dark presage for Europe’s culture and civilization, began a hundred years ago during the 1870–1 Franco-Prussian war. When Nietzsche announced the death of God and man, he did not leave a gaping hole, or fill this void with makeshift material, language or linguistics. He was also announcing the Superhuman which he thought was to come. He was overcoming the nihilism he was identifying. Authors transacting these theoretical and poetic treasures, but with a delay of a century, plunge us back into nihilism. Since Nietzsche, the dangers of the Superhuman have been cruelly evident. Moreover, this ‘new man’ emerging from industrial production and planning rationality has been more than disappointing. There is still another way, that of urban society and the human as oeuvre in this society which would be an oeuvre and not a product. There is also the simultaneous overcoming of the old ‘social animal’ and man of the ancient city, the urban animal, towards a polyvalent, polysensorial, urban man capable of complex and transparent relations with the world (the environment and himself). Or there is nihilism. If man is dead, for whom will we build? How will we build? It does not matter that the city has or has not disappeared, that it must be thought anew, reconstructed on new foundations or overcome. It does not matter whether terror reigns, that the atomic bomb is dropped or that Planet Earth explodes. What is important? Who thinks? Who acts? Who still speaks and for whom? If meaning and finality disappear and we cannot even declare them in a praxis, nothing matters. And if the capacities of the ‘human being’, technology, science, imagination and art, or their absence, are erected as autonomous powers, and that reflective thought is satisfied with this assessment, the absence of a ‘subject’, what to reply? What to do?
Old humanism moves away and disappears. Nostalgia lessens and we turn back less and less often to see its shape lying across the road. It was the ideology of the liberal bourgeoisie, with its Greek and Latin quotes sprinkled with Judeo-Christianity, which bent over the people and human sufferings and which covered and supported the rhetoric of the clear consciences of noble feelings and of the sensitive souls. A dreadful cocktail, a mixture to make you sick. Only a few intellectuals (from the ‘Left’ — but are there still any intellectuals on the ‘Right’?) who are neither revolutionary nor openly reactionary, nor Dionysiacs or Apollonians, still have a taste for this sad potion.
We thus must make the effort to reach out towards a new humanism, a new praxis, another man, that of urban society. We must avoid those myths which threaten this will, destroy those ideologies which hinder this project and those strategies which divert this trajectory. Urban life has yet to begin. What we are doing now is to complete an inventory of the remains of a millenarian society where the countryside dominated the city, and whose ideas, values, taboos and prescriptions were largely agrarian, with rural and ‘natural’ dominant features. A few sporadic cities hardly emerged from a rustic ocean. Rural society was (still is), a society of scarcity and penury, of want accepted or rejected, of prohibitions managing and regulating privations. It was also the society of the fête, of festivities. But that aspect, the best, has been lost and instead of myths and limitations, this is what must be revitalized! A decisive remark: for the crisis of the traditional city accompanies the world crisis of agrarian civilization, which is a so traditional. It is up to us to resolve this double crisis, especially by creating with the new city, a new life in the city. Revolutionary societies (among which the USSR ten or fifteen years after the October Revolution), intimated the development of society based on industry. But they only intimated.
The use of ‘we’ in the sentences above has only the impact of a metaphor to mean those concerned. The architect, the planner, the sociologist, the economist, the philosopher or the politician cannot out of nothingness create new forms and relations. More precisely, the architect is no more a miracle-worker than the sociologist. Neither can create social relations, although under certain favourable conditions they help trends to be formulated (to take shape). Only social life (praxis) in its global capacity possesses such powers — or does not possess them. The people mentioned above can individually or in teams dear the way; they can also propose, cry out and prepare forms. And also (and especially), through a maieutic nurtured by science, assess acquired experience, provide a lesson from failure and give birth to the possible.
At the point we have arrived there is an urgent need to change intellectual approaches and tools. It would be indispensable to take up ideas and approaches from elsewhere and which are still not very familiar.
Transduction. This is an intellectual operation which can be methodically carried out and which differs from classical induction, deduction, the construction of ‘models’, simulation as well as the simple statement of hypothesis. Transduction elaborates and constructs a theoretical object, a possible object from information related to reality and a problematic posed by this reality. Transduction assumes an incessant feed back between the conceptual framework used and empirical observations. Its theory (methodology), gives shape to certain spontaneous mental operations of the planner, the architect, the sociologist, the politician and the philosopher. It introduces rigour in invention and knowledge in utopia.
Experimental utopia. Who is not a utopian today? Only narrowly specialized practitioners working to order without the slightest critical examination of stipulated norms and constraints, only these not very interesting people escape utopianism. All are utopians, including those futurists and planners who project Paris in the year 2,000 and those engineers who have made Brasilia! But there are several utopianisms. Would not the worst be that utopianism which does not utter its name, covers itself with positivism and on this basis imposes the harshest constraints and the most derisory absence of technicity?
Utopia is to be considered experimentally by studying its implications and consequences on the ground. These can surprise. What are and what would be the most successful places? How can they be discovered? According to which criteria? What are the times and rhythms of daily life which are inscribed and prescribed in these ‘successful’ spaces favourable to happiness? That is interesting.
There are other indispensable intellectual approaches to identify without dissociating them the three fundamental theoretical concepts of structure, function and form, and to know their import, the spheres of their validity, their limits and their reciprocal relations. To know that they make a whole bur that the elements of this whole have a certain independence and relative autonomy. To not privilege one over the other, otherwise this gives an ideology, that is, a closed and dogmatic system of significations: structuralism, formalism, functionalism. To be used equally and in turn for the analysis of the real (an analysis which is never exhaustive or without residue), as well as for that operation known as ‘transduction’. It is important to understand chat a function can be accomplished by means of different structures, and that there is no unequivocal link between the terms. That is, that functions and structures clothe themselves with forms which reveal and veil them — chat the triplicity of these aspects make a whole which is more than these aspects, elements and parts.
We have among our intellectual tools one which deserves neither disdain nor privilege of the absolute: that of system (or rather sub-system of significations.
Policies have their systems of significations — ideologies — which enable them to subordinate to their strategies social acts and events influenced by them. Ac the ecological level, the humble inhabitant has his system (or rather, his sub-system) of significations. The fact of living here or there involves the reception, adoption and transmission of such a system, for example that of owner-occupied housing. The system of significations of the inhabitant cells of his passivities and activities: he is received but changed by practice. He is perceived.
Architects seem to have established and dogmatized an ensemble of significations, as such poorly developed and variously labelled as ‘function’, ‘form’, ‘structure’, or rather, functionalism, formalism, and structuralism. They elaborate them not from the significations perceived and lived by those who inhabit, but from their interpretation of inhabiting. It is graphic and visual, tending towards metalanguage. It is graphism and visualization. Given that these architects form a social body, they attach themselves to institutions, their system tends to close itself off, impose itself and elude all criticism. There is cause to formulate this system, often put forward without any other procedure or precaution, as planning by extrapolation.
