Transformative Cities cached version 09/02/2019 04:29:24 en "Politics can be a space for coexistence" <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Áurea Carolina de Freitas e Silva: "We have to show people that we are capable of making democracy something worthwhile". <strong><em><a href="">Español</a></em></strong>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Áurea Carolina de Freitas e Silva, councilor elected through PSOL, Belo Horizonte (Brasil), speaks at the Fearless Cities event in Barcelona, June, 2017. Image: Marc Lozano/Fearless Cities/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Within the framework of this year's "<a href="">Fearless Cities</a>" summit,&nbsp;<a href="">Fundación Avina</a>&nbsp;and DemocraciaAbierta established a special collaboration to explore some of the most exciting poltical experiences arising from Latin America.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Bringing together relevant actors in the field that are directly involved in political innovation at the local level, in Latin America, we have sought answers to four major issues shared by all the projects: a)&nbsp;<a href="">Vision of innovation</a>; b)&nbsp;<a href="">National political context and limitations of local power;</a>&nbsp;c)&nbsp;<a href="">Influence of the international political context</a>, and d)&nbsp;<a href="">The question of leadership</a>.</p><p><strong>Áurea Carolina de Freitas e Silva</strong>&nbsp;is a Brazilian social and political scientist, elected to the Belo Horizonte City Council by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) in 2016.</p><h2><strong>VISION OF INNOVATION</strong></h2><p>I believe that, rather than pure innovation, what we do is a mixture of rupture and innovation. We try to leave behind outdated political practices - such as patronage, or hierarchy, all those political practices which do not work towards peoples' emancipation. Today, people are not the agents of democratic construction and we are trying to change that, to break away from this. This is crucial for the kind of politics we are fighting for. I think that innovation is trying to change how politics is perceived, and is making the point that politics is not reduced to a game of electoral competition.</p><p>We believe that politics can be a space for coexistence. A space that has to be democratic, integrating our differences so as to make us all full citizens. If politics becomes a deal between equals, even if we are very different, then we start innovating through cooperation, collaboration and experimentation processes. In order to innovate, we must change not only the practices but also the people leading the policies and the processes. The profiles of the people at the forefront are important. We have to have women, black women, indigenous women, LGBT people, people who are not perceived as conventional political actors.</p><p>We must also change the content of politics, we must ask ourselves honestly what our most important needs are. That is why a feminist politics is essential, because it is a politics that puts living together as a priority. It prioritises caring for all the creatures in the common space. The good life pursue depends on what content we associate with the new practices.</p><h2><strong>NATIONAL POLITICAL CONTEXT AND LIMITATIONS OF LOCAL POWER</strong></h2><p>The global politics of dependence and domination are also present in our smaller practices through the colonization of the mind. The values we have are a reflection of a much larger system, which only exists because it is based on people's behaviour. I am not saying that if people change their behaviour, then they can change the system completely, but it seems to me that it is impossible to change the system if we do not change what is closer to us, right? And for this, the municipal level is the most important dimension – its impact is huge. If we change things there, in the neighborhood, in a cultural group, in a network which occupies public space, in the town hall, in a school, in our way of coexisting locally, the change scales up.</p><p>In order to scale up, however, change must be very strong from the beginning: it must come from the people's certainty in their own strength. Municipal policy has thus to show a framework of ethical commitment, which national politics cannot change, built on another idea of leadership, powerful personalities, autonomy, self-management, co-responsibility, and all the things that people share. But now, in Brazil as in many other places, when we look at the political class, it is extremely hard to see people there who can represent the wishes coming out of communal local processes.</p><p>In my opinion, we are still going to experience a very negative phase in which new practices will indeed emerge, but nationally and trans-nationally we will have to endure the worst kind of politics. So, in order not to be discouraged by this, we must create our own national and trans-national networks. This is why this municipal meeting (Cities without Fear) is like clean air for us to breathe: we share many ideas, we identify with each other. Our experiences in the cities, however, are not hegemonic. Our small municipal experiences are still very exceptional. I myself am a city councillor in Belo Horizonte, there are two of us: me and my colleague, Cida Falabella. There are 39 other councillors, 41 in total. We are a very small minority and we are not strong enough to counteract so much force on our own.</p><p>At the local level, the fact that businessman Alexandre Kalil won the mayorship at the last elections in Belo Horizonte is a worrying development. He won with the slogan: "Enough with politicians" - as if he was not a politician himself! All day long, he keeps on repeating that he and his team are not politicians, so as to confuse people. Not all the people, obviously, because people do have critical sense. But he won with that discourse, and this is worrying.</p><p>The same idea applies elsewhere: Joao Doria, the mayor of São Paulo, is not a professional politician either, but an entrepreneur, and Marcelo Crivella, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, is a business manager, a religious man and an engineer. There are many others. A very dangerous discourse is increasingly fueling the idea that politics is useless, that politics is bad, that it is corrupt, that it is something we have to get away from - and a lot of people are following this train of thought, unfortunately.</p><p>In our campaigns, we try to tell people: listen, politics is beautiful. There is another way of doing politics. Politics is something that can emancipate us all, politics is an adventure for discovering who we really are in this world. We tell them that the best of what we have is what comes from our generosity – towards everybody and everything. And, well, it is hard to get the message through, because people say: "Yes, of course, of course", but they do not really believe it. Although some people do say: “yes, that is what we need so as to believe that it still makes sense to bank on politics”.</p><h2><strong>INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL CONTEXT</strong></h2><p>We witness with concern the rise of phenomena, like Trump, with a discourse that comes from the far right, but not only: there is also a soft right, a "harmless", very intelligent right, that says that it knows how to manage the State. We have to contrast our narratives against this, not only in the imaginary, but also in political practice. We have to show people that we are capable of making democracy something worthwhile. Only in this way will we be able to counteract the threatening winds coming from the inside and&nbsp;the outside.</p><h2>THE QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP</h2><p>The new leaderships are made up of powerful teams. They are hardened people, fond of democracy and community. And we must do our best to encourage the emergence of new, committed leaders. These current leaderships are not meant to promote individuals who are going to save the world, as the traditional Left used to do. "We need a man who..." These men do not exist, they should not exist. You cannot found leadership on the strength of individuals, because that is very costly. It is costly in terms of health, time, energy, and emotion, and it is our duty to protect the people involved, who dedicate their lives to these processes.</p><p>I think that we are working along another line, another way of leading which has nothing to do with competition and obtaining advantages or privileges. We are thinking more in terms of leadership as a provider of services. It may sound idealistic, like saying "Now they are all very holy, giving all they have", but if you do not make a commitment to values, then things become very difficult. This is an ethical change, yes, an ethical and practice-based change, because practice is what reveals how people are - how they behave, how they interact. The leaders who are the most firm in democratic terms are those who are capable of mobilizing the most, of opening paths, of attracting more people, of inspiring and bringing change to society.</p><p><strong>Check out our webpage for this special project:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;</strong></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Transformative Cities DemocraciaAbierta Avina Wed, 06 Dec 2017 11:16:23 +0000 Avina and DemocraciaAbierta 115106 at Radical municipalism: demanding the future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Municipal politics’ may raise new types of demands crucial in organising powerful social movements and improving material conditions, while orienting us towards new understandings of what is possible. 
