Social Engineering

The Continuity of Place

From the Socially Engineered City to the Global City

René Boomkens

January 1, 2008essay,

René Boomkens argues that the contemporary city transcends national social engineering. The city is being confronted by the unpredictable logic of a transnational publicness. Neither the marketing nor the politicization of the use of the city are adequate to deal with this. What is required is a phenomenology of the urban experience that does justice to the everyday and the unspectacular.

Whereas the city was once the basis for architecture, it now seems to have degenerated into a waste product and backdrop. ZUS (Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman)

Twenty years ago, the city was rediscovered, by administrators, by scientists, by architects, by project developers and finally by activists, or to put it a better way, by active city dwellers. Not that no thought was given to the city before the late 1980s, and certainly not that our cities were not radically renovated and altered. What was rediscovered was what makes a city urban. Idealists would call it the essence of the city; pragmatists would talk about the historical specificity of the city – but that is irrelevant here. After all, what makes cities urban is inevitably derived from an ideal type, which itself refers to very specific exemplary situations. The ideal type of an urban lifestyle and culture is that of an open, diverse and concentrated ('dense') lifestyle, which forms the social foundation for contemporary democracy. The rediscovery of the city was, more specifically, renewed attention to typically urban places. The traditional functionalist discourse that had set the tone for decades both in politics and in spatial disciplines such as planning, geography and urbanism gradually made way for a more culturalist discourse in which anthropologists, historians, cultural geographers and philosophers played, and continue to play, an important role. Not surprisingly, this fresh attention to urbanity sometimes resonated with a culturally pessimistic undertone, a lament about the disintegration of a certain kind of urbanity. Five writers were often put forward to feed this cultural pessimism. In historical order, these were philosopher Hannah Arendt, who was cited as the champion of the idea of the polis; philosopher Jürgen Habermas, who in the early 1960s had warned about the decline of typically urban publicness; planning critic Jane Jacobs, who during the same period had warned about bureaucrats and planners who threatened the urban idyll of New York's Greenwich Village; cultural sociologist Richard Sennett, who in the mid-1970s saw the public urban life that had once flourished in cities like London and Paris in the eighteenth century withering under the influence of suburbanization and the 'tyranny of intimacy' emanating from the new mass medium of television; and finally the political scientist Marshall Berman, who saw the vitality of the modern, nineteenth-century city street being murdered by twentieth-century project developers following in the footsteps of Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse.1

It is not very difficult to paint these writers as nostalgists who were glorifying these obsolete forms of urbanity and publicness, from the agora of Ancient Greece via the salons and coffeehouses of the eighteenth century or the boulevards and arcades of the nineteenth. And this was in fact done repeatedly, but at the cost of the realization that these authors were also the forerunners of another rediscovery: that of a trend in political philosophy that had been abandoned, that of republicanism, with its great emphasis on active citizenship.2 In short, with the rediscovery of the urban place and urban publicness, the republican in the form of the active, outspoken citizen and urban dweller was also rediscovered. This rediscovery, however, was mainly an academic phenomenon, limited to intense debates among colleagues in political theory, historiography and philosophy, which found little resonance in the public debate itself. Or it would have to be that in the 1990s such themes as citizenship and the sense of civic responsibility came into vogue again for the first time in decades and were not immediately associated with bigotry or moral censorship. And indeed, this renewed academic interest for republicanism and the renewed public appreciation for 'the citizen' did have something in common, even if the academics emphasized mainly the freedom of the citizen or republican while in the public debate, on the contrary, all sorts of demands were made of the citizen and all manner of gradations of citizenship even emerged. What the academic and the public discourses shared was a defence of the value of citizenship, a value that took on the guise of a virtue, or as philosopher Michel Foucault called it, an ethos. In less spectacular terms: a certain 'lifestyle' or 'way of doing things'.3 