This theory which one could legitimately call planning. dose to the meanings of that old practice of to to inhabit (that is, the human) which would add to these partial facts a general theory of urban time-spaces, which would reveal a new practice emerging from this elaboration can be envisaged only as the practical application of a comprehensive theory of the city and the urban which could go beyond current scissions and separations, particularly those existing between philosophy and the sciences of the city, the global and the partial. Current planning projects could figure in this development — but only within an unwavering critique of their ideological and strategic implications. Inasmuch as we can define it, our object — the urban — will never today be entirely present in our reflections. More than any another object, it possesses a very complex quality of totality in act and potential the object of research gradually uncovered, and which will be either slowly or never exhausted. To take this object as a given truth is operate a mythifying ideology. Knowledge must envisage a considerable number of methods to grasp this object, and cannot fasten itself onto a particular approach. Analytical configurations will follow as closely as possible the internal articulations of this ‘thing’ which is not a thing; they will be accompanied by reconstructions which will never be realized. Descriptions, analyses and attempts at synthesis can never be passed off as being exhaustive or definitive. All these notions, all these batteries of concepts will come into play: form, structure, function, level, dimension, dependent and independent variables, correlations, totality, ensemble, system, etc. Here as elsewhere, but more than elsewhere, the residue reveals itself to be most precious. Each ‘object’ constructed will in turn be submitted to critical examination. Within the possible, this will be accomplished and submitted to experimental verification. The science of the city requires a historical period to make itself and to orient social practice.
This science is necessary but not sufficient. We can perceive its limits at the same time as its necessity. Planning thought proposes the establishment or reconstitution of highly localized, highly particularized and centralized social units whose linkages and tensions would re-establish an urban unity endowed with a complex interior order, with its hierarchy and a supple structure. More specifically, sociological thought seeks an understanding and reconstitution of the integrative capacities of the urban as well as the conditions of practical participation. Why not? But only under one condition: never to protect these fragmented and therefore partial attempts from criticism, practical assessment and global preoccupation.
Knowledge can therefore construct and propose models. In this sense each object is but a model of urban reality. Nevertheless, such a reality will never become manageable as a thing and will never become instrumental even for the most operational knowledge. Who would not hope that the city becomes again what it was — the act and oeuvre of a complex thought? But it cannot remain at the level of wishes and aspirations and an urban strategy is not defined. An urban strategy cannot cake into account existing strategies and acquired knowledge: science of the city, with its disposition towards the planning of growth and the control of development. Whoever says ‘strategies’ says the hierarchy of ‘variables’ to be considered, some having a strategic capacity and others remaining at the tactical level — and says also the power to realize these strategies on the ground. Only groups, social classes and class fractions capable of revolutionary initiative can take over and realize to fruition solutions to urban problems. It is from these social and political forces that the renewed city will become the oeuvre. The first thing to do is to defeat currently dominant strategies and ideologies. In the present society that there exist many divergent groups and strategies (for example between the State and the private) does not alter the situation. From questions of landed property to problems of segregation, each project of urban reform questions the structures, the immediate (individual) and daily relations of existing society, but also those that one purports to impose by the coercive and institutional means of what remains of urban reality. In itself reformist, the strategy of urban renewal becomes ‘inevitably’ revolutionary, not by force of circumstance, but against the established order. Urban strategy resting on the science of the city needs a social support and political forces to be effective. It cannot act on its own. It cannot but depend on the presence and action of the working class, the only one able to put an end to a segregation directed essentially against it. Only this class, as a class, can decisively contribute to the reconstruction of centrality destroyed by a strategy of segregation and found again in the menacing form of centres of decision-making. This does not mean that the working class will make urban society all on its own, but that without it nothing is possible. Without it integration has no meaning and disintegration will continue under the guise of nostalgia and integration. There is there not only an option but an horizon which opens or doses. When the working class is silent, when it is quiescent and cannot accomplish what theory has defined as its ‘historical mission’, then both the ‘subject’ and ‘object’ are lacking. Reflection confirms this absence, which means that it is appropriate to consider two series of propositions:
1. A political programme of urban reform not defined by the framework and the possibilities of prevailing society or subjugated to a ‘realism’, although based on the study of realities. In other words, reform thus understood is not limited to reformism. This programme will therefore have a singular and even paradoxical character. It will be established to be proposed to political forces, parties. One could even add that preferentially it would be presented to ‘left’ parties, political formations representing or wishing to represent the working class. But it would not be established as a function of these forces and formations. It will have in relation to them a specific character which comes from knowledge, a scientific part. It will be proposed (free to be altered) by those who take control of it. Let political forces take their responsibilities. In this domain which engages the future of modern society and that of producers, ignorance and misunderstanding entail responsibilities before history.
2. Mature planning projects which consist of models and spatial forms and urban times without concern for their current feasibility or their utopian aspect. It does not seem possible that these models result either from a simple study of existing cities and urban typologies, or from a combination of elements. Other than contrary to experience, the forms of space and time will be invented and proposed to praxis. That imagination be deployed, not the imaginary of escape and evasion which conveys ideologies, but the imaginary which invests itself in appropriation (of time, space, physiolocal life and desire). Why not oppose ephemeral cities to the eternal city, and movable centrality to stable centres? All audacities can be premissed. Why limit these propositions only to the morphology of time and space? They could also include the way of living in the city and the development of the urban on this basis.
In these two series there will also be long, medium and short-term propositions constituting urban strategy understood as such.
The society in which we live appears to tend towards plenitude — or at least towards fullness (durable goods and objects, quantity, satisfaction and rationality). In face it allows a colossal gulf to be dug into which ideologies agitate themselves and the fog of rhetoric spreads. Having left speculation and contemplation, incomplete knowledge and fragmentary divisions, one of the greatest projects active thought can propose for itself is to fill this lacuna — and not only with language.
In a period during which ideologists pronounce abundantly on structures, the destructuration of the city manifests the depth of phenomena, of social and cultural disintegration. Considered as a whole, this society finds itself incomplete. Between the sub-systems and the structures consolidated by various means (compulsion, terror, and ideological persuasion), there are holes and chasms. These voids are not there due to chance. They are the places of the possible. They contain the floating and dispersed elements of the possible, but not the power which could assemble them. Moreover, structuring actions and the power of the social void tend to prohibit action and the very presence of such a power. The conditions of the possible can only be realized in the course of a radical metamorphosis.
In this conjuncture, ideology claims to provide an absolute quality to ‘scientificity’, science appertaining to the real, dissecting it, reconstituting it, and by this fact isolating it from the possible and closing the way. Now, in such a conjuncture science which is fragmentary science can only have a programmatic impact. It brings elements to a programme. If one concedes that these elements already constitute a totality, and one wishes to execute this programme literally, one treats the virtual object as a pre-existent technical object. A project is accomplished without criticism and this project fulfills an ideology by projecting it on the ground — that of the technocrats. Although necessary, policy is not enough. It changes during the course of its implementation. Only social force, capable of investing itself in the urban through a long political experience, can take charge of the realization of a programme concerning urban society. Conversely, the science of the city brings to this perspective a theoretical and critical foundation, a positive base. Utopia controlled by dialectical reason serves as a safe-guard supposedly scientific fictions and visions gone astray. Besides, this foundation and base prevent reflection from losing itself in pure policy. Here the dialectical movement presents itself as a relation between science and political power, as a dialogue which actualizes relations of ‘theory-practice’ and ‘critical positive-negative’.