</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Group.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Group.JPG" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Breakout working group from a session at Fearless Cities on 'Building non-state Institutions'. Bertie Russell.</span></span></span>The last decade has been a miserable decade. As the global capitalist socio-economic system continues to seize up, and as inequality deepens both between and across nations, the Global North has been met with a reactionary nationalist backlash. This backlash has been fuelled by the common narrative that it is malevolent ‘outsiders’ that are the cause of our problems – Mexicans, European migrants, the poor, the disabled, the working class, and so on. From so-called ‘moderate’ politicians to blood-baying ethno-nationalists, the response has been to empower those calling for a resurgence of the nation-state – to put up boundaries, borders and walls and to expel all those individuals and institutions allegedly intent on benefiting at our expense. </p> <p>This nationalist backlash is based on a fundamental misconception – that if only it was possible to reinstate a parochial and ‘sovereign’ nation-state, it would be possible to ‘take back control’. That our collapsing wages, surging living costs, and hollowing out of social support has been a result of being ‘exposed’ to globalisation, and that if we could only reinstate some well-managed ‘good British/ American/ French capitalism’ then we’d all be enjoying our bread and roses. </p> <p>All this fails to recognise that deindustrialization, the offshoring of production, exposure to cheap imports, and the emergence of huge personal debt, are not the result of the mismanagement of the economy. To the contrary, these strategies (amongst others such as installing puppet dictatorships, ‘structurally readjusting’ trade rules, privatizing social goods and ‘financialization’) are part of an ideological response to the systemic capitalist crisis of the 1970s. These are not symptoms of a system going wrong, but rather a concerted attempt to ‘offset’ crisis and restore profitability to an ailing economic system. </p> <p>Those overseeing these transformations claimed that there was no alternative. This was purportedly no longer about politics, but about expert (economic) knowledge determining what was both necessary and logical. The “21st Century” – the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair <a href="">informed us</a> – would “not be about the battle between capitalism and socialism but between the forces of progress and the forces of conservatism... within us”. This apolitical acquiescence to the ‘rules of the game’ was the supposed limit to our reality – <a href="">capitalist realism</a>, as our late comrade <a href="">Mark Fisher</a> would call it. </p> <p>When the 2008 financial crisis hit, the ‘expert’ solution was to underwrite the financial system, and convert it into a sovereign debt crisis. Suddenly, the toxicity of obscure financial assets – riddled with subprime mortgage IOUs that weren’t worth the paper they were written on – had become the toxicity of public spending. Rather than an opportunity for the re-emergence of politics, the response was to apply more of the same ‘expert’ and ‘apolitical’ (of course!) adjustments to our economy. The raising of university tuition fees, the slashing of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the freeze on NHS wages and the restructuring of junior doctor contracts, the closure of Sure Start centres, the recurring huge cuts to local council funding, the sell-off of public assets, the increase to VAT, and so on and so on. </p> <p>So we reach June 3, 2016, when the then UK Justice Secretary and Brexiteer Michael Gove was widely ridiculed for declaring that “people in this country had had enough of experts”. Yet the otherwise fat-tongued simpleton had got this one correct – people were sick of a political elite that had for decades proclaimed themselves as ‘experts’ presiding over a system that had left the majority of people poorer, sicker, more depressed, more scared, and less certain that the future was worth living, No clearer was this demonstrated than in the widespread rejection of the Clinton dynasty, whose failure in the 2016 US election campaign occurred despite being opposed by a misogynistic racist chauvinist fool that would soon earn the accolade of having the worst Presidential approval rating in history. </p> <p>And so we reach today’s potent and almost incomprehensible mix. The nation has become mobilized as both the answer and a symbolic rejection of thirty years of ‘experts’ imposing their doctrines of structural readjustments both at home and abroad. It is underpinned by an almost romantic, yet fundamentally reactionary belief, that we can somehow return to a milieu of sovereign ‘nation-states’ in charge of their own affairs, like an archipelago of little floating islands existing irrespective and without heed to the material reality of the globally interdependent economy. <span class="mag-quote-center">This supposedly new Glorious Nation will pride itself on lowering its corporate tax rates even further – despite the fact the UK already has the lowest corporate tax in the G20… </span></p> <p>Yet the fallacy in all this is that there is no new political-economic model. Those ‘anti-experts’ arguing that we need to ‘take back control’ and reassert our national will are often, quite literally, the same people with the same ideas that came before. This supposedly new Glorious Nation will pride itself on lowering its corporate tax rates even further – despite the fact the UK already has the lowest corporate tax in the G20 – further enmeshing daily life into the whims of global capital. Rather than being tied through the EU into destructive trade deals such as CETA, the UK is instead desperately trying to forge its own ‘deals’ that will dismantle ecological legislation, open up the NHS to US venture capital, and sell of vast swathes of our cities to foreign investment. </p> <p>In short, whilst nationalist rhetoric has a very real impact in fuelling xenophobia and racism, both on the streets and in government policy, the economic policy remains one of ‘ensuring global competiveness’ – in other words, more of exactly the same political-economic approach that has defined the past three decades. </p> <p>Whilst some left-learning parties and politicians – such as the UK’s Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, or the former Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders – promise to try and reclaim the nation-state as a more ‘humane’ institution, their strategies ultimately remain grounded in Keynesian-inspired redistributive economic logic. Whilst the rhetoric suggests these parties are part of a new leftist-strategy, the underpinning analysis remains that we can somehow return to a ‘strong’ nation-state presiding over a healthy (and controlled) capitalism that works for “the many, and not just the few”. </p> <p>It is without question that we’d rather see the election of national politicians that are genuinely committed to equality and social betterment, rather than neo-fascist demagogues bent on further exacerbating inequality and hate. Yet it is not contradictory to suggest that the prospect of an archipelago of strong nation-states presiding over a ‘better’ and more equal capitalism is a fallacy. Not only is this a dream that belongs to a previous century – to a particular moment in the development of the capitalist economy – it was a dream that could only be (temporarily) fulfilled for a small minority of the worlds population, nominally a white-male population residing in former colonial states that continued to benefit from the expropriation of people and resources on a global scale. </p> <p>The left ­– especially in the UK – remains without a coherent vision or a set of strategies to drive a real movement towards a world after capitalism. We need to think of a different scale for our politics, of different ways to build and exercise leverage, and of a different understanding of who can become a ‘revolutionary subject’ – those people who, through the virtue of the position they occupy in society, are in a privileged position to change how we organize our everyday lives. This doesn’t mean rejecting all that has come before, but it means recognising the need for us to generate political strategies that make sense in a world that is organized very differently to 40, 60 or 100 years before. <span class="mag-quote-center">It means recognising the need for us to generate political strategies that make sense in a world that is organized very differently to 40, 60 or 100 years before. </span></p> <p>We are hopeful that there are already new places to look in trying to answer these questions. To help us in our search, Plan C has established a working group on Radical Municipalism and Directional Demands, to help us explore the following hypotheses: </p> <p>1. That the ‘municipal’ – whether we’re talking about towns, cities or city-regions – might be a fundamentally important scale at which, and through which, to generate progressive movements towards post-capitalism; 
</p> <p>2. That certain types of political demands might be crucial in organising powerful social movements, helping us both improve material conditions whilst orientating us towards new understandings of what is possible. 