This new republicanism thereby nestled as a sort of third way between the two dominant political discourses of the twentieth century, that of socialism (social democracy and communism) and that of liberalism (including various conservative parties that in practice differed little from liberalism). Until recently, socialism and liberalism were considered the two main ideological antagonists – the two absolutely opposite interpretations of the Enlightenment ideal of liberty or emancipation. The opposition between liberalism and socialism in fact dominated the global and most national agendas in the twentieth century, in particular the contrast between individual and collective and between market and government, and in a way that concealed the fact that both movements essentially shared a rationalist ideal of social engineering. The liberal ideal of social engineering is grounded in an optimistic faith in the perfectibility of the individual, as long as the individual is given the freedom over his or her person and property, while the socialist ideal of social engineering places every emphasis on the capacity of the state or the government, on behalf of the collective, to distribute national wealth as justly as possible. As the ideological dichotomy of market and government is being artificially maintained, even as by now virtually all socialists have become liberals of a sort while the vast majority of liberals, diehards included, have in practice accepted various forms of government interference and government protectionism, the fact that the actual problem lies in the rationalist ideal of social engineering itself remains invisible. The ethos of the republican provides no solution to this problem (it would result in a third variant of the ideal of social engineering) but it does offer a possible way out, both from the obsolete government-market dilemma and from the trap of social engineering, the trap of the 'extreme make-over' presented by liberal and socialist ideologues time and time again. This way out can be very accurately illustrated by what I referred to above as the problem of the urban place, a place that, certainly in the Netherlands, bears the stamp of more than half a century of government interventions and that has been increasingly subjected to the 'discipline of the market' over the last two decades.

As I indicated above, this rediscovery of the urban place in fact involved a rediscovery of urbanity, in particular understood as urban publicness. We should consider the articulation of this urban publicness the permanent challenge of a modern and pragmatic republicanism that transcends the traditional pseudo-conflict between market and government. Publicness is anything but a simple product, or even a feature, of market operations, nor is it a unilateral function of the way a city is organized. In the last several years, cities and urban places have been increasingly subjected to a discourse that mainly understands (and subsequently reorganizes) these places as places of consumption. In this discourse, the city is understood as a (regional, national or global) stage for the experience economy, and successful urban places as the ideal facilitators of this economy. In the rest of this text I will argue that this discourse of consumption of urban places represents a step forward in comparison to the functionalism that was so characteristic of modernist urbanism and planning, because it provides more room for what I shall call 'the use' of urban places, a perspective that understands urbanity, first and foremost, as a specific way to experience, as opposed to a spatial organizational pattern or a system with certain explicit functions. This step forward, however, is often cancelled out by viewing the consumption of urban places unilaterally as being determined by market operations alone.

The Socially Engineered City as a National Project

The rich tradition of the Netherlands in the area of urban development and urban planning is summed up in fiveNotas Ruimtelijke Ordening (National Policy Documents on Spatial Planning) and in a whole series of technical terms that have since become part of everyday Dutch speech, such as groeikernen ('growth cores'), woonerven ('home zones') and even the cryptic vinex-wijken ('vinex neighbourhoods'), the residents of which probably have no idea that this term refers to the Vierde Nota Ruimtelijke Ordening-Extra (Fourth National Policy Document on Spatial Planning-Extra). Everyday Dutch also features a whole series of more negative or denigrating terms that place this rich tradition of urbanism in a somewhat different light: bloemkoolwijken ('cauliflower districts'), slaapsteden ('dormitory suburbs') or witte schimmel ('white fungus'), while terms like overloopgebieden ('overflow areas'), stedelijke velden ('urban fields'), de compacte stad ('the compact city') and gebundelde deconcentratie ('bundled deconcentration') roll off the average city administrator's tongue. Both the rich variety and the expansion of planning terminology reflect the self-evident presence, even dominance of a long-term, consistent policy of spatial and urban planning, starting in the early twentieth century and especially and with even greater emphasis from the period of reconstruction following the Second World War. The socially engineered city, mainly a social project before the war, became a genuinely national project after the war, and seemed to be a self-evident part of a whole series of grand 'national projects', like the impoldering of the Zuiderzee and the Delta Project. Marshall Berman pointed out that in the usa too, the large-scale post-war city expansions and the construction of a new network of highways and parkways, projects that in many cases implicated the demolition of whole city districts, were applauded by residents themselves as an essential modernization. Just as in the Netherlands, Americans perceived this 'extreme make-over' of their cities as part of a great step forward, as the beginning of a new, more prosperous life in a brand-new urban environment. The engine of this future-oriented and optimistic transformation process was of course the automobile, which signified not merely ordinary mobility but primarily social upward mobility as well. Whereas the explosion of spatial and social mobility in the usa resulted in an unbridled suburbanization directed mainly by the market sector, the various National Policy Documents on Spatial Planning in the Netherlands seemed to be the government's attempts to regulate and even limit this process here.