As necessary as science, but not sufficient, art brings to the realization of urban society its long meditation on life as drama and pleasure. In addition and especially, art resticutes the meaning of the oeuvre, giving it multiple facets of appropriated time and space; neither endured nor accepted by a passive resignation, metamorphosed as oeuvre. Music shows the appropriation of time, painting and sculpture that of space. If the sciences discover partial determinisms, art and philosophy show how a totality grows out of partial determinisms. It is incumbent on the social force capable of creating urban society to make efficient and effective the unity of art, technique and knowledge. As much the science of the city, art and the history of art are part of a meditation on the urban which wants to make efficient the images which proclaim it. By overcoming this opposition, chis meditation striving for action would thus be both utopian and realistic. One could even assert that the maximum of utopianism could unite with the optimum of realism.
Among the contradictions characteristic of our time there are those (particularly difficult ones) between the realities of society and the facts of civilization. On the one hand, genocide, and on the other, medical and other interventions which enable a child to be saved or an agony prolonged. One of the latest but not lease contradictions has been shown in this essay: between the socialization of society and generalized segregation. There are many others, for example, the contradiction between the label of revolutionary and the attachment to an obsolete productivist rationalism. The individual, at the centre of social forces due to the pressure of the masses, asserts himself and does not die. Rights appear and become customs or prescriptions, usually followed by enactments. And we know how, through gigantic destructions, World Wars, and the terror of nuclear threats, that these concrete rights come to complete the abstract rights of man and the citizen inscribed on the front of buildings by democracy during its revolutionary beginnings: the rights of ages and sexes (the woman, the child and the elderly), rights of conditions (the proletarian, the peasant), rights to training and education, to work, to culture, to rest, to health, to housing. The pressure of the working class has been and remains necessary (but not sufficient) for the recognition of these rights, for their entry into customs, for their inscription into codes which are still incomplete.
Over the last few years and rather strangely, the right to nature entered into social practice thanks to leisure, having made its way through protestations becoming commonplace against noise, fatigue, the concentrationary universe of cities (as cities are rotting or exploding). A strange journey indeed! Nature enters into exchange value and commodities, to be bought and sold. This ‘naturality’ which is counterfeited and traded in, is destroyed by commercialized, industrialized and institutionally organized leisure pursuits. ‘Nature’, or what passes for it, and survives of it, becomes the ghetto of leisure pursuits, the separate place of pleasure and the retreat of ‘creativity’. Urban dwellers carry the urban with them, even if they do not bring planning with them! Colonized by them, the countryside has lost the qualities, features and charms of peasant life. The urban ravages the countryside: this urbanized countryside opposes itself to a dispossessed rurality, the extreme case of the deep misery of the inhabitant, the habitat, of to inhabit. Are the rights to nature and to the countryside not destroying themselves?
In the face of this pseudo-right, the right to the city is like a cry and a demand. This right slowly meanders through the surprising detours of nostalgia and tourism, the return to the heart of the traditional city, and the Call of existent or recently developed centralities. The claim to nature, and the desire to enjoy it displace the right to the city. This latest claim expresses itself indirectly as a tendency to flee the deteriorated and unrenovated city, alienated urban life before at last, ‘really’ living. The need and the ‘right’ to nature contradict the right to the city without being able to evade it. (This does not mean that it is not necessary to preserve vase ‘natural’ spaces).
The right to the city cannot be conceived of as a simple visiting right or as a return to traditional cities. It can only be formulated as a transformed and renewed right to urban life. It does not matter whether the urban fabric encloses the countryside and what survives of peasant life, as long as the ‘urban’, place of encounter, priority of use value, inscription in space of a time promoted to the rank of a supreme resource among all resources, finds its morphological base and its practico-material realization. Which presumes an integrated theory of the city and urban society, using the resources of science and art. Only the working class can become the agent, the social carrier or support of this realization. Here again, as a century ago, it denies and contests, by its very existence, the class strategy directed against it. As a hundred years ago, although under new conditions, it gathers the interests (overcoming the immediate and the superficial) of the whole society and firstly of all those who inhabit. Who can ignore that the Olympians of the new bourgeois aristocracy no longer inhabit. They go from grand hotel to grand hotel, or from castle to castle, commanding a fleet or a country from a yacht. They are everywhere and nowhere. That is how they fascinate people immersed into everyday life. They transcend everyday life, possess nature and leave it up to the cops to contrive culture. Is it essential to describe at length, besides the condition of youth, students and intellectuals, armies of workers with or without white collars, people from the provinces, the colonized and semi-colonized of all sorts, all those who endure a well-organized daily life, is it here necessary to exhibit the derisory and untragic misery of the inhabitant, of the suburban dweller and of the people who stay in residential ghettos, in the mouldering centres of old cities and in the proliferations lost beyond them? One only has to open one’s eyes to understand the daily life of the one who runs from his dwelling to the station, near or far away, to the packed underground train, the office or the factory, to return the same way in the evening and come home to recuperate enough to start again the next day. The picture of this generalized misery would not go without a picture of ‘satisfactions’ which hides it and becomes the means to elude it and break free from it.
Perspective or Prospective?
Since its beginnings, classical philosophy, which has had as social base and theoretical foundation the city, thought the city, and endeavours to determine the image of the ideal city. The Critias of Plato sees in the city an image of the world, or rather of the cosmos, a microcosm. Urban time and space reproduce on earth the configuration of the universe as the philosopher discovers it.
If today one wants a representation of the ‘ideal’ city and of its relations to the universe, one will not find this image with the philosophers and even less in an analytical vision which divides urban reality into fractions, sectors, relations and correlations. One has to find it among the writers of science fiction. In science fiction novels, every possible and impossible variation of future urban society has been foreseen. Sometimes the old urban cores agonize, covered with an urban fabric more or less thick, more or less sclerosed or cancerous, which proliferates and spreads over the planet. In these cores destined to disappearance after a long decline, live or vegetate failures, artists, intellectuals and gangsters. Sometimes colossal cities reconstitute themselves and carry onto a higher level former struggles for power. In Azimov’s magistral work, The Foundation, an entire planet is covered by a giant city, Tremor, which has all the means of knowledge and power with which it dominates, as a centre of decision·making, a whole galaxy. After many gigantic episodes, Trentor saves the universe and brings it to its end, that is, to the ‘reign of endings’, joy and happiness, for excesses are finally overcome and the time of the world finally appropriated in a cosmic space. Between these two extremes, the visionaries of science fiction have also their intermediary versions: the city ruled by a powerful computer, the city of a highly specialized and vital production which moves among planetary systems and galaxies, etc.