</p> <p>We’ve kept these two themes together for an important reason – different types of political strategy may be possible at different scales. We’re not excited by urban-scale politics because it’s an urban scale, just as we’re not excited about directional demands in an abstract sense. Rather, we’re interested in exploring whether the municipal scale is a unique scale through which to organize a truly internationalist – a post nationalist – revolutionary politics, and whether certain types of political demand are fundamental to realizing the potential of this scale. </p> <p>In what follows, we will briefly introduce what we mean by these two tendencies, and establish some of our misgivings and questions. We’re not undertaking this with a certainty that we’re correct, nor that any strategies that emerge are mutually exclusive of other political strategies. However, we’re also aware that we can’t look to anyone but ourselves to start generating forms of political activity that both overcome the unwelcome return of nationalism, and that genuinely increase the prospects for just, ecologically sound and equitable ways of organising our societies. These will necessarily be aimed at the end of capitalism and the nation-state, and towards democratically organized societies held in common. </p> <h2><strong>Why/What is radical municipalism? </strong></h2> <p>‘Municipalism’ is both the practices of self-government by towns, cities, and city-regions – municipalities of different sizes – and any perspective that advocates for such forms of government. Taken on its own, municipalism appears as a politically neutral concept. It’s just as possible to advocate a municipalist strategy as a way of fuelling capitalist accumulation – which is what partially underpins the logic of the UK’s current devolution policy – as it is to advocate a municipal strategy that is based upon promoting the expansion of commons and social solidarity. </p> <p>At its most basic, a radical municipal strategy is thus one that recognizes the municipal scale – both in terms of the way that people's lives are organized in these spaces, and the institutions that govern them – as a space of contestation. Rather than a depoliticized administrative unit ‘nestled’ under the nation-state, and thus of relatively ‘less’ political importance, a radical municipalist perspective asks whether there is unique revolutionary potential in organising at the municipal level. </p> <p>Various radical intellectuals have previously made the case for the municipal scale being a privileged site for revolutionary organising. Perhaps most famously, <a href="">Murray Bookchin</a> – whose ideas have become influential in <a href="">Rojava</a> – argued that ‘libertarian municipalism’ was the ‘ “red button” that must be pushed if a radical movement is to open the door to the public sphere’. The Marxist geographer <a href="">David Harvey</a> has also argued that ‘rebel cities’ will become a privileged site for revolutionary movements, <a href="">sharing a perspective</a> that the ‘right to the city’ would become a clarion call for progressive communist movements. Whilst we are interested and influenced by some of these perspectives, we are not interested in this simply as a theoretical undertaking, and do not take these perspectives as ideological programmes. <span class="mag-quote-center">We take our starting point as the actually existing practices emerging at the municipal scale.</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// cities are ours_Amy Clancy-01.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// cities are ours_Amy Clancy-01.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The cities are ours. Amy Clancy (@amyclancyuk). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rather, we take our starting point as the actually existing practices emerging at the municipal scale. Whilst far from a comprehensive list, we are interested in a number of different strategies emerging at the municipal scale:</p> <ul><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; Riace, Italy – the small Italian town that has received global recognition for its successful open door policy towards refugees</li><li>&nbsp;
</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; Jackson, MI – the American city where predominantly black working-class communities are looking to create a cooperative solidarity economy through a combination of direct action and electoral strategies under the banner of Cooperation Jackson</li><li>&nbsp;
</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; Naples, Italy – where in 2016 the radicalized mayor De Magistris established a “Department of the Commons”, part of a process of protecting seven properties that had been reclaimed by social initiatives 
</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; Rosario, Argentina – where the social movement <a href="">Ciudad Futura</a>, which has its roots in a network of different types of social reproduction, have also successfully listed a number of candidates for election to the city council</li><li>&nbsp;
</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; Barcelona, Spain – alongside a number of Spanish cities with similar projects, Barcelona is seen as a ‘flagship’ of this new radical municipalist strategy, where the citizens platform <a href="">Barcelona en Comú</a> has implemented a number of progressive policies, not least promoting direct citizen involvement in policy development, and a participatory budgeting system to redistribute the excessive politicians wages to activist and community groups. </li></ul> <p>In no case is this simply a return to an electoral strategy, only conducted on a municipal rather than a national level. Rather, it’s an openness to the idea of occupying both the squares and the institutions – of exploring how best to generate power and exercise leverage to achieve social change. Each of these examples – and others – are unique, and we don’t yet know what lessons can be drawn from these for organising a post-nationalist movement towards post-capitalism. </p> <h2>Why/What are directional demands? </h2> <p>The idea of the ‘demand’ has long been at the heart of political organising. Some demands are framed as an opposition – an end to a war, the privatization of water services, the rule of a dictator, or against the closure of a local library. Other demands are framed as a demand for something – the right to vote, the 8-hour day, equal access to healthcare, a wage-increase, or for national secession. These demands are evidently different in terms of what they immediately want to achieve, yet there are also fundamental differences in the very nature of the demands themselves. <span class="mag-quote-center">Directional-ism is the premise that we must develop and evaluate practices and processes according to… their ‘beyond-capitalism dynamics’.</span></p> <p>Some schools of socialist organising – most notably laid out in Trotsky’s Transitional Program – recognised certain types of ‘transitional’ demands as central to any revolutionary strategy. Premised on the idea of an intellectually immature working class and the need to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat, these demands were theorized to ‘help the masses... to find the bridge between present demand and the socialist program of the revolution’ (Trotsky 1938). As such, the ultimate aim wasn’t so much to fulfill the demands, but rather to reveal the impossibility of seemingly reasonable demands being fulfilled within capitalist society. In helping to clear the ‘false consciousness of the masses’, these demands would thus hasten the capturing of the nation-state and implementing the revolutionary plan. </p> <p>We agree neither with the necessity of capturing of the nation-state, nor the narrow conception of demands as simply tools for aiding the ‘transition’ to socialist rule. However, we share (at the most basic level) an understanding that ‘demands’ have concrete political effects – they help ‘create’ political identities, give expression to otherwise ‘latent’ anger, frame visions of how things could be different, and name enemies (whether that be people, processes, laws or systems). In other words, demands are interesting not only because of what’s being demanded, but because of the effects they have on the composition of social movements, the people that compose them, and what that means for making the seemingly impossible become possible. </p> <p>We are only introducing the idea here – and so won’t go into much depth – but we suggest instead that we need to start thinking about political demands in terms of their direction. Directional-ism is the premise that we must develop and evaluate ‘practices and processes according not to their pro- or anti-capitalist ‘essence’ but according to their ‘beyond-capitalism dynamics’. <a href="#_edn1">[1]</a> A directional demand must therefore ‘be capable of cognitively reorienting us far enough out of the present organization of social relations that some kind of critical distance is achieved and the political imagination of a different future is called to work’.<a href="#_edn2">[2]</a> These are demands that, in their fulfilment and/or the struggle for their fulfilment, have a concrete effect on how we think about what is possible. </p> <h2><strong>Our questions </strong></h2> <p>Our starting point is that these two themes – of radical municipalism and directional demands – may be fundamentally linked. The question of “what makes municipalism radical?” might find its answer in the where, how and who of directional demands. In bringing these together, we’re suggesting that it’s at the municipal scale that we may find our best chance in producing ‘practices and processes’ that can really be considered as contributing to ‘beyond-capitalist dynamics’. </p> <p>This hypothesis immediately poses a series of questions about the challenges and/or limits of what we are suggesting. Whilst some of these may have a ‘theoretical’ response – and we’ve got some ideas – we’re more interested in seeing how these challenges are addressed in practice:</p><p><br />-&nbsp; If the ‘municipal’ scale is where directional demands should be made, then who are demands made to? And who makes these demands? 
</p><p>-&nbsp; Where and how do those who don’t live in towns or cities fit into a political strategy that focuses on the municipal? 
</p><ul><li>-&nbsp; If we accept there is a huge danger in fetishizing ‘the local’, then how does a municipal strategy resist falling into localism? How does a municipal strategy go beyond the nation-state? 
</li></ul><p>-&nbsp; Are municipal institutions just an extension of the nation-state, or is it possible that they are qualitatively different in terms of what they can do and how they are positioned? Can we make qualitatively different institutions at these scales? 
</p><p>-&nbsp; How does ‘occupying the squares’ and ‘occupying the institutions’ work in tandem? Can we take institutions without being institutionalized? Do we even need to take the institutions? 
</p><p>-&nbsp; Given the ways municipal institutions are currently limited by nation-states – both financially and legally – can we produce new ways of building our capacity to act? How can we develop resources and the ability to use them without and irrespective of the nation-state? Can we build degrees of autonomy from the nation-state? 
</p><p>-&nbsp; How could it be possible for municipalities to seriously disobey the nation-state without being crushed? </p> <p>We don’t plan to answer these in the short-term, or to answer them on our own. We hope that through organising and working with other municipalist movements we can begin to develop our understanding of what works – and what doesn’t – meaning new problems and questions will continue to emerge. </p> <h2><strong>What we’re going to do </strong></h2> <p>Here’s what we're thinking of doing over the next 18 months. If you’d like to be kept in the loop, or join us in organising some events, get in touch at </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="// Plenary.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Plenary.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena open the Fearless Cities conference in Barcelona on June 9, 2017. Bertie Russell.</span></span></span></p> <ul><blockquote><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; Some of our members are attending the Fearless Cities meeting organized by <em>Barcelona en Comú </em>on June 9-11. We’ll be organising feedback meetings on whom we’ve met, and what we’ve learned. 
(For a taste of this event, see openDemocracy vid below.)</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; We’ll be hosting a series of discussions and workshops at the <a href="">Plan C Festival,</a> held 1-3 September 2017. We intend to invite those working on radical municipalist strategies to join us. 
</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; We’ll look to host a UK-wide speaking tour, visiting cities across the UK to discuss what it would mean to build a radical municipal movement. 
</li><li>-&nbsp;&nbsp; We're thinking of conducting a series of Power Structural Analyses of our cities, helping us to understand how decisions really get made in our cities, and where we can look to exercise leverage. 