This regulation and limitation were particularly expressed in the ideal of a 'compact city', which was also a trend that seemed to break with the modernist doctrine of the separation of functions, in which the purely analytical distinction between the four functions of habitation, work, recreation and traffic was actually translated into a spatial segregation of these functions. Both the increase in scale of the urban area and increased mobility, as well as the increasingly manifest issue of the environment, seemed to confirm the benefit of this separation of functions, and as a result not much of this compact city was actually realized. Arguments in favour of 'densification' (striving for a high building density), of mixing of functions and of a greater role for public transport, which together were supposed to make this compact city possible, in fact increasingly petered out in the face of the reality of the neoliberal policy of the government in the 1980s, in which privatization and deregulation were supposed to reduce the rising costs of the welfare state (that jewel of the ideal of social engineering). And it was precisely at this moment that interest in the urban place and urban publicness, with which I opened this text, revived. As I have already indicated to some extent, this interest, to a not insignificant degree, was a reaction to several decades of centralized urban development and spatial planning, a reaction especially to the unintended side effects of the separation of functions – according to some even a frontal assault on the separation of functions as such. Yet it was certainly more than that. The renewed interest in urbanity and publicness was the product of a rather ambiguous situation, in which divergent processes crisscrossed one another, processes that sometimes reinforced one another and sometimes worked against one another. Within this wave of interest the following processes and tendencies resonated:

  • the stubborn continuity of striving towards a compact city;
  • a national government in a process of retrenchment, particularly in the domain of spatial planning and public housing;
  • the complex of globalization processes (liberalization of the world economy, increased labour migration, the rise of a network of 'global cities')
  • the process of 'delocalization' or 'deterritorialization' under the influence of new information and communication media;
  • the rise of a global 'experience economy' (mass tourism, global mass media)
  • the transformation of nation-states, national identities and national forms of citizenship.

Several of these processes overlap, but each represents real problems, or 'challenges', as they are called in neoliberal jargon, that are primarily reflected in the dynamics of urban reality. The most manifest and far-reaching consequence of this mishmash of process is the decline of the socially engineered city as a national political project, which was expressed, among other things, in the reception accorded to the final, fifth National Policy Document on Spatial Planning: it was considered obsolete before the ink was even dry . ..