Is it necessary to explore so far ahead the horizon of horizons? The ideal city, the New Athens, is already there to be seen in the image which Paris and New York and some other cities project. The centre of decision-making and the centre of consumption meet. Their alliance on the ground based on a strategic convergence creates an inordinate centrality. We already know that this decision-making centre includes all the channels of information and means of cultural and scientific development. Coercion and persuasion converge with the power of decision-making and the capacity to consume. Strongly occupied and inhabited by these new Masters, this centre is held by them. Without necessarily owning it all, they possess this privileged space, axis of a strict spatial policy. Especially, they have the privilege to possess time. Around them, distributed in space according to formalized principles, there are human groups which can no longer bear the name of slaves, serfs, vassals or even proletarians. What could they be called? Subjugated, they provide a multiplicity of services for the Masters of this State solidly established on the city. These Masters have around for them every cultural and other pleasure, from nightclubs to the splendours of the opera — not excluding remote controlled amusements. Could this not be the true New Athens, with its minority of free citizens, possessing and enjoying social spaces, dominating an enormous mass of subjugated people, in principle free, genuinely and perhaps voluntarily servants, treated and manipulated according to rational methods? Are not the scholars, sociologists leading, in this very different from ancient philosophers, not themselves the servants of State and Order, under the pretence of empiricism and rigour, of scientificity? The possibilities can even be assessed. Directors, heads, presidents of this and that, elites, leading writers and artists, well-known entertainers and media people, make up one per cent, or just under half a million of the new notables in France in the twenty-first century, each with their family and their following, and their own ‘firm’. The domination of and by centrality in no way denies the possession of secondary domains — the enjoyment of nature, the sea, the mountains, ancient cities (available through trips, hotels, etc.). Next are about four per cent of executives, administrators, engineers and scholars. After selection, the most eminent of these are admitted into the heart of the city. For this selection, incomes and society rituals might be sufficient. State capitalism has carefully organized for other privileged subordinates domains distributed according to a rational plan. Before reaching this goal State capitalism has carefully prepared it. Without omitting the realization of several urban ghettos, it has organized for scholars and for science a severely competitive sector: in the universities and laboratories, scholars and intellectuals have confronted each other on a purely competitive basis, with a zeal worthy of a better job, for the best interest of the Masters, the economic and political, for the glory and joy of the Olympians. Indeed, these secondary elites are assigned to residence in science parks, university campuses — ghettos for intellectuals. The mass, under pressure from many constraints, spontaneously houses itself in satellite cities, planned suburbs, and other more or less residential ghettos. There is for it only carefully measured space. Time eludes it. It leads it daily life bound (perhaps unwittingly), to the requirement of the concentration of powers. But this is not a concentrationary universe. All this can quite do without the ideology of freedom under the pretence of rationality, organization, and programming. These masses who do not deserve the name of people, or popular classes, or working class live relatively well. Apart from the fact that their daily life is remote-controlled and the permanent threat of unemployment weighs heavily on them, contributing to a latent and generalized terror.
If someone smiles at this utopia, he is wrong. But how to prove it? When his eyes will open, it will be too late. He demands proof. How do you show light to a blind person, or the horizon to a myopic one — even if he knows the theory of wholes, or of ‘clusters’, the finesses of variance analysis, or the precise charms of linguistics?
Since the Middle Ages, each epoch of European civilization has had its image of the possible, its dream, its fantasies of hell and paradise. Each period, and perhaps each generation has had its representation of the best of all possible worlds, or of a new life, an important, if not essential part of all ideologies. In order to accomplish this function, the eighteenth century, seemingly so rich, had only the rather feeble image of the noble savage and exotic islands. To this exoticism, some men of that century added a closer but somewhat prettified representation of England. In relation to them, we are richly endowed. By we is meant a poorly defined crowd, generally intellectuals, living and thinking in France at the beginning of the second half of the twentieth-century. We have many models, horizons, and avenues which do not converge to imagine the future: the USSR and the United States, China, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Israel, even Sweden or Switzerland — and without forgetting the Bororos.
While French society is becoming urbanized and Paris is being transformed, and certain powers, if not State power, are modelling France of the year 2,000, nobody is thinking about the ideal city or what is happening to the real city. Utopia attaches itself to numerous more or less distant and unknown or misunderstood realities, but no longer to real and daily life. It is no longer begotten in the absences and lacunae which cruelly puncture surrounding reality. The gaze turns away, leaves the horizon, loses itself in the clouds, elsewhere. Such is the power of diversion of ideologies, at the exact moment when we no longer believe in ideology, but in realism and rationalism!
Previously, by refuting partial disciplines and their interdisciplinary attempts, one was also asserting that synthesis belongs to the political (that is, that all synthesis of analytical faces about urban reality conceals under philosophy or an ideology a strategy). Statesmen, experts and specialists should certainly not be given control of decision- making. The term political is not here used so narrowly. Such a proposition must be understood in the opposite way to what has been expressed here. The capacity of synthesis belongs to political forces which are in fact social forces (classes and fractions of classes, groupings or class alliances). They exist or not, they manifest and express themselves or not. They speak or do not speak. It is up to them to indicate social needs, to influence existing institutions, to open the horizon and lay claims to a future which will be their oeuvre. If the inhabitants of various categories and strata allow themselves to be manoeuvred and manipulated, displaced anywhere under the pretext of social mobility, if they accept the conditions of an exploitation more refined and extensive than before, too bad for them. If the working class is silent, if it does not act, either spontaneously or by the mediation of its institutional representatives and mandatories, segregation will continue resulting again in a vicious circle. Segregation is inclined to prohibit protest, contest, action, by dispersing those who protest, contest, and act. In this perspective political life will either challenge or reaffirm the centre of political decision-making. For parties and men, this option is the criterion of democracy.
The politician needs a theory to help him determine its course but this presents some great difficulties. How can there be a theory of urban society, the city and the urban, of realities and possibilities, without synthesis?
Two dogmatic disciplines, philosophical systematization and systematization from partial analyses under the pretence of such disciplines or of so-called interdisciplinary research have already been rejected. There can be no possibility of an analysis accomplished in the context of knowledge. The unity outlined is defined by a convergence which only practice can actualize between:
the goals, spread over time of political action, from the possible to the impossible, that is, what is possible here and now, to what is impossible today, but will become possible tomorrow in the course of this very action
the theoretical elements brought to the analysis of urban reality, that is, the ensemble of knowledge brought into play during the course of political action, ordered, used and dominated by this action
the theoretical elements contributed by philosophy, which appear in a new light, as its history inscribes itself in another perspective — philosophical meditation transforming itself according to reality or rather, the realization to accomplish.
the theoretical elements brought by art, conceived as a capacity to transform reality, to appropriate at the highest level the facts of the ‘lived’, of time, space, the body and desire.
From this convergence, one can define the preceding conditions. It is essential to consider no longer industrialization and urbanization separately, but to perceive in urbanization the meaning, the goal and the finality of industrialization. In other words, it is essential to aim no longer for economic growth for its own sake, and economistic ideology which entails strategic objectives, namely, superprofit and capitalist overexploitation, the control of the economic (which fails precisely because of this) to the advantage of the State. Concepts of economic equilibrium, harmonious growth, structural maintenance (structured–structuring relations being existing relations of production and property) must be subordinated to more powerful concepts potentially of development, and of concrete rationality emerging from conflicts.