</li><li>-&nbsp; Through these activities, we're looking to actively network together organisations interested in developing radical municipal strategies, learning from groups that already exist, and helping share lessons across cities. 
</li><li>-&nbsp; We’re hoping to organize a major gathering in 2018, which we hope will contribute to fomenting a radical municipalist strategy within UK cities. If our friends agree, we hope this will include participants from across Europe and beyond. 
</li></blockquote></ul> <p>Writing in 1967 Robert Dahl, the then professor of political science at Yale University, <a href="">suggested</a> that ‘with each passing day it grows more reasonable to see the nation-state as a transitory historic form, to foresee that the nation-state will some day cease to exist as an autonomous unit... [However,] it will be generations before peoples have defined themselves and have arrived at that state of confident nation-hood where it becomes possible to imagine, without panic, the decline and supercession of the nation’. Fifty years on, we can no longer wait for this moment – we must develop means and methods of organising our societies that hastens the decline and the supercession of both capitalism and the nation-state. 
</p> <p><iframe width="460" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ednref1">[1]</a> Stavros Stavrides (2017) The City as Commons. Zed Books</p> <p><a href="#_ednref2">[2]</a> Kathi Weeks (2011) The Problem With Work. Duke University Press
</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For Plan C Fast Forward festival <a href="">see here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/oscar-reyes-bertie-russell/eight-lessons-from-barcelona-en-com-on-how-to-take-bac">Eight lessons from Barcelona en Comú on how to Take Back Control</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/carlos-delcl%C3%B3s/towards-new-municipal-agenda-in-spain">Towards a new municipal agenda in Spain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics latin america Transformative Cities Bertie Russell Plan C Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:13:50 +0000 Plan C and Bertie Russell 111871 at A new international municipalist movement is on the rise – from small victories to global alternatives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a world stuck between neoliberal crisis and authoritarianism, a reinvigorated municipalist movement is proving a powerful tool to build emancipatory alternatives from the ground up.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nathan Law Kwung Chun of Demosisto during Hong Kong legislative election, 2016. Wikicommons/Iris Tong. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>From 9 - 11 of June, mayors, local councillors and activists from over 40 countries will meet in Barcelona for the international municipalist summit ‘<a href="">Fearless Cities</a>’. The event will bring together, for the first time, a network of municipalist platforms that has been expanding around the world, to relatively little fanfare, over recent years.</p> <p>The municipalist movement is made up of an ecosystem of organizations working within and beyond electoral politics at local level. It’s a movement defined as much by how it does politics as by its goals, and it is this insistence on the need to do things differently that gives municipalism its unique strength in the current context. </p> <p>Municipalism works at the local scale. In an age of xenophobic discourses that exclude people based on national or ethnic criteria, municipalism constructs alternative forms of collective identity and citizenship based on residence and participation. Municipalism is pragmatic and goal-based: in a neoliberal system that tells us ‘there is no alternative’, municipalism proves that things can be done differently through small, but concrete, victories, like remuncipalizing basic services or providing local ID schemes for undocumented immigrants. Municipalism allows us to reclaim individual and collective autonomy; in response to citizen demands for real democracy, municipalism opens up forms of participation that go beyond voting once every few years.</p> <h2><strong>The global municipalist map today</strong></h2> <p>The municipalist movement has already made significant inroads in some areas of the world. Perhaps the most profound contemporary expressions of municipalism are found in the Kurdish movements in the Middle East. Against the most inhospitable background of conflict and repression, the Kurds are building feminist, assembly-based models of stateless democracy, most notably in the self-governing region of <a href="">Rojava</a> in Northern Syria.</p> <p>Municipalism is also flourishing in Southern Europe. In Spain, <a href="">citizen platforms</a> govern most major cities, including Barcelona and Madrid. These platforms followed in the footsteps of the municipalist Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP), which gained significant representation in the 2007 and 2011 local elections in Catalonia. </p> <p>Spain’s ‘cities of change’ are reversing austerity measures, remunicipalizing basic services and integrating an explicitly feminist perspective into public policy. As a network, these city halls are also playing a significant role in challenging central government policy on issues like migration and housing. In Italy, <a href=""><em>Cambiamo Messina dal Basso</em></a> was an early example of what is known as “<em>neo-municipalismo</em>”, taking office in the Sicilian city in 2013. In Naples, a municipalist coalition has developed innovative ways of democratizing the <a href="">urban commons</a> and stood up to the central government over urban development plans under the leadership of Mayor Luigi Demagistris. Citizen platforms have seats on city councils in Bologna and Pisa, while in other cities, like Padova or Verona, platforms are running for office in the local elections on June 11.</p> <p>Elsewhere, municipalism is being explored as a strategy for the future in response to the failures and limits of national politics. In France, for example, activists from the <em>Nuit Debout </em>movement that occupied city squares in 2016 are considering replicating the municipalist path taken by some of their <em>indignados </em>counterparts in Spain at the 2020 local elections. The citizen-left-green alliance, RCGE that governs in Grenoble with mayor Eric Piolle, and <em>Autrement pour Saillans</em> in the small town of Saillans could serve as potential sources of inspiration closer to home. In the wake of a presidential election that presented a choice between a neoliberal and a far-right candidate, the time is ripe in France to prove that there are alternatives at local level.&nbsp; <span class="mag-quote-center">In the wake of a presidential election that presented a choice between a neoliberal and a far-right candidate, the time is ripe in France to prove that there are alternatives at local level.&nbsp; </span></p> <p>Similarly, in the USA<strong>, </strong>the victory of Trump has provoked reflection among supporters of Bernie Sanders about the potential of towns and cities as sites of resistance and transformation. Sanders himself has said that the next step for his movement is to organize locally and stand candidates for local office. The Working Families Party, which endorsed Sanders in 2016, is actively working to harness the energy of his movement in local and state primary races. In the US, as in France, there are isolated cases of municipalist platforms - <a href="">Richmond for All</a> in California, and the People’s Assembly in <a href="">Jackson</a>, Mississippi – that could serve as models for a broader movement.</p> <p>In Hong Kong, the city council has become a key site of conflict between the pro-democracy movement and the Chinese government: elected <a href="">councillors</a> from the Demosisto and Youngspiration parties face repression and state prosecution for their role in pro-democracy protests inside and outside the council chamber.</p> <p>In Poland, another country governed by the authoritarian right, a municipalist movement has been brewing for a number of years. 2011 saw the founding of the Congress of Urban Movements, bringing together diverse organizations working at local level. A number of <a href="">citizen platforms</a> from the congress stood in the local elections in 2014, picking up seats in six city councils and on district councils in Warsaw, and winning the mayoralty in Gorzow Wielkopolski. Municipal elections in 2018 should see this movement make further advances, in alliance with local branches of the national party, Razem. <span class="mag-quote-center">Municipal elections in 2018 should see this movement make further advances, in alliance with local branches of the national party, Razem.</span></p> <p>In Latin America, too, municipal movements are providing glimmers of hope against a backdrop of national stagnation or crisis. In 2016, <a href="">Áurea Carolina de Freitas</a> of citizen platform <em>Cidade que Queremos</em> won more votes than any other candidate for city council in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, while Jorge Sharpe, a former student activist supported by a citizen platform, won the mayoralty of Chile’s second city, <a href="">Valparaíso</a>. In Rosario, Argentina, <a href=""><em>Ciudad Futura</em></a> has spent over ten years creating non-state institutions outside city hall and just over two using its three councilors to push for change from within it.</p> <h2><strong>A new political space?</strong></h2> <p>Up until now, international connections between these movements have been mostly limited to bilateral exchanges on organizing tactics or policy debates. But the possibility of articulating a new political space among these diverse experiences is tantalising. The response to the invitation from Barcelona en Comú to <a href="">Fearless Cities</a> – to which over 600 participants from more than 180 towns and cities have registered – suggests that there is already the latent awareness of a common municipalist identity, and appetite to deepen global collaboration.</p> <p>This matters, because the consolidation and expansion of municipalism globally could determine the ability of any individual platform to meet its goals over the long-term. After all, one of the greatest limits of municipalism is the difficulty it faces in responding to forces and interests that cross borders: transnational speculation in urban land and housing markets, the threat posed by multinationals to local economic and environmental sustainability, displacement and forced migration. Only a strong, networked response will be capable of providing a counterweight to central government and corporate power in these areas.