The Use of the City

In several previous publications, partly following writers I have mentioned above4and partly in an attempt to develop a historical phenomenology of the urban experience and the urban place,5 I have argued that publicness cannot be seen as a function of the modern city that can be isolated, and that, by extension, the urban public space cannot be seen as a functional zone, as was the norm in the modernist doctrine of the separation of functions. The ideal of the socially engineered city was not only based on the idea of the four fundamental functions of the city, but in addition on a form of spatial determinism as an instrument of policy. Even in the current 'approach' of the so-called Vogelaarwijken ('Vogelaar areas', after Housing Minister Ella Vogelaar) or aandachtwijken ('attention areas') or prachtwijken ('gem areas'), this spatial determinism still operates. Spatial determinism assumes that it is possible to conduct social policy through spatial interventions. This was (almost self-evidently) the basis of modernist policy in the area of urban development and spatial planning at the time of the post-war construction of the welfare state: the light, air and greenery of the Bijlmermeer were supposed to make a 'new human being' possible. Every spatial intervention was assigned a label, as it were, noting its social functionality. But while the construction of a ring motorway displaced the pressure of mobility from the inner city to its outskirts and in this way had a positive impact on the traffic function of the city as a whole as well as on the habitation function of the inner city, the construction of a square does not lead in a comparable way to the reinforcement of urban publicness. Publicness is not an explicit function, but an implicit or indirect function, or to put it a better way, a transcendent quality of the particular use that is made of the urban space. It becomes manifest in and through that use, but it cannot be reduced to that use in the form of a simple causal relationship. Incidentally, this also applies to at least one of the four classic urban functions, habitation. Whereas for the other three functions, traffic, work and recreation, it can still be predicted to a certain degree that their realization coincides with their functionality, the same cannot be said of habitation. Accommodation or housing fits into a functionalist programme, habitation or liveability fall outside it. Habitation and publicness belong to an entirely different vocabulary – and here I deliberately use the term 'vocabulary' instead of 'discourse', because the latter term refers to an explicitly ordered and regulated way of speaking and acting, while 'vocabulary' belongs more to the world of the (everyday) use and (everyday) experience of urbanity and urban places. There is no discourse of habitation, and one can barely speak of any discourse of urban publicness. Both, as transcendent qualities (or 'implicit functions'), belong to the domain of a phenomenology that interprets phenomena based on the attitude we adopt toward these phenomena in our everyday actions (or 'use'). Habitation and publicness require a historical and political phenomenology, because their experience can be called anything but an anthropological constant; they are permanently and even increasingly subject to historical transformations and discontinuities and to political and administrative interventions. In the work of such philosophers as Walter Benjamin and Henri Lefebvre and of a historian and anthropologist such as Michel de Certeau, we can distinguish the contours of a historical phenomenology of the urban experience and of the meaning of urban places or urban publicness.6 For a political phenomenology of urban publicness and of the current condition of the urban dweller, or the citizen, historical references are lacking. In the work of contemporary anthropologists such as Jesús Martín-Barbero, Nestor García Canclini and Arjun Appadurai or a philosopher such as Gijs van Oenen, however, initial steps towards such a political phenomenology of publicness and citizenship can be found.

An implicit part of the ideal of the social engineering of liberal and socialist theories and ideologies is the assumption that everyday social existence, in and of itself, is an inert and passive quantity, and that science (the accumulation of knowledge) and politics (the rational exercise of power) are the active forces that bring about historical change and therefore can be held responsible for the legitimacy of this change. Benjamin, Lefebvre and De Certeau were the first to show that the meaning of a new technology, a new insight or a new political measure is not contained in the internal rationality of that technology, that insight or that measure, but is determined to a significant degree by the use made of it in everyday life. That use, in other words, remains outside the internal logic of the technology or measure in question. Or, conversely: the meaning of a new technology depends to a large extent on the way in which users of this technology 'appropriate' it. Yet in this very appropriation the user of the new technology simultaneously transforms his or her own perceptual environment. This insight is ideally suited to shed new – if rather stroboscopic – light on the use of the city.

The use of the city has emphatically extricated itself from the suffocating embrace of national social engineering and has become, more than ever, the object or work domain of a global distribution of images, messages and information. Imagination as such represents a new force in social existence: 'fantasy is now a social practice; it enters, in a host of ways, into the fabrication of social lives for many people in many societies.'7 This is according to Arjun Appadurai, who with this aims to point out that the urban place or urban publicness features more than three dimensions: it is also fashioned by the fourth dimension of delocalized media space that has gradually taken on global forms. Thanks to this 'fourth dimension' the urban place and the public space acquire a supranational or transnational dynamic, which is not only supported by the global network of new and newer media, but is also reflected in that public space itself. It becomes visible in the way in which international fashion trends define the streetscape of cities, but also in a hodgepodge of clothing styles, languages and customs introduced by labour migrants or asylum seekers. The transnational character of urban publicness is also reflected in the distribution of international retail and restaurant chains and in a shadow economy, again supported by migrants, and finally by international show architecture inspired by 'city branding'. Latin American writers such as Martín-Barbero and García Canclini consider the transnationalization of the public sphere and of citizenship as the political dimension of the success of neoliberal economic globalization, the earliest and sharpest effects of which were felt in Latin America, with its weak nation-states: they describe transnationalization as a complex and contradictory narrative that was primarily developed by private, commercial mass media, especially television. García Canclini: 'Men and women increasingly feel that many of the questions proper to citizenship – where do I belong, what rights accrue to me, how can I get information, who represents my interests? – are being answered in the private realm of commodity consumption and the mass media more than in the abstract rules of democracy or collective participation in public spaces.'8