In other words, growth must be guided. Very common formulations which pass for democratic (growth, well-being for all, the general interest) lose their meaning and this applies to liberalism as economistic ideology as much as to centralized State planning. Such an ideology, whether or not prospective, reduces the outlook on such issues as the increase of wages and the better distribution of national revenue, or even on the review and adjustment of the capital-labour relation.
To direct growth towards development, therefore towards urban society, means firstly to prospect new needs, knowing chat such needs are discovered in the course of their emergence and are revealed in the course of their prospection. They do not pre-exist as objects. They do not feature in the ‘real’ described by market studies and studies of ‘individual’ motivation. Consequently, this means substituting social planning whose theory is hardly elaborated. Social needs lead to the production of new ‘goods’ which are not this or that object, but social objects in space and time. Man of urban society is already a man rich in needs: the man of rich needs awaiting their objectification and realization. Urban society overtakes the old and the new poverty, as much the destitution of isolated subjectivity as that humdrum old need for money with its worn symbols of the ‘pure’ gaze, the ‘pure’ sign, the ‘pure’ spectacle.
Thus, direction is not defined by an effective synthesis, but by a convergence, a virtuality which is outlined but realized only at the limit. This limit is not somewhere in the infinite, and yet it be can reached by successive leaps and bounds. It is impossible to settle in it and to establish it as an accomplished reality. Hence this is the essential feature of the method already considered and named ‘transduction’, the construction of a virtual object approached from experimental facts. The horizon opens up and calls for actualization.
The orientation reacts upon researched facts. In this way research ceases to be either indeterminate, that is, empiricist, or a simple confirmation of a thesis, that is, dogmatist. In this light, philosophy and its history, art and its metamorphoses appear transformed.
As for the analytical aspect of urban research, it modifies itself by the fact that research has already found ‘something’ at the outset and that the direction or orientation influences the hypothesis. There is no more question of isolating the points of space and time, of considering separately activities and functions, or of studying apart from each other behaviours or images, distributions and relations. These various aspects of social production, that of the city and urban society, are situated in relation to a framework of explanation and forecasting. Since method consists as much in overcoming ecological description as structural and functional analysis, in order to reach out to the concrete of urban drama, formal evidence could be provided by the general theory of forms. According to this theory, there is a form of the city: assembly, simultaneity, encounter. Transduction is the intellectual approach linked to these operations which codifies them or supports them methodologically.
Scientifically speaking, the distinction between strategic variables and tactical variables seems fundamental. The first ones, as soon as they are identified, subordinate the second. Increase of wages? Better distribution of national revenue? Nationalization of this or that? Very well. But these are tactical variables. In the same way the suppression of urban related constraints would affect the municipalization, nationalization or socialization of building plots. Fine and well. But for what purpose? The increase of rates and rhythms of growth between strategic variables, given that quantitative growth already poses qualitative problems of finality and development. The issue is not only rates of growth, production and revenues, bur distribution. Which part of increased production and global revenue will be attributed to social needs, to ‘culture’, to urban reality? Is not the transformation of daily life part of strategic variables? One could think it so. To take an example, flexible working hours are of interest. This is only a minuscule tactical action. The creation of new networks concerning the life of children and adolescents (crèches, playing fields and sports, etc.), the constitution of a very simple apparatus of social pedagogy, which would inform as much social life itself as sexual life, the art of living and art tout court. Such an institution would have much more impact: it would mark the passage from the tactical to the strategic in this field.
The variables of projects elaborated by economists also depend on generally poorly defined strategies. Against class strategies which often use very powerful scientific instruments and which tend to abuse science (no: scientificity — a rigid and coercive ideological apparatus) as means to persuade and impose, what is needed is to turn knowledge around by putting it back on its feet.
Socialism? Of course, that is what it is about. But what socialism? According to which concept and theory of socialist society? Is the definition of this society by the planned organization of production enough? No. Socialism today can only be conceived as production oriented towards social needs, and consequently, towards the needs of urban society. The goals borrowed from simple industrialization are being overtaken and transformed. Such is the thesis or hypothesis formulated here. Conditions and preconditions? We know them: a high level of production and productivity (by breaking with an exploitation reinforced by a relatively decreasing minority of highly productive manual and intellectual workers), and a high technical and cultural level. In addition, the institution of new social relations, especially between governing and governed, between ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ of decision-making. These conditions have virtually been realized in advanced industrial countries. Their formulation does not arise from the possible, even if this possible seems far from real and is really far away.
Possibilities relate to a double examination: the scientific (project and projection, variations of projects, predictions) and the imaginary (at the limit, science fiction). Why should the imaginary enter only outside the real instead of nurturing reality? When there is a loss of thought in and by the imaginary, it is being manipulated. The imaginary is also a social fact. Do not specialists claim for themselves the intervention of imagination and the imaginary when they acclaim the ‘man of synthesis’, or when they are disposed to welcome the ‘nexialist’ or the ‘generalist’?
For two centuries, industrialization has been promoting commodities — which although they pre-existed, were limited by agrarian and urban structures. It has enabled the virtually unlimited extension of exchange value. It has shown how merchandise is not only a way of putting people in relation to each other, but also a logic, a language, and a world. Commodities have swept away barriers. And this process is not over: the car, the current pilot-object in the world of commodities, is overcoming this last barrier — the city. It was therefore the time of political economy and the two variations of its rule: liberal and state economis. Today the overtaking of economism is being outlined. Towards what? Towards an ethic or an aesthetic, a moralism or an aestheticism? Towards new ‘values’? No. What is at stake is an overtaking by and in practice of a change in social practice. Use value, subordinated for centuries to exchange value, can now come first again. How? By and in urban society, from this reality which still resists and preserves for us use value, the city. A weakened but true vision of this truth is an urban reality for ‘users’ and not for capitalist speculators, builders and technicians.
Here we can envisage a strategic variable: to limit the importance of the car industry in the economy of a country and the place of the ‘car-object’ in daily life. To substitute the car for other techniques, other objects, other means of transport such as public ones. This is a rather simple and trivial example but demonstrates the subordination of the ‘real’ to a strategy.
The problem of leisure forces one to think even more dearly of a strategy. To define it in its full scope, it is important to firstly destroy a few fantasies mixed up with ideology. The social imaginary furnished by ideology and advertising, as well as the sad reality of ‘hobbies’ and miniaturized ‘creativity’ blocks the horizon. Neither holidays, nor industrialized cultural production, nor leisure in or outside daily life resolve this problem. Their images prevent it from being posed. The problem is to put an end to the separations of ‘daily life — leisure’ or ‘daily life — festivity’. It is to restitute the fête by changing daily life. The city was a space occupied at one and the same time by productive labour, by oeuvres, and by festivities. It should find again this function beyond functions, in a metamorphosed urban society. One of the strategic aims can be formulated in this way, although it is only a formulation of what is happening today without grace or splendour in cities which attempt to recreate the fête with festivities and festivals.