</p> <p>It will be up to municipalist movements themselves to define a blueprint for an internationalism for the twenty-first century. An internationalism that moves beyond formal bureaucratic structures and harnesses the ways of working that define municipalism itself: concrete and goal-based, feminist and collaborative, radical yet pragmatic. Only in this way, through infinite acts of bravery, through faith in the cumulative effects of a thousand small victories, can we build a global alternative to a world in crisis.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=""></a><a href="">Fearless Cities</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>See also: <a href="">Cities of Welcome, Cities of Transit</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/carlos-delcl%C3%B3s/towards-new-municipal-agenda-in-spain">Towards a new municipal agenda in Spain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/bernardo-guti-rrez/open-source-city-as-transnational-democratic-future">The open source city as the transnational democratic future </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rosa-burc/confederal-kurdistan-commune-of-communes">Confederal Kurdistan: the &#039;commune of communes&#039; </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/curro-machuca-prieto-javier-fern-ndez-cruz/assault-to-skies-municipalist-movement"> An assault to the skies: the municipalist movement&#039;s affair with Podemos</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/kate-shea-baird/how-to-build-movement-party-lessons-from-rosario-s-future-city">How to build a movement-party: lessons from Rosario’s Future City</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item even"> Chile </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Argentina </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hong Kong </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Hong Kong Argentina Chile Brazil Poland United States France Italy Syria Spain Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Transformative Cities Kate Shea Baird Wed, 07 Jun 2017 13:30:36 +0000 Kate Shea Baird 111484 at More than a welcome: the power of cities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">What is the scope for circumventing the national and EU deadlock over migration, and what role can cities, together with solidarity movements, play in overcoming this crisis? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Lampedusa in Hamburg unites groups from the "Right to the City" network, refugees, trade union activists, student organisations " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lampedusa in Hamburg unites groups from the "Right to the City" network, refugees, trade union activists, student organisations around call, "Right to the City - Never mind the papers!",Germany 2015. Flickr/Rasande Tyskar. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A new municipal protagonism appears to be emerging in the so-called refugee ‘crisis’. City governments are supporting one another in welcoming refugees, contesting state blockages in parliaments and making agreements between cities. In April 2016, ten European cities <a href="">jointly denounced the inaction of states</a> in the welcoming of refugees <a href="">in the European Commission</a>. Demanding that cities be seen as key political actors of welcoming, and appealing for direct EU funding to cities, mayors such as Ada Colau (Barcelona) are exploring ways of circumventing the national deadlock in the current crisis. </p> <p class="normal">What role can and do states, the EU and cities play in producing, managing and overcoming this crisis? How might networks of ‘cities of refuge’ develop sustainable practices of social composition beyond the politics of identity? The role of solidarity movements in cities is key: these movements have opened the space for demands and imaginaries of a different Europe open to solidarity. We ask how municipalities and locals can help break the deadlock and negative spiral of EU and national refugee policy, and argue that the time is ripe for grassroots and government practices to be articulated critically, starting from the city.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>A new horizon for translocal solidarity?</strong></h2> <p class="normal">Looking at the media, one can easily get the impression that there is an unchallenged European-wide consensus about shutting the borders. But millions of Europeans have been actively involved in refugee solidarity work - in Germany alone the estimated number is 11 million. The far right may indeed be growing, but the media and political elites are ignoring the existence of a popular alternative to the current politics of closure. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The media and political elites are ignoring the existence of a popular alternative to the current politics of closure.</span></p> <p class="normal">However, appeals to the EU and its member states have not stopped the headlong rush into the dead end of closed borders and the EU-Turkey deal. People in Europe who are building an open Europe in solidarity are also showing their states what kinds of societies they want to live in. But the response by both states and EU has been disappointing. These levels are currently blocked as opportunities for action and imaginaries of change. So whence might a horizon of translocal solidarity emerge to break the deadlock?</p> <p class="normal">The city is an essential terrain of struggle, and it is hard to imagine substantial change on the level of nation states and the EU without the production of a culture of solidarity in the everyday life of cities and towns. Drawing on their social, relational, infrastructural and institutional wealth and diversity, cities can be the starting points not only for an embodied politics of everyday solidarity, but also for new municipal policies. The many and ever-changing collective subjects that define our cities go a long way in signalling what welcoming, openness, solidarity and diversity mean on the ground. It is at this level that we should look for solutions to the EU and state deadlock around the arrival of refugees and migrants, and rethink citizenship.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>The EU and nationalism</strong></h2> <p class="normal">The EU was sold as a project of cosmopolitan solidarity, presented as the overcoming of the divisions of Europe's nationalist past. But over recent years, the reality of the EU has been the exact opposite.</p> <p class="normal">The euro-crisis has revealed an economic architecture that creates divergence between economies, impoverishing some, while undermining others. And the handling of the sovereign debt crisis in the southern periphery has revealed a will to sustain this architecture through direct domination. The imposition of the memoranda, the insertion of unelected technocrats as chiefs of state in Italy and Greece (Monti and Papademos), and the financial blackmail of Greece all confirmed the trend as the automated austerity of the "Growth-and-Stability Pact" has been imposed across the eurozone.</p> <p class="normal">Also the refugee crisis is driving Europe towards fragmentation. While Merkel and German business saw the great influx of 2015 as a chance to replenish the country's aging workforce, a number of Germany's satellite states, such as Austria and Denmark, as well as the eastern European periphery, dug their heels in. The explicit or implicit boycott of the European relocation scheme by the aforementioned countries as well as Spain and France, is a case in point. Germany's forceful intervention in the name of the unity of an unsustainable setup has done nothing to reverse this European fragmentation, reinforcing the drive towards national selfishness.</p> <p class="normal">The EU has always had a problem with creating a ‘warm’ European identity, a ‘we’ to give affective and lived meaning to the ostensible ideal of international solidarity. The narrative of a social and open Europe – always at odds with the EU's real practice of austerity, competition and deadly external borders – has finally died off in the refugee and euro crises of 2015.</p> <p class="normal">The reality of the EU project has been widespread popular anxiety and fear for the future. And the blatant hollowness of its ideals has led to suspicion of this cosmopolitanism from above. In this situation it’s hardly surprising that many seek security and solidarity in the nation state. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">In this situation it’s hardly surprising that many seek security and solidarity in the nation state.</span> In the crisis, the austerity politics of the EU and liberal state elites have turned European nation states into giant echo chambers for the nationalist right. In what follows, we will explore how cities can come into this situation to undo certain blockages and open new horizons for living together.</p> <h2 class="normal">Dodging the border, across the metropolis and the town</h2> <p class="normal">The energy of people and communities – notably in cities – kept the state baffled for a while in autumn 2015. Powerful self-activating social solidarity, beyond the abstract notions of nation, citizenship or competitive scarcity, challenged state and EU narratives. Soon the latter reasserted their sovereignty via new strategies of divide and rule. Enter once again the politics of fear and the production of enemy images in public discourse, the activation of military means and questionable national alliances, as well as (legally questionable) half economic, half symbolic tricks (such as setting the upper limits for asylum claims, confiscating refugee’s belongings, measuring investment in refugees as foreign aid, withdrawal of refugee-related donations from NGO budgets).</p> <p class="normal">But often, lived experiences and practices of solidarity stick with people more than does the politics of fear. Hundreds of families, flatshares, neighbours, neighbourhoods, organisations and collectives have kept up the work of caring and opening doors. Not just in European capitals but also in small municipalities, myriads of initiatives stay true to that moment of rupture in 2015, when Europe was open, was made open by people crossing borders and people welcoming them. A considerable part of this labour is done in cities and towns, by people without traditional activist profiles.