If we understand the use of modern urban places as the spatial reflection of public life – and therefore as the basis for the functioning of modern democracies – this trans­ nationalization of the way in which citizenship takes shape necessitates a reformulation of the meaning and the nature of modern urbanity. It no longer makes sense to view urban publicness as an autonomous sphere of disinterested intellectual and cultural exchange and confrontation, explicitly separate from the private sphere, and citizenship as something separate from (cultural) consumption that maintains a unilateral relationship with the national state and politics. For several decades now, the use of the city has been the work of a new, hybrid subject, the consumer-citizen, whose political and cultural attitudes and behaviours are explicitly influenced by the global technological reproduction of the popular imagination. In essence, this new condition or urban publicness reaffirms the traditional 'republican' analyses à la Arendt, Habermas or Sennett, which speak of a 'contamination' of public action by private interests (Arendt), of the monopolization of the public domain by multinational cartels (Habermas) or of the 'intimization' of the substance of the public sphere (Sennett). The analyses of such writers as García Canclini or Appadurai corroborate similar processes, but they offer an alternative diagnosis. What they, in a certain sense, make implicitly – and sometimes explicitly – visible is that the negative judgment expressed by Arendt, Habermas and Sennett about the state of publicness comes out of a unilateral interpretation of what I have heretofore called 'the use of urban places' or 'the use of the public domain'. This unilateralism is to a significant degree the product of an ahistorical magnification or reification of the model situations that form the background to their ideal type of publicness. Distance and deliberation are the crucial concepts that form the core of the public sphere for Sennett and Habermas, respectively. Sennett saw distance as the core of the theatrical character of the early-bourgeois public life in the coffeehouses, a distance that was required in that period of history in order to exclude, as it were, during the encounter in the coffeehouse, the actual social (class and urban) differences among individuals, but also their then highly significant religious differences. In the public sphere, in other words, one plays a role, for the duration of the encounter or confrontation, because all too significant social or ideological differences would already be too much of a burden for public life. This seems to confuse the general form of urban publicness with its historically specific content. The fact that public life, requires playing a role, a certain theatricality, which would be perceived as disruptive in the private domain, does not mean that this role is expected to avoid contents that would be crucial in the private sphere. This was a crucial code for the eighteenth-century public sphere, but in a society in which class differences and religious convictions play a less decisive role, such a code loses its significance. The Gay Parade that takes place annually on and along Amsterdam's canals is a good example: an extremely theatrical event and an example of public action par excellence, and at the same time, in terms of content, a display of extremely private, even intimate preferences, practices and attitudes. In the same way, Habermas's identification of public action and of the public space with deliberation suffers from the magnification of an early-bourgeois culture of civilized salon conversations in which erudition was the quintessential social standard. The contemporary, transnational use of the city as a quintessential form of public action, in part shaped by global mass media, can no longer be judged in terms of distance or deliberation alone.