Each type of society and each mode of production has had its type of city. The relative discontinuity of modes of production defines the history of urban reality, although this is not exclusive and other periodization are possible. Another periodization resting on a specific centrality would show more closely the succession of urban types but would not coincide completely with the primary periodization.
The oriental city, reason and result of the Asiatic mode of production, offers its triumphal way for gatherings and meetings. Armies which protect and oppress the agricultural territories administered by the city leave and return through chis way on which are deployed military parades and religious processions. The palace of the prince, the umbilical, the omphalos, is the centre of the world, the point of departure and arrival. The sacred enclosure captures and condenses sacredness diffused over the whole of the territory. It manifests the eminent right of the sovereign, inseparable possession and sacredness. The triumphal way penetrates into the enclosure through a door, monument among monuments. It is the door of the true urban centre, the centre of the world not open to gatherings. Around the door are gathered guards, caravaneers, vagrants and robbers. The tribunal sits here and gathers the inhabitants for spontaneous assemblies. It is the place of urban order and disorder, of revolts and repressions.
In the Greek and Roman antique city, centrality is attached to an empty space, the agora and the forum. It is a place for assembly. There is an important difference between the agora and the forum. Prohibitions characterize the latter and buildings will quickly cover it up, taking away from it its character of open space. It is not disjointed from the centre of the world: the hole, the sacred–damned mundus, the place from which souls leave, where the condemned and unwanted children are thrown. The Greeks did not put emphasis on horror, on the links between urban centrality and the underworld of the dead and the souls. Their thought of their city is related to the Cosmos, a luminous distribution of places in space, rather than to the world, passage to darkness and of underworld wanderings. This shadow, more Roman than Hellenic, weighs over the West.
For its part, the medieval city soon integrated merchants and commodities and established them in its centre; the market-place. A commercial centre characterized by the proximity of the church and the exclusion of the enclosure — a heterotopy of territory. The symbolism and the functions of this enclosure are different from that of the oriental or antique city. The territory belongs to the lords, peasants, vagrants and plunderers. Urban centrality welcomes produce and people. It forbids its access to those who threaten its essential and economic function, thus heralding and preparing capitalism. Nevertheless, centrality thus functionalized and structured remains the object of all attentions. It is embellished. The smallest hamlet, the smallest barbican have their arcades, the possibly sumptuous monumental hall and municipal buildings which are places of pleasure. The church blesses commerce and gives a good conscience to the busy citizens. Within the limits of commercial rationality, gatherings which are part of this double feature of the religious and the rational take place in the square, between the church and the market. How these two features associate by colliding together in combination or in conflict, is another story.
The capitalist city has created the centre of consumption. Industrial production did not constitute centrality as such, except in the special cases — if one can say that — of big enterprise around which a workers’ city was erected. We already know the double character of the capitalist city: place of consumption and consumption of place. Businesses densify in the centre, and attract expensive shops, luxury foodstuffs and products. The establishment of this centraliry is partial to the old cores, the spaces appropriated during the course of a previous history. It cannot go without it. In these privileged sites, the consumer also comes to consume space; the collection of objects in the windows of boutiques becomes the reason and the pretext for the gathering of people. They look, they see, they talk and talk with each other. And it is the place of encounters amongst the collection of things. What is said and written, comes before everything else: it is the world of commodities, of the language of commodities, of the glory and the extension of exchange value. It tends to absorb use value in exchange and exchange value. Yet, use and use value resist irreducibly. This irreducibility of the urban centre plays an essential role in this argument.
It is neo-capitalism which superimposes, without denying or destroying it, the centre of consumption upon the centre of decision-making It no longer gathers together people and things, but data and knowledge. It inscribes in an eminently elaborated form of simultaneity the conception of the whole incorporated into an electronic brain, using the quasi-instantaneity of communications, thus overcoming obstacles such as the loss of information, the meaningless accumulations of elements, redundancies, etc. With a disinterested aim? Certainly not. Since the problem is political, those who constitute specific centrality aim for power or are its instruments. The issue is not simply to ‘master technique’ in general, but to master clearly defined techniques with socio-political implications. What is at stake is to control the potential masters: those whose power appropriates all possibilities.
The controversy has been taken up again and pushed towards new conclusions to propose and defend another centrality. The possibility of an urban society here outlined cannot be satisfied with centralities of the past, although it does not destroy them and appropriates them by altering them. What to project? There is something barren about cultural centrality. It easily allows itself to be organized, institutionalized, and later, bureaucratized. There is nothing more derisive than the bureaucrat of culture. The educational is attractive, but neither seduces nor enchants. Pedagogy implies localized practices, not socialized centrality. Moreover, there is nothing to prove chat there is ‘one’ or ‘a’ culture. Subordinated to this entity, ‘culture’ and its ideology, ‘culturalism’, theatre, the greatest of games, is threatened with boredom. The elements of a superior unit, the fragments and aspects of ‘culture’, the educational, the formative and the informational, can be collected together. But from where can the contents of the principle of assembly be derived? From play, ludo, a term which muse be understood here in its broadest and deepest meaning. Sport is play and so is the theatre, in a way more involving than the cinema. Fairs, collective games of all sorts, survive at the interfaces of an organized consumer society, in the holes of a serious society which perceives itself as structured and systematical and which claims to be technical. As for the old places of assembly, they are largely devoid of meaning: the fête dies or leaves it. That they should find a meaning again does not preclude the creation of places appropriate to a renewed fête fundamentally linked to play.
No doubt that so-called consumer society suggests this direction. Leisure centres, leisure societies, cities of luxury and pleasures, holiday places, show this eloquently with the particular rhetoric of advertising. Therefore, all that is needed is to give form to this tendency which is still subordinated to the industrial and commercial production of culture in this society. The proposition of this project is to gather together by subordinating to play rather than to subordinate play to the ‘seriousness’ of culturalism and scientificism, although this does not exclude ‘cultural’ elements. On the contrary. It collects them together by restoring them in their truth. Only relatively recently and through institutions has the theatre become ‘cultural’, while play has lost its place and value in society. Would culture not be the accommodation of the oeuvre and style to exchange value, thus allowing for its commercialization, its production and consumption as specific product?
There are implications to the centrality of play which is the restoration of the meaning of the oeuvre that philosophy and art can bring so as to prioritize time over space, not forgetting that time comes to inscribe itself and to be written in a space — and thus replace domination by appropriation.