</p> <p class="normal">Municipal governments and the terrain of municipal politics can play a significant role in strengthening these horizons, practices and networks of solidarity, by affirming openness, providing resources and infrastructures for welcoming, and even practising municipal disobedience. An impressive example of the latter was provided by the Austrian village of <a href="">Alberschwende</a>, where the community and the mayor (actually from the conservative party) hid and defended asylum seekers in the face of the police who came to deport them (and even drafted a manifesto). </p> <h2><strong>Networks of cities and the challenges of solidarity</strong></h2><p class="normal"> Many European cities have been vocal about their commitment to welcoming refugees, often without much national or international visibility. From cities such as Berlin, <a href="">Nantes</a>, Leipzig, <a href="">Ghent</a> to villages such as <a href="">Loos-en-Gohelle</a> and Alberschwende, models for welcoming are developed together with inhabitants, often also in concert with regional administrations. Many of these are political experiments in their own right, with a view to <a href="">transforming administration and governance</a>. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Expanding these alliances at a European level is key to unlocking the possibility of another Europe.</span></p> <p class="normal">In September 2015 Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau launched a call for the creation of a network of ‘Cities of Refuge’, <a href="">co-signed</a> by the Mayors of Paris, Lesbos and Lampedusa and later joined by many others across Europe, including Milan, Malmö, Wadowice. In March 2016, Barcelona, Lesbos, Lampedusa and Athens signed agreements to support one another in welcoming refugees, including an <a href="">agreement to relocate 100 interested people from Athens to Barcelona</a>. </p> <p class="normal">At the level of<a href=""> EU</a> and independent networks, cities have begun to make their voices heard on the need to welcome refugees, regardless of blockages put in their way by the state. At the April 5 meeting of cities at the European Commission, the mayors of Paris, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Leipzig, Helsinki, Malmö, Rome and Ghent called for action. Expanding these alliances at a European level is key to unlocking the possibility of another Europe.</p> <p class="normal">Such an expansion is not just a question of networks between the mayors themselves. It depends on a will to experimentation and knowledge-sharing, both on the level of solidarity movements and municipal institutions. And it requires the building of a political and social leverage that can force the states and the EU to live up to their responsibilities to the refugee conventions and to provide sufficient funding for the municipalities.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>The living social fabric of cities makes openness sustainable</strong></h2> <p class="mag-quote-left">The city is a place of a lived and contested cosmo-politanism not limited by the idea or borders of Europe.</p> <p class="normal">Cities and towns are the true ground on which people arrive and people meet, and if they become sites of good encounters, institutional experimentation and actual integration (as opposed to the current politics of forced assimilation), the legitimacy of the border and deportation regime will come under strain. Only where municipalities interact with and listen to their populations – from citizens to undocumented migrants – can sustainable models of ‘open’ and welcoming cities emerge. Town councils must encourage and enable people’s action and organisation without trying to control every aspect of them: making space for people to act.</p> <p class="normal">Examples abound. There are countless municipal-supported experiments in linking inhabitants with newcomers, such as that of the <a href="">Leipzig Refugee Council</a>. Public and municipal institutions across Europe have introduced support schemes for refugees: universities such as <a href="">Central European University</a> Budapest, <a href="">SOAS</a> London or <a href="">Warwick University</a> have introduced special funds and scholarships and opened classes; student initiatives at <a href="">SOAS</a>, <a href="">Malmö</a> the UK <a href="">student action for refugees network</a> or the student-run law clinics in <a href="">Hamburg</a>, <a href="">Leipzig</a>, or <a href="">Rome</a>. Housing for refugees has been found through municipal call-outs and databases (in <a href="">Vienna</a> and <a href="">Aarhus</a>, for instance) as well as citizen and NGO platforms that connect newcomers with flatshares, such as German <a href="">Flüchtlinge Willkommen</a> or <a href="">Room for Refugees</a> in Scotland. </p> <p class="normal">The city produces a sense of belonging as well as contestation over the common that relates to the everyday experience of commuting, working, going to school, living and paying your rent or mortgage. The city is where you recognize the truth of the imagined community of the nation: the heterogeneity of populations, professions and neighbourhoods, and the forms of cooperation, conviviality and contestation that come with it. Cities are where the abstract humanitarian desire to help the ‘other’ can be given substance through encounters, turning strangers into neighbours, comrades, co-workers, lovers… </p> <p class="normal">Cities are where resources, relations and discourses become concrete and create worlds. Cities provide for newly arrived people with shelter, food, medical care, education. The question of resources is crucial. Poor cities hit by crisis and austerity easily become the sites of a zero-sum competition between ‘locals’ and migrants. In order not to divide their cities against themselves, city governments must take part in the fight against state and EU austerity and tax loopholes, and provide adequate funds for social services for their citizens – new and old. </p> <p class="normal">As much as there have been attempts at pushing migrants and refugees out of the visibility of urban centres, to isolate them in remote camps, migration has always made it into the city. It is indeed a key part of the history of cities, of trade and travel, of the struggle over access to citizenship. As opposed to the EU’s abstract space of elite cosmopolitanism, the city is a space of conflictual negotiation between classes, of racist gangs and anti-racist self-defence, a space of reproduction and of encounters. The city is a place of a lived and contested cosmopolitanism not limited by the idea or borders of Europe.</p> <p class="normal">If municipalities, local institutions such as schools and libraries, associations, and political groups actively welcome refugees, a great deal can be done to build conviviality, counter racist stereotypes and acknowledge the role of migration in the current context of global injustice and geopolitics. The city is a privileged terrain for the development of post-national subjectivity also because it is where tensions around citizenship and access have always played out. </p> <p class="normal">Therefore it is crucial that municipalities, NGOs and newly formed support initiatives take past and present migration struggles into account, particularly those of migrant self-organisation, since they know best about the concrete problems of access and discrimination. To avoid refugees and migrants getting pitted against one another, or that different generations and classes of migrants become alienated from the new initiatives, there needs to be active dialogue across new and old movements. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The time is ripe for evaluating welcoming initiatives across places and experiences, to develop them as durable and inclusive practices.</span></p> <p class="normal">These tensions have their singular manifestations in different cities. In Barcelona for example, there is a mounting contradiction between the town hall’s failure to address the criminalization and police harassment that undocumented street vendors experience, and their vocal support for welcoming refugees. The possibility of a ‘solidarity city’ that’s more than a limited humanitarian programme strongly depends on the capacity to articulate different struggles and experiences of migration, within the bigger picture that is global neoliberalist capitalism today. In this sense, the time is ripe for evaluating welcoming initiatives across places and experiences, to develop them as durable and inclusive practices that can last beyond the current ‘crisis’ moment.</p> <h2 class="normal"><strong>Rethinking citizenship beyond the state</strong></h2> <p class="normal">In the metropolis, the question of 'citizenship' – a tool for defining who has access to what in a given territory – becomes very concrete. Doors open and close in people’s faces, streets and neighbourhoods are policed, tensions around poverty and exclusion play out. It's where access is defined not only by rights but also by actions, by everyday practices and relations, often by circumventing or dodging official policies, narratives or laws. Citizenship ought to be rethought from the real practices of cohabitation and solidarity that exist in the everyday life of neighbourhoods, especially poor and migrant ones. This is where ‘the global’ takes on meaning in relation to cohabitation and belonging. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The current moment seems promising for redefining citizenship from below.</span></p> <p class="normal">The current moment seems promising for redefining citizenship from below as well as from local governments and administration, in the cities. The right to the city too needs to be thought anew in this context. Stemming from struggles around land ownership and public space in cities, these point to the redefinition of who the subject of habitation is: do we think the city through the lens of citizenship or the autochthon, or indeed through the right to inhabit and the real contributions of people to reproducing daily life in the city? Everyone who lives here, is from here: new protocols and definitions of rights require a rethinking of the subject of rights. Cities might now experiment with alternative models.</p> <p class="normal">The network of <a href="">Sanctuary Cities</a> in the US shows municipal models for guaranteeing rights through means other than citizenship. The model of the Sanctuary was born in the US in the late 1980s, when grassroots church networks and radical communities imagined and organised ways to welcome those fleeing from counter-revolutionary US interventions in central America: the access to housing rights, education and health as well as the possibility of working and of living in a community became the goal of large mobilisations that involved multiple cities all over the US.</p> <p class="normal">Since the early 1990s these mechanisms of welcoming and of guaranteeing rights began to be regulated in local and later federal legal mechanisms. Firstly, by providing access to rights, as with the municipal laws in San Francisco that guarantee the right to public services, labour rights or a just trial, or with the New York ID card: a local ID card issued to any resident independent of immigration/citizenship status, valid in the face of police checks and granting discounts to transport and other municipal services. Secondly, by fighting at the federal level to regulate the legitimacy of city council and local counties in providing these services.