Between Continuity and Struggle

The contemporary use of the city transcends national social engineering but now faces a new and demanding monster: that of the intangible and paradoxical global imagination that has become the fourth dimension of the urban place. Rather than the instrumental rationality of an overly optimistic and clinical national planning compulsion, the unpredictable 'logic' (or the 'new disorder') of a transnational publicness has become the stake of the struggle for political and cultural hegemony. In comparison with the traditional national political game, we are dealing here with an unprecedented and as yet barely theoretically processed problem, that is still so 'open' that even post-political answers are conceivable. The classical republican discourse notwithstanding, urban places are not places of intensified debate, but primarily places of intensified cohabitation and conjunction of differences. This intensification defines the ethical and aesthetic quality of urbanity, which transcends any form of political social engineering and in a certain sense renders it redundant. The most beautiful dream of modernity was the dream of a world without a state, without politics. The perversions of this dream shaped the last century: liberalism, which championed the market, or property – with extreme exploitation and inequality as a result, and communism, which suggested that 'the people' could take the place of the state – with totalitarianism as a result. Somewhere between market and state, the city represents something like a concrete utopia of an open society that actually never fell prey to universalizing ideologies – simply because it already existed. The city has proven itself in the everyday use that has been made of it. That 'everyday use' of the city, which was the focus of the work of Benjamin and Lefebvre in particular, and which in the Netherlands was charted in more detail by such diverse anthropologists and urban sociologists as Talja Bolkland and Arnold Reijndorp,9 among others, forms the model situation for our vision of democracy and of what, in our view, comes close to a decent society. Here I am very deliberately opting for a cautious and modest terminology, precisely to steer clear of two temptations: first and foremost the temptation of the triumphalism of market philosophy and its 'creative cities' that will change everything, a triumphalism effectively rebutted in various publications by Mike Davis, such as Planet of Slums and Evil Paradises.10 But the temptation of the other extreme also has to be resisted: that of the automatic pilot of 'resistance' or 'struggle'. We find that automatism especially in the almost religiously revolutionary books of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, or in Dieter Lesage's Discourse on Resistance, which leans heavily on Hardt and Negri.11 Marketization and politicization of the use of the city both fail to do justice to the wealth and the power of precisely the everyday character and of the unspectacular continuity of the use we as consumer-citizens make of that city. Before intellectuals like Negri or Lesage can claim the necessity of resistance or struggle, an interpretation is required of the way in which all these consumer-citizens shape the continuity of urban publicness on a daily basis – and it is precisely this everyday aspect that is lacking in their 'discourses on resistance'. These discourses still rely too much on the idea of a frontal confrontation with 'power' and on a self-aware, rational citizenship – whatever the simultaneous emphasis placed on the fact that the centre of power of the empire cannot be located. The present consumer-citizen, however, looks entirely different; he or she derives his or her self-image from the global circulation and distribution of images and messages in the mass media. At any rate, he or she perceives his or her own public presentation in his or her own urban habitat through these images and messages. What this precisely means is not easy to answer. A challenging, albeit very impudent interpretation of contemporary citizenship was provided by philosopher Gijs van Oenen, who contrasted the classical 'interactivity' of the republican citizen with what he calls the 'interpassivity' of contemporary citizenship: 'The attempt to rehabilitate "public man" collides with a phenomenon that I refer to as interpassivity, following cultural philosophers Robert Pfaller and Slavoj Zizek. Involvement or engagement is delegated, outsourced. We would like to get involved, but we no longer believe that we can; therefore we ask others to get involved, on our behalf.'12

As a phenomenology of today's citizenship and of contemporary collective life in an urban environment, Van Oenen presents a whole series of persuasive examples of this 'interpassivity', examples that, without exception, make it crystal-clear to us that the self-aware and outspoken citizenship that was traditionally associated with public life in democratic societies is definitively a thing of the past. Van Oenen provides no clear explanation, however, of this interpassivity. References to the mediatization of our lives and to the flexibilization of the labour process place Van Oenen's interpassivity in the line of the traditional Marxist doctrine of alienation, but the whole idea of the outsourcing of involvement also alludes, unintentionally, to concepts like simulacrum and hyperreality, used by French sociologist Jean Baudrillard to come to grips with a social reality mediatized in a multitude of ways. And indeed, what Van Oenen and Baudrillard share is not the explanatory power of their arguments, but the evocative and robust magnification of diverse crucial dimensions of our everyday habitat. In that sense, the notion of 'interpassivity' is a brilliant invention. It expresses and represents our everyday experience as consumer-citizens who, through various media, feel extremely connected to the tribulations of the world – in fact feel compelled to feel connected, which in a certain sense is a reaffirmation of a traditional republican virtue – yet at the same instant 'outsources' that involvement to others, to a charitable organization, a media event or a 'campaign' in which the consumer-citizen need not participate in person, because this 'campaign' has already been organized and stage-managed.

