On Fighting Against Hegemonic Urban Development

BayOfRage reveals infrastructure and redevelopment projects in Oakland (and beyond) as a means of reshaping cities for social control:

Further development will not open space for meaningful social activity and will only constrict it — In the slew of development projects coming down the pipe, residents will be free to consume, travel to and from work, or stay inside to not bother anyone.

Mistakes in architecture will never be repeated in future developments. The UC system learned the danger in building large plazas where dissident students could gather during the free speech movement at Berkeley. University of California campuses built since the sixties are subdivided into a number to smaller campuses, to better contain and neutralize student revolt. Housing projects are built to make the space transparent and easily surveillable, often by the administrators of social services. Likewise, we can be entirely sure that the city of Oakland will never allow the construction of another space like Oscar Grant Plaza, where thousands of people were able to gather, meet their needs and organize an assault against capitalism.

Development, on its own, is only the evolution and transformation of the metropolis: The adaptation of the city to its present circumstances. This evolution is often predicated on facilitating new techniques of control and policing. That is to say, behind the smokescreen of politics, power is every day being consolidated, the production and reproduction of life is being controlled in the physical space of the city. New neighborhoods are being built to be better policed. Narrow pedestrian walkways and alleys are being replaced by wide paths for wheelchair access, yes, but also for police vehicles. Broad boulevards and gridded neighborhoods exist to simplify and reduce traffic congestion, yes, but also to mitigate potential urban uprisings.

As the entire physical space of the metropolis is constructed to reproduce a certain set of relations (capitalist, patriarchal, alienated), the entirety must be destroyed or subverted. In other places in the world, social antagonists have understood the need to attack infrastructural projects.

NO TAV activists in Italy have been opposing the development of a high-speed rail line since the mid-90′s. In Canada, indigenous communities have responded to attacks on their autonomy with rail line and highway blockades. More recently, in Greece, the opposition to a garbage dump in Keratea that was mandated by the IMF did much to destabilize the economy in that country. Current anti-colonial struggles reveal the same set of practices. The Afghan War Logs released by Pfc. B. Manning show a strong pattern of infrastructural sabotage by insurgents in Afghanistan, primarily of transmission towers and oil pipelines. The question to pose locally: How can we shift a narrative of struggle against gentrification to one of attack against development, and how can we expand that struggle to take on anti-infrastructural dimensions?

By focusing on the material situation in the city, we can direct our attacks against the apparatuses that reproduce society. The power to reproduce the misery of society is exchanged in the material realm, not in politics. The success of anti-infrastructural projects is that they actually disrupt the spread and strengthening of empire, rather than engaging on a spectacular level.

4 Comments on "On Fighting Against Hegemonic Urban Development"

  1. Interesting discussion and I think that one that needs to be brought into the public sphere more openly. I have long argued how the removal of sidewalks and walkable spaces have helped increase obesity rates and lowered overall health.
    People generally accept their environment until it becomes unbearable. Since most humans live in their cars essentially, traffic is their main concern. There is a local intersection that has like 8 roads coming into it and it is dangerous and people are complaining, yet they rarely complain about the lack of public space, parks whatever. Why?
    There was a recent renovation of a fairly average looking park on our local college campus. When they renovated they ripped up the large lawn area that was surrounded by large trees and instead made this geometric monstrosity that has multiple sidewalks that are just straight diagonal lights that randomly travel and converge to other points but it isn’t attractive and much is repetative. THe grassy areas are seriously diminished and definately are NOT designed for humans to play on, lay on congregate whatever. In fact, many of the sidewalks are lined on both sides by dangerously sloping hills that are planted with ivy like plants. There is no guardrails so if you trip you could find yourself rolling down a steep incline and break your neck. The entire campus is designed with this horrible landscaping. It makes the human pedestrian feel dizzy and unsure of, you certainly do not feel safe and I htink this is done on purpose. It is unpleasant.
    I am so tired of this social control development. It is menacing. People need to wake up and take back their spaces and quit allowing such manipulation.
    I will say, however, that not all is horrible. There was a very old park in our city in front of our Orchestral hall. There was a community pool and lots of old trees. Recently it was renovated and there was much controversy because it was redesigned, the trees and pools were removed, but the main complaint/controversy was over the lower income residents that used the park… unfortunately the reality was that there was a lot of homeless people and drug and prostitution in the park. It was not a safe or pleasant place for the public at large. Now, it is apprently more friendly for the general public and people actually enjoy the park now. So not all is bad design. I know that some were complaining that it dislocated the homeless and was somehow an attack on the poor, yet if you have homeless and drug dealers.. figure out better ways to deal with that problem than worrying about dislocating them.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Oct 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm |

    > By focusing on the material situation in the city, we can direct our attacks against the apparatuses that reproduce society.

    the main weapon of attack against the system
    is a sustainable lifestyle
    and that is difficult do in a city

    rural sustainability pioneers
    Jean Pain, Sep Holzer, Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Molison, et al
    have shown how it ‘s possible to live very well in a sustainable environment

    if you want to
    direct your attacks against the apparatuses that reproduce society
    leave the city and start creating a sustainable environment

  3. -nightman- | Oct 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm |

    this article has its merits, but unfortunately based on ideaological rhetoric and nothing else. It is severely misguided by the mere indication of race as an issue, while not taking the critical step of realizing the fallacy of the racism victim complex, as well as the lack of sense of ones own philosophical and ideological exclusion of the culture of misinformation concerning rasicm, especially as a method of control in society. This article is riddled with misconceptions about everything, then demands action based on no evidence or even the slightest indication of a formulated plan of action. This is simpley a misguided rage against the real issue: U.N. Agenda 21, MAPS 21, and cronie Sustainable Developement economic monopolism; the irony is that this is a leftist leaning article and movement against capitalist control, yet these are leftist or “liberal” agendas, but still based on the age old methods of control used by kings and theocrats for millenia. do not forget that capitalism is an econimic ideology, not a political ideology. thanks.

  4. Mankind is capable of manipulating their environment. The question is can we change the environment for the better or for EVIL? That is the struggle.
    Those with money, people and FORCE (to back up intentions) can acheive this.

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