The space of play has coexisted and still coexists with spaces of exchange and circulation, political space and cultural space. Projects within quantified and accounted ‘social space’ which lose their qualitative and differentiated spaces relate to a schizophrenia which is concealed under the veils of precision, scientificity and rationality. We have shown above the inevitable outcome of an analytical thought which without safeguards perceives itself as global. This globality is the formalized space of social pathology. There is a continuous path from the concept of habitat to schizophrenic space projected as social model. The orientation envisaged here does not consist in suppressing qualified spaces as existing historical differences. On the contrary. These already complex spaces can be further articulated, by emphasizing differences and contrasts, and by stressing quality which implies and overdetermines quantities. To these spaces, one can apply formalized principles of differences and articulation, of superimpositions of contrasts. Thus conceived, social spaces are related to social times and rhythms which are prioritized. One understands more clearly how and up to what point in urban reality elements distribute themselves over a period of time. It is the truth of urban time which lucidly reclaims this role. To inhabit finds again its place over habitat. The quality which is promoted presents and represents as playful. By playing with words, one can say that there will be play between the parts of the social whole (plasticity) — to the extent that play is proclaimed as supreme value, eminently solemn, if not serious, overtaking use and exchange by gathering them together. And if someone cries out that this utopia has nothing in common with socialism, the answer is that today only the working class still knows how to really play, feels like playing, over and above the claims and programmes, of economism, and political philosophy. How is this shown? Sport and the interest shown in sport and games, including, in television and elsewhere, the degraded forms of ludic life. Already, to city people the urban centre is movement, the unpredictable, the possible and encounters. For them, it is either ‘spontaneous theatre’ or nothing.
To the extent that the contours of the future city can be outlined, it could be defined by imagining the reversal of the current situation, by pushing to its limits this inverted image of the world upside down. There are currently attempts to establish fixed structures, ‘equilibrium structures’, stabilities submitted to systematization, and therefore to existing power, At the same time there is a tactical wager on the accelerated obsolescence of consumer goods, ironically known as ‘durables’. The ideal city would involve the obsolescence of space: an accelerated change of abode, emplacements and prepared spaces. It would be the ephemeral city, the perpetual oeuvre of the inhabitants, themselves mobile and mobilized for and by this oeuvre. Time comes first. There is no doubt that technology makes possible the ephemeral city, the apogee of play and supreme oeuvre and luxury. One can cite the world exhibition in Montreal among other examples! In Montreal.
To put art at the service of the urban does not mean to prettify urban space with works of arc. This parody of the possible is a caricature. Rather, this means that time-spaces become works of art and that former art reconsiders itself as source and model of appropriation of space and rime. Art brings cases and examples of appropriate ‘topics’: of temporal qualities inscribed in spaces. Music shows how expression and lyricism uses numbering, order and measure. fr shows that time, tragic or serious, can absorb and reabsorb calculation. With less force but more precision than music, this is the same for sculpture and painting. Let us not forget that gardens, parks, and landscapes were part of urban life as much as the fine arts, or that the landscape around cities were the works of art of these cities. For example, the Tuscan landscape around Florence, inseparable from its architecture, plays an immense role in Renaissance arts. Leaving aside representation, ornamentation and decoration, art can become praxis and poiesis on a social scale: the art of living in the city as work of art. Coming back to style and m the oeuvre, that is, to the meaning of the monument and the space appropriated in the fête, art can create ‘structures of enchantment’. Architecture taken separately and on its own, could neither restrict nor create possibilities. Something more, something better, something else, is needed. Architecture as art and technique also needs an orientation. Although necessary, it could not suffice. Nor could architecture set and define its own aims and strategy. In other words, the future of art is not artistic, but urban, because the future of ‘man’ is not discovered in the cosmos, or in the people, or in production, but in urban society. In the same way art and philosophy must reconsider itself in relation to this perspective. The problematic of the urban renews the problematic of philosophy, its categories and methods. Without a need to break or reject them, these categories accept something else new: a meaning.
The right to the city manifests itself as a superior form of rights: right to freedom, to individualization in socialization, to habitat and to inhabit. The right to the oeuvre, to participation and appropriation (clearly distinct from the right to property), are implied in the right to the city.
With regards to philosophy, three periods are identifiable. This is a periodization which is particular among those which mark the continuum of becoming. In the first stage, philosophy meditates on the city as partial whole at the heart of totality, world and cosmos. In the second, philosophy reflects on a transcending totality of the city: history, ‘man’, society, State. It accepts and even confirms several separations in the name of totalicy. It sanctions the analytical hold by believing it is refuting or overcoming it. In the third period philosophy competes for the promotion of a rationality and a practice which transform themselves into urban rationality and planning practice.
The Realization of Philosophy
Let us take up again the thread of the argument and show its continuity to its conclusions. Knowledge is in an untenable situation. Philosophy wanted to reach the total but passed by it, unable to grasp it and even less to realize it. By giving it a representation which was systematized, speculative and contemplative, in its own way it mutilated totality. And yet, only philosophy had and still has the sense of the total. Partial and fragmentary knowledge claimed to have achieved certainties and realities, but have only delivered fragments. They cannot go without synthesis, yet cannot legitimize their right to it.
From its beginnings Greek philosophy linked itself to greatness, and also the miseries and limitations of the Greek city — slavery and the subordination of the individual to the Polis. Two thousand years later, Hegel declared the realization of philosophical rationality released by centuries of reflection and meditation, but in and by the State. How to get our of these quandaries? How to resolve contradictions? Industrial production has upset notions concerning the social capacity to act, to create anew, and to master material nature. Philosophy could no longer sustain its traditional mission, nor the philosopher his vocation, to define man, the human, society and the world while taking charge of the creation of man by his effort, his will, his struggle against determinisms and hazards. Science and the sciences, technology, the organization and rationalization of industry were coming onto the scene. Were 2,000 years of philosophy to go to the grave? No. Industry contributes new means but has no purpose or meaning in itself. it throws products into the world. Philosophy (with art and works of art), a supreme oeuvre, says what is appropriation, nor the technical mastery of material nature which produces products and exchange values. Therefore, the philosopher must speak, say the meaning of industrial production, as long as he does not speculate on it and use it as a theme to prolong the old manner of philosophizing. Instead he must take it as means of realizing philosophy, that is, the philosophical project of man in the world: desire and reason, spontaneity and reflection, vitality and containment, domination and appropriation, determinisms and liberties. Philosophy cannot realize itself without art (as model of appropriation of time and space), accomplishing itself fully in social practice and without science and technology, as means, not being fully used, without the proletarian condition being overcome.
This theoretical revolution begun by Marx was later obscured, industrial production, economic growth, organizational rationality, the consumption of products, becoming ends rather than means, subordinated to a superior end. Today, the realization of philosophy can take up again its meaning, that is, give a meaning as much to history as to actuality. The thread interrupted for a century is renewed. The theoretical situation is released and the gulf is filled between the total and the partial or fragmentary, between the uncertain whole and the all too certain fragments. From the moment that urban society reveals the meaning of industrialization, these concepts play a new role. Theoretical revolution continues and urban revolution (the revolutionary side of urban reform and urban strategy), comes to the fore. Theoretical revolution and political change go together.
Theoretical thought aims at the realization of humanity ocher than that of a society of low productivity (chat of the epochs of non-abundance, or rather, of the non-possibility of abundance), and that of a productivist society. In a society and an urban life delivered from its ancient limitations, those of rarity and economism, technologies, art and knowledge come to the service of daily life so as to metamorphose it. Thus can be defined the realization of philosophy. It is no longer a question of a philosophy of the city and of an historico-social philosophy alongside a science of the city. The realization of philosophy gives a meaning to the sciences of social reality. At the outset, it refutes the accusation of ‘sociologism’ which will no doubt be made against the hypotheses and theses expressed here. Neither philosophism, nor scienticism, nor pragmatism nor sociologism, nor psychologism, nor economism. Something else is proclaimed.