</p> <p class="normal">In a similar direction, many city governments in Europe are moving their pawns in the current situation, working to find routes and back routes to opening their cities to newcomers. These days we are witnessing a new movement of cities in Europe that actively seek to host refugees: they often do so by opposing the state and European Union. Many municipal and regional administrations have done their best to accommodate and welcome new people. Often in accordance with regional powers who play a key role too in providing the infrastructure of welcoming, cities are finding pathways for redefining themselves in relation not just to the state but also to the world.</p> <p class="normal">If cities and urban movements begin to connect, a transeuropean municipalist movement is a clear possibility. Such a network offers a possible alternative to the failed internationalism of the EU, as spaces of concrete cosmopolitan solidarities join in an everyday production of citizenship through participation, collaboration and struggle.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal"><em>With thanks to Franco Salvini for editorial comments</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/manuela-zechner-bue-r%C3%BCbner-hansen-francesco-salvini/more-than-refuge-welcome">More than a refuge, a welcome </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/scilla-elworthy/love-in-time-of-hatred">Love in a time of hatred</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/johannes-filous/hashtag-analysis-clausnitz-and-bautzen">Hashtag analysis: #Clausnitz and #Bautzen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ulrike-guerot-robert-menasse/europe-reconstruction-of-free-world">Europe: the reconstruction of the free world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ada-colau/first-we-take-barcelona">First we take Barcelona...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/pedro-kumamoto-bernardo-guti-rrez-gonz-lez/wikipol-tica-or-quest-for-total-innovat">Wikipolítica, or the quest for total innovation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Mediterranean journeys in hope Can Europe make it? EU Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Transformative Cities Bue Rübner Hansen Manuela Zechner Thu, 07 Apr 2016 17:14:10 +0000 Manuela Zechner and Bue Rübner Hansen 101216 at The open source city as the transnational democratic future <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Open source local government is the first step towards scaling up new public policy spheres and interwoven citizen practices that can make neoliberalism unnecessary.&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Pedro Kumamoto,May, 2015. " title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pedro Kumamoto,May, 2015. Wikicommons/Alvaro Quintero. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In June 2015, a 25-year-old called Pedro Kumamoto became Mexico’s first member of parliament to win a seat without belonging to a political party. His collective, <a href="">Wikipolítica</a>, which emerged out of Mexico’s versions of Occupy Wall Street, decided to get involved in the politics of representative democracy, taking advantage of a new law that allows independent candidates to stand for election. The first election slogan chosen by Wikipolítica had a strong urban focus: “Occupy the city, inhabit politics”. Wikipolítica’s leaders are clear that they have to keep growing and spreading, while maintaining their autonomy from governments. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">In June 2015, a 25-year-old called Pedro Kumamoto became Mexico’s first member of parliament to win a seat without belonging to a political party.</span></p> <p>Kumamoto and his team decided to canvass door-to-door in district 10 in the state of Jalisco, calling on people to participate and appealing to their sense of belonging to a local community. The progressive, anti-neoliberal <a href="">Pedro Kumamoto</a> managed to win over a historically conservative district that was deeply disenchanted with the traditional political parties. Kumamoto says that, “his work as an MP will rely heavily on the city – in his case Guadalajara and Zapopan – and the territory.” City halls nowadays have to dialogue not only with classical civil society organizations, but with new types of collectives.&nbsp;</p> <p>The surge in support for Pedro Kumamoto’s Wikipolítica was matched at a state-wide level by the Citizens’ Movement, a new political party, that won control of 24 local councils. An MP’s official powers are not always sufficient to influence city government, but Pedro Kumamoto plans to set up local citizen laboratories to help overcome this by working towards his policy positions at the municipal level. </p> <p>One of Wikipolitica’s priorities in Jalisco is to find spaces and ways to facilitate local-level political dialogue. Eli Parra, from Wikipolítica’s technology commission, underlines the importance of face-to-face conversations: “Talking to people face to face is a luxury we can’t do without”. The challenge, for Eli Parra, is how to transfer the conditions and atmosphere of the ideal face-to-face conversation to the digital terrain: “<em>Technologically speaking</em>, what is the ongoing group conversation via the latest instant messaging going to look like?”</p> <p>On the other side of the Atlantic, in Spain, we find a similar situation with new municipal governments whose ambition, similarly, is to go beyond their conventional powers. The <a href="">explosion</a> of what is known as Spanish ‘<a href="">municipalism</a>’ represents the most visible face of the growing role of cities and local governments around the world. In May 2015, in Spain’s greatest <a href="">political surprise</a> in decades, citizens’ groups won local government elections in cities as important as Madrid, Barcelona and Zaragoza. British journalist Paul Mason <a href="">argues</a> that Spanish municipalism is building a new model of a city based on collective intelligence and collaboration between citizens that will challenge the hegemony of the large neoliberal corporations with their concept of the ‘smart city’. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">On the other side of the Atlantic, in Spain, we find a similar situation with new municipal governments whose ambition, similarly, is to go beyond their conventional powers.</span></p> <p>Spanish municipalism has certainly succeeded in channelling much of the spirit and symbolism of 2011’s 15M-Indignados movement into the politics of representative democracy, which used to be its main enemy and taboo. Thus, ‘made in Spain<em> </em>municipalism’ has become the first of a series of networked rebellions started by the Arab Spring, where a movement first resisted the politics of representation and then sought to transform it. Second, inspired by the forms of organisation developed by 15M, Spanish municipalism has invented a political format known as “<em><a href="">confluencia</a></em>”, which is “neither a coalition nor an alphabet soup of political parties, and transcends the sum of the parts that comprise it”.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>There is, however, another aspect of Spanish municipalism that has not been highlighted by the mass media: their ambition to set the agenda on issues that go beyond the traditional powers of municipal governments. When the new <em>Ahora Madrid</em> government declared the city of <a href="">Madrid</a> a GM-free zone, joining a European network of 200 regions and 4,500 local authorities, it was a far from insignificant act. The network of cities that welcome refugees, proposed by the mayor of Barcelona, <a href="">Ada Colau</a>, grew from a Facebook post that went viral to a reality that many other cities in Europe have adopted. The ability for cities to change certain laws and practices exceeds municipal powers, but cities can activate mechanisms, find legal loopholes and – above all – develop a narrative of resistance and joint action. The fact that cities have managed to lead on refugee issues at a time of ineffective European Union-level political responses is a clear example of cities’ potential in an unstable global macro-political ecosystem. </p> <p>The municipal-level ambition of the Mexican MP Pedro Kumamoto and the global vocation of the confluences governing Spain’s main cities are two sides of the same coin: the growing role of cities in taking political governance in new directions. These two cases also open up the possibility of a global network of cities working for the commons and challenging the neoliberal order. The hyper-local is gradually becoming globally reconnected in a new world ecosystem in which the superstructures that represent nation-states have ever less influence over policy. What should the twenty-first century model city look like? What are the challenges in a world where nation-states are being decimated by the global economic order?<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2><strong>A network of cities against the nation-state</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Madrid in solidarity with refugees at Ahora Madrid HQ." title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Madrid in solidarity with refugees at Ahora Madrid HQ.Demotix/ Jorge Sanz. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In <em><a href="">City of fears, City of hope</a></em> (2003), Zygmunt Bauman talks about two important concepts related to the modern city: mixophobia (the fear used by institutions to discourage the use of the public space) and mixophilia (human and cultural mixing in cities). His main conclusion, however, is that nation-states are in decline and cities are our era’s principal political space. </p> <p>The financial crisis that destabilised the global economy in 2008 led some leading economists such as Joseph Stiglitz to predict the end of neoliberalism and the resurgence of public investment, but exactly the opposite has occurred. All states have done is feed the spiralling public debt, hand over public funds to the private banking system and downsize themselves through austerity policies. The ability of nation-states to determine their own economic policy has continued to decline, while the influence of supra-state institutions at the service of neoliberalism such as the Troika has increased. The result of the Troika negotiations with the Greek government under Alexis Tsipras confirms the weakness of national governments’ room for manoeuvre against international capital.