On The Consumerist Order Of The New City

cityNew Left Project describes the reshaping of the meaning and rules of our cities:

The commercialisation of the urban landscape has resulted in the privatisation of public space. As manufacturing industries have diminished and the consumer and service economy has grown, the places we inhabit have radically changed. As city centres have become tributes to consumption, private interests have permeated these spaces. Although these places hold the semblance of being “public”, they are owned by corporate interests and are therefore under private control and not accountable to the public.

The quasi-public space of the commercial city centre is unwelcoming for a growing number of citizens. Non-consumers, such as the homeless, the unemployed, the poor, the young and the old are branded as ‘others’ to the hegemonic consumer order. The right to the city is increasingly a privilege for those with the material and cultural capital to consume. The quest for clean and sanitized space has meant that ‘out of place’ individuals who fail to match up to a highly circumscribed model of ‘consumer citizenship’ are hidden from view.

City centres and shopping centres frequently forbid or discourage non-consuming activities, such as busking, skateboarding, political gatherings, musical performances or any other ungovernable, impromptu behaviour. In Liverpool city centre, they are only allowed to play two hour slots in council designated areas and must apply for a license and photo ID. Even in Camden, a place associated with music and its vibrant street-life, the council has introduced restrictive terms and conditions.

Across urban centres, the privatisation of public space has been reinforced by private security personnel and CCTV cameras which observe the movement of citizens. The architectural design and panoptican-style of many shopping centres also means shoppers can be observed from all angles. The largest shopping centre company Westfield, which has 91 centres across the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand tends to build its centres with an open gallery design. The combination of exposed escalators, glass lifts, 24-hour security personnel, CCTV cameras and the lack of small walkways means there are no places were visitors cannot be observed by the unrelenting gaze of surveillance. What’s more, Westfield in Australia have gone even further and implemented biometric surveillance measures.

8 Comments on "On The Consumerist Order Of The New City"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Mar 2, 2014 at 10:55 am |

    More evidence that They Live! was more or less prophetic.

  2. Adam Cornell | Mar 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm |

    Reject Riba.

    • Rhoid Rager | Mar 2, 2014 at 11:16 pm |

      I don’t think it is useful to use the Islamic reference, though. It would put people off of what can easily be framed as (also) a secular problem. The implications of usury can be just easily understood along thermodynamic lines as religious ones.

      • Adam Cornell | Mar 3, 2014 at 7:39 pm |

        There are over a billion muslims in the world. Lending at interest, bribing authorities to seek unfair advantages in trade, among other malicious economic behavior, is identified, correctly, as damnable in the Qur’an.
        If there are a billion secular beings in this world who understand thermodynamics well enough to know why servicing a dead/non-existent past through debt slavery is wasted energy, or why rent-seeking behavior is so toxic for the human system, and the individuals themselves, and can communicate that understanding fluently, then so be it. They would be fools to ignore the common ethical ground such an understanding would create between themselves, and Islam. Unless of course, one, having understood the implications of usury, intends to join in on the fraud.
        Surely, wisdom dictates that all peoples ought to correct those behaviors they can agree, regardless of rubric of thought, or creed, are destructive.
        Riba is destructive for most.living creatures on this planet, human or otherwise.

        • Rhoid Rager | Mar 3, 2014 at 8:25 pm |

          You argue your point well. And I agree that commonality needs to be sought. Indeed, Jesus drove the usurers from the temple by force, but that lesson is not popular with modern Christians. Usury is an ancient taboo that has been mitigated through modern indoctrinating means, such as Webster’s Dictionary, to become known as the ‘excessive charging of interest’. This double-speak misses the point completely of why usury is wrong.

          It’s my belief that commonality can be reached through thermodynamics, because it is an intuitive field. Part of the maturation process of a human being is coming to understand that entropy increases in us and around us always. That the money we use somehow escapes that process is a clear contradiction–even if the consequences of that are not entirely clear to everyone. Further, money not only escapes (or is made to appear to escape) entropy, but, through usury, also gains in value without any input. It is like driving one’s car without gas and expecting it to move. There are clear contradictions at play with usury, but since nature is relentless, the contradictions are rectified (externalized, in corporate speak) on the poor and downtrodden. If communicated in earnest and persistently, such a message would, in my evaluation, have a greater impact than citing Quranic or biblical scripture.

          • Adam Cornell | Mar 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm |

            Entropy is inverse squarely related to information accretion.
            Energy lost as heat in thermodynamic systems is also computation generating data stored as a massless, lossless, photon record. A photon has no known upper bound for the amount of information it can store, as far as I am aware, at present.
            There are less efficient means of information storage, such as human brains, and the currencies they invent to communicate value, but humans cooperate and learn, even when they are competing and killing one another, thereby working at all times to increase the total collective output of information of the whole human system..
            If a ‘rule’ or a ‘law’ or a ‘thought’ is contemplated an n-attractor within any thermodynamic system, the computational complexity, if you will, information density, of the center of that attractor is going to be greater than any other single point apparently affected by it, and we might call such an attractor, in the operation of the human system, economic value, or a ‘coincidence of wants’.
            Historically, power is the most efficiently violent actor or ‘in’ group of actors able to identify those attractors, and fence them in, using violence and money. Power then protects it’s fences by abusing brains that identify and iterate new attractors, if those attractors cannot be fenced in, thereby generating waste.
            Such a practice of power seemingly contradicts the physics of thermodynamic systems, until we realize there are larger systems that contain all humans, along with all of human history, and that those systems will necessarily always be working to increase information density through entropy.
            Relative to the human system, for example, Internet has flattened out the distribution of those attractors, and rendered their emergence and the friction of their transaction null, and in such a way that the historical definition of ‘power’ is, and will continue to be, less relevant with every passing day.
            It is for this reason I perceive that cryptocurrencies are ultimately going to succeed as the next iteration of the tool set we use to identify where those attractors are, and reward/deny existence to them.
            The human system has already decided it wants decentralized information and value repositiories, open and fair access to them, and open rule making processes. I consider this to be a direct outcome of entropy in the human system.
            All of the above signals to me that the world is rejecting Riba. I think it is correct to contemplate and communicate that through as many compatible rubrics of thought as possible, and, God willing, perhaps economic justice can be achieved through technological progress rather than played at through political and legal fictions.

  3. Thurlow Weed | Mar 2, 2014 at 10:46 pm |

    You people need to put down the damn iPhones and start chalking slogans on the walls.

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