Interpassivity and mega-involvement: wonderful terms that perfectly express the fate of the contemporary urban dweller and citizen. They raise significant doubts about the potential for resistance that Hardt and Negri, or Lesage presume of the citizen and about any excessively optimistic vision of the social engineering of society, but in no way do they refute the possibility of expressing and if necessary dramatizing the continuity of a local imagination, or the dream of a very specific, very particular urbanity. Interpassive citizens indeed hardly look like the dreamed subjects of modernity Habermas had in mind, but we should not blame citizens for that. If we had a complaint, it would be directed at the endless revival performance of the stage play of social engineering, this time less aimed at the social-democratic champions of the welfare state but rather at the neoliberal champions of the win-win situation, of the unbridled flexibility of human beings as factors in an otherwise unpredictable and global economic success story. There is little to counter that story – only the continuity of our own urban place, and that is indeed constantly under pressure and at risk.

1. See, among others, Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958); Jürgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (Frankfurt a/Main: Suhrkamp, 1990 (1962); Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1961); Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977); Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (London: Verso, 1982).

2. Republicanism rooted in, among other things, the political philosophy work of Machiavelli and Rousseau, was revived by the ideas of Hannah Arendt (especially in her On Revolution, New York: Viking Press, 1983), which also filtered through into the philosophical work of Habermas and the cultural sociology of Sennett. The renewed interest in Arendt’s work dates back to the 1980s, when philosophers such as Michael Walzer (Spheres of Justice, New York: Basic Books, 1983) and Richard Rorty (Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1989) rehabilitated republicanism. Republicanism sees the state as a res publica, something that concerns all citizens. Freedom is not, as in liberalism, something that people win from the state, but something that instead only comes about by taking part in politics. In classical liberalism, equality is the premise for political participation; in republicanism, equality is the result of political participation. See also Gijs van Oenen, ‘Over liberalisme, republicanisme en communitarisme’, Krisis, tijdschrift voor filosofie, no. 31, June 1988, theme issue on republican politics: on passion, schemes and theatre, 7-26.

3. Michel Foucault, Breekbare vrijheid. De politieke ethiek van de zorg voor zichzelf (Fragile Freedom: Political Ethics of the Care of the Self) (Amsterdam: Krisis/Parrèsia, 1995).

4. In particular Jane Jacobs, Richard Sennett and Marshall Berman. See René Boomkens, Een drempelwereld. Moderne ervaring en stedelijke openbaarheid (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 1998).

5. Here, too, I built on the work of others, in particular the philosophers Walter Benjamin and Gaston Bachelard. See René Boomkens, De nieuwe wanorde. Globalisering en het einde van de maakbare samenleving (Amsterdam: Van Gennep, 2006), 47-108.

6. See in particular Walter Benjamin, Das Passagen-Werk (Frankfurt a/Main: Suhrkamp, 1982); Henri Lefebvre, Le droit à la ville (Paris: Éditions Anthropos, 1968); Henri Lefebvre, The Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 3 (London/New York: Verso, 2005); Michel de Certeau, L’invention du quotidien, I. Arts de faire (Paris: Union générale d’éditions, 10/18, 1980).

7. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 53-54.

8. Nestor García Canclini, Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts (Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 15. See also Jésus Martín-Barbero, Communication, Culture and Hegemony (London/Newbury Park/New Delhi: sage, 1987).

9. See, among others,
Arnold Reijndorp, Stads­wijk. Stedenbouw en dagelijks leven (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004); Talja Blokland-Potters, Wat stadsbewoners bindt. Sociale relaties in een achterstandswijk (Kampen: Kok Agora, 1998).

10. Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (London/New York: Verso, 2006); Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk (eds.), Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of NeoLiberalism (New York/London:
The New Press, 2007).

11. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Amsterdam, Van Gennep, 2002); Dieter Lesage, Vertoog over verzet. Politiek in tijden van globalisering (Antwerp/Amsterdam: Meulenhoff/Manteau, 2004).

12. Gijs van Oenen, ‘Het nieuwe veiligdom. De interpassieve transformatie van de publieke sfeer’, Open, 2004, no. 6, 7.

René Boomkens is a professor of social and cultural philosophy at the University of Groningen (RUG). His books include Een Drempelwereld. Moderne ervaring en stedelijke openbaarheid (1998) and De nieuwe wanorde. Globalisering en het einde van de maakbare samenleving (2006).