Theses on the City, the Urban and Planning
(1) Two groups of questions and two orders of urgency have disguised the problems of the city and urban society: questions of housing and the ‘habitat’ (related to a housing policy and architectural technologies) and those of industrial organization and global planning. The first from below, the second from above, have produced, hidden from attention, a rupture of the traditional morphology of cities, while the urbanization of society was taking place. Hence, a new contradiction adding to other unresolved contradictions of existing society, aggravating them and giving them another meaning.
(2) These two groups of problems have been and are posed by economic growth and industrial production. Practical experience shows that there can be growth without social development (that is, quantitative growth without qualitative development). In these conditions, changes in society are more apparent than real. ·Fetishism and ideology of change (in other words, the ideology of modernity) conceal the stagnation of essential social relations. The development of society can only be conceived in urban life, by the realization of urban society.
(3) The double process of industrialization and urbanization loses all meaning if one does not conceive urban society as aim and finality of industrialization, and if urban life is subordinated to industrial growth. The latter provides the conditions and the means of urban society. To proclaim industrial rationality as necessary and sufficient is to destroy the sense (the orientation, the goal) of the process. At first industrialization produces urbanization negatively (the breakup of the traditional city, of its morphology, of its practico-material reality) and then is ready to get down to work. Urban society begins on the ruins of the ancient city and its agrarian environment. During these changes, the relation between industrialization and urbanization is transformed. The city ceases to be the container the passive receptacle of products and of production. What subsists and is strengthened of urban reality in its dislocation, the centre of decision-making, henceforth enters into the means of production and the systems of exploitation of social labour by those who control information, culture and the powers of decision-making themselves. Only one theory enables the use of these practical facts and the effective realization of urban society.
(4) For this realization, neither the organization of private enterprise, nor global planning, although necessary, suffice. A leap forward of rationality is accomplished. Neither the State, nor private enterprise can provide indispensable models of rationality and reality.
(5) The realization of urban society calls for a planning oriented towards social needs, chose of urban society. It necessitates a science of the city (of relations and correlations in urban life). Although necessary, these conditions are not sufficient. A social and political force capable of putting these means into oeuvres is equally indispensable.
(6) The working class suffers the consequences of the rupture of ancient morphologies. It is victim of a segregation, a class strategy licensed by this rupture. Such is the present form of the negative situation of the proletariat. In the major industrial countries the old proletarian immiseration declines and tends to disappear. But a new misery spreads, which mainly affects the proletariat without sparing other social strata and classes: the poverty of the habitat that of the inhabitant submitted to a daily life organized (in and by a bureaucratized society of organized consumption). To those who would still doubt its existence as class, what identifies the working class on the ground is segregation and the misery of its ‘to inhabit’ .
(7) In these difficult conditions, at the heart of a society which cannot completely oppose them and yet obstructs them, rights which define civilization (in, but often against society — by, but often against culture) find their way. These rights which are not well recognized, progressively become customary before being inscribed into formalized codes. They would change reality if they entered into social practice: right to work, to training and education, to health, housing, leisure, to life. Among these rights in the making features the right to the city (not to the ancient city, but to urban life, to renewed centrality, to places of encounter and exchange, to life rhythms and time uses, enabling the full and complete usage of these moments and places, etc.). The proclamation and realization of urban life as the rule of use (of exchange and encounter disengaged from exchange value) insist on the mastery of the economic (of exchange value, the market, and commodities) and consequently is inscribed within the perspectives of the revolution under the hegemony of the working class.
(8) For the working class, rejected from the centres towards the peripheries, dispossessed of the city, expropriated thus from the best outcomes of its activity, this right has a particular bearing and significance. It represents for it at one and the same time a means and an end, a way and a horizon: but this virtual action of the working class also represents the general interests of civilization and the particular interests of all social groups of ‘inhabitants’, for whom integration and participation become obsessional without making their obsession effective.
(9) The revolutionary transformation of society has industrial production as ground and lever. This is why it had to be shown that the urban centre of decision-making can no longer consider itself in the present society (of neo-capitalism or of monopoly capilaism associated to the State), outside the means of production, their property and their management. Only the taking in charge by the working class of planning and its political agenda can profoundly modify social life and open another era: that of socialism in neo-capitalist countries. Until then transformations remain superficial, at the level of signs and the consumption of signs, language and metalanguage, a secondary discourse, a discourse on previous discourses. Therefore, it is not without reservations that one can speak of urban revolution. Nevertheless, the orientation of industrial production on social needs is not a secondary fact. The finality thus brought to plans transforms them. In this way urban reform has a revolutionary bearing. As in the twentieth century agrarian reform gradually disappears from the horizon, urban reform becomes a revolutionary reform. It gives rise to a strategy which opposes itself to class strategy dominant today.
(10) Only the proletariat can invest its social and political activity in the realization of urban society. Equally, only it can renew the meaning of productive and creative activity by destroying the ideology of consumption. It therefore has the capacity to produce a new humanism, different from the old liberal humanism which is ending its course — of urban man for whom and by whom the city and his own daily life in it become oeuvre, appropriation, use value (and not exchange value), by using all the means of science, art, technology and the domination over material nature.
(11) Nevertheless, difference persists between product and oeuvre. To the meaning of the production of products (of the scientific and technical mastery of material nature) must be added, to later predominate, the meaning of the oeuvre, of appropriation (of time, space, the body and desire). And this in and by urban society which is beginning. Now, the working class does not spontaneously have the sense of the oeuvre. It is dimmed, having almost disappeared along with crafts and skills and ‘quality’. Where can be found this precious deposit, this sense of the oeuvre? From where can the working class receive it to carry it to a superior degree by uniting it with productive intelligence and dialectic practical reason? Philosophy and the whole of philosophical tradition on one hand, and on the other all of art (not without a radical critique of their gifts and presents) contain the sense of the oeuvre.
(12) This calls for, apart from the economic and political revolution (planning oriented towards social needs and democratic control of the State and self-management), a permanent cultural revolution.
There is no incompatibility between these levels of total revolution, no more than between urban strategy (revolutionary reform aiming at the realization of urban society on the basis of an advanced and planned industrialization) and strategy aiming at the transformation of traditional peasant life by industrialization. Moreover in most countries today the realization of urban society goes through the agrarian form and industrialization. There is no doubt that a world front is possible, and equally that it is impossible today. This utopia projects as it often does on the horizon a ‘possible-impossible’. Happily, or otherwise, rime, that of history and social practice, differs from the time of philosophies. Even if it does not produce the irreversible, it can produce the difficult to repair. Marx wrote that humanity does not only ask itself problems that it can resolve. Some today believe chat men now only ask themselves insoluble problems. They deny reason. None the less, there are perhaps problems which are easy to resolve, whose solutions are near, very near, and that people do not ask themselves.
Paris 1967 — centenary of Capital