</p> <p>In this context, authors such as Benjamin Barber <a href="">argue</a> that the world would be a fairer and more equitable place if it were governed by <a href="">mayors.</a> Of course, the law does not give cities enough power to change the economic policy order designed by global neoliberalism, however I believe cities can develop a different policy agenda and a new type of politics with the help and collaboration of social movements and empowered citizens. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Main C13th trading routes of the Hanseatic League." title="" width="460" height="352" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Main C13th trading routes of the Hanseatic League. Wikicommons/Flo Beck. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>So, what is the real role and/or potential of twenty-first century cities? Part of the answer may be found in history. The ancient Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians built networks of cities whose organisation did not follow or refer to the nation-state format. The same was true of the network of Italian cities that emerged from the eleventh century onwards, or the <a href="">Hanseatic cities</a>, which had no civil servants or army. These networks of cities were not so much city-states as cities against the state, as their set-up enabled them to avoid being caught up in the state mosaic.</p> <p>In the twenty-first century, nation-states and institutions tend to deploy all sorts of legal restrictions that exacerbate mixophobia. Cities can, however, encourage mixophilia from the ‘inside’ (through municipal action) and from the ‘outside’ (through citizens acting autonomously). City councils can, like Madrid, be aggressively anti-GM, bringing about a shift in the terms of the debate: the most important thing is not to determine whether GM food is harmful to health, but to challenge the capitalism of the agro-industrial multinationals that are devastating people’s lives and the environment. By championing causes that go beyond their own powers, cities are opening the way for new policies, laws, practices and tools. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Outside Madrid's ministry of foreign affairs, September 2015." title="" width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Outside Madrid's ministry of foreign affairs, September 2015. Demotix/ Nacho Goitre. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The Greek cities that are disobeying the Troika by refusing to implement the electricity tax hike are another good example: they forced a change (the reformulation of the tax) after Alexis Tsipras became president. The book <em><a href="">La apuesta municipalista</a></em>, which sets out the theoretical foundations of the Spanish “confluences”, argues in favour of “the politics of the local space” against the state. It builds on an intuition about the global “outside” that has existed since the social uprisings of 2011: the urban space can be the lever of change. The concept of the <a href="">‘Right to the City’</a>, formulated by Henry Lefebvre in 1968, has been in vogue for some years: it concerns the right to the urban space that belongs to us. In his recent publications, the Marxist <a href="">David Harvey</a> has gone further than the World Charter on the <a href="">Right to the City</a> that emerged from the World Social Forum (WSF). His book <em><a href="">Rebel Cities</a></em>, published in the heat of Occupy Wall Street, gives the idea a masterly new twist: the right to the city becomes “the right to modify the city collectively” and “to change ourselves” in the process.<strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>
The global street</strong></h2> <p>The year 2011, which saw the largest number of rebellions around the world in recent times, reconfigured the urban space as a new interface of political action and creativity. The format of the street camp, exported from the Arab Spring to Spain’s 15M and Occupy Wall Street, shook up the 'protest' format. Even Saskia Sassen, who coined the term “global city” as one where international financial markets are present, adapted her own theory following the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo. She started to talk about the “<a href="">global street</a>” as a “hard space” where “the powerless” manage to “do politics”. 
</p> <p>The mutation of the global city into the global street is a desirable political agenda for the planet. The global street (a space both physical and semantic) and the rebel cities (as a combative remixing of the right to the city) have become narrative expressions of the global 'outside'. Indeed, some of the most important social uprisings in recent times, such as the Gezi Park <a href="">revolt</a> in Turkey, the Movimento Passe Livre (MPL) in Brazil and the Gamonal protest in Burgos (Spain), have had the urban space as their initial cause. The city is also the setting for the continuation of many revolts: in Augusta Park in São Paulo, Can Batlló in Barcelona or the community-managed Embros Theatre in Athens, among many others. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Manuela Carmna addresses the public at El Campo de la Cebada in Madrid." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Manuela Carmna addresses the public at El Campo de la Cebada in Madrid, April 2015.. Demotix/ Jose_Hinajosa. All right reserved. </span></span></span>The city is the battleground for many movements opposing neoliberalism. “To fight for a city we can live in is a form of dissidence”, they say in Temblor, the Spanish arm of the <a href="">Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons</a> project. In a way, some of the occupations of city squares in recent years function as a metaphor for the ideal city for which the diverse “outside” is fighting.</p> <p>These revolts have also allowed for constructing new models of participation and governance. During the <em>Acampada Sol</em> camp-out by Spain’s 15M in Madrid, which lasted for several weeks in May and June 2011, an online tool called Propongo was developed to allow anyone to make policy proposals. Although these policy proposals did not necessarily translate into policy changes, the online tool, whose source code was later used by the government of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, revealed society’s longing for participatory democracy. </p> <p>The occupation of Gezi Park in Istanbul in May–June 2013 likewise fought for urban common goods under the banner of “citizen self-organisation and the desire for direct democracy”.&nbsp; Similarly the occupation of <a href="">Augusta Park</a> in São Paulo created a space of collective resistance to neoliberalism and gentrification, as well as non-hierarchical policy-making. Through assemblies, meetings and events, the participants in the Augusta Park movement and occupation took charge of the collective management of the park for months, without depending on the São Paulo city council or the market. The movement sought to place the commons at the epicentre of the struggle, arguing that “A public park is a common good that belongs to the city’s social network and must not remain under the control of private or speculative interests”.</p> <p>What lessons can local governments learn from these revolts? What do the protagonists of these revolts and the governors of cities have in common? Is there any possibility of a shared agenda? Which of the new movements’ participatory methodologies and tools can be taken up by local governments?<strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>Open source code as a model for the city</strong></h2> <p>Writer Matthew Fuller and architect Usman Haque, both from the UK, have been studying the relationship between the so-called hacker ethics and cities for several years. Inspired by the <em>copyleft</em> movement, which emerged with the free software movement,&nbsp;Matthew and Usman <a href="">set out</a> to craft a licence for the building and design of open source cities: the <a href="">Urban Versioning System 1.0.1</a> (UVS). In it the authors argue that <em>copyleft, </em>which lifts restrictions on the copying and re-use of codes, is the best tool for ending a model of exhibitionist architecture and closed-formula proprietorial urban planning which restricts citizen collaboration. </p> <p>They argue that citizen collaboration based on free technology, collaboration, shared information and collective practices can lead to radical transformations of our urban space: “UVS recognises that the world is constructed by its inhabitants, at every moment”; “People will, collaboratively, take a design in directions you could never have imagined”; “Only a mode of construction that is capable of losing the plot is adequate”. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Citizens would be able to participate in the processes of constructing the city, managing its data or changing its laws.</span></p> <p>The model city proposed by Fuller and Haque seeks to open up its operating system’s code, which might be legal, architectural or information-based (data, content). The change is radical: the city would thus be transformed into a democratic artefact in every sphere. Citizens would be able to participate in the processes of constructing the city, managing its data or changing its laws, among other things. The city would cease to be an artefact designed from the top down and would become one that everyone can alter by means of certain bottom-up processes. The architect <a href="">Doménico di Siena</a> also theorises about the open source city and considers it vital to shift from urban models “based on the creation of efficient products and services that force us to be constantly on the move (and constantly consuming), to models based on information management and knowledge production (self-organisation)”.</p> <p>The open source city clashes head-on with the paradigm of the <em>smart city </em>based on proprietary technology and mass surveillance, which prevails today. The smart city model created by the big multinationals sees the city’s data as a commercial product. Furthermore, the way this data is managed is opaque and lacks transparency. The relationship between the multinationals and local governments also tends to be strictly commercial, which contradicts the spirit and practices of public services. The alternative, as articulated by Paul Mason, is of a non-neoliberal city based on “three principles not welcome in the world of high-profit tech companies: openness, democratic participation and a clear policy that data generated from public services should be publicly owned”. Mason points to the new municipal government of Madrid, which has launched the deliberative democracy website <em><a href="">Decide Madrid</a></em>, as a model of radical urban democracy based on free technology: “Instead of seeing the city as a ‘system’, to be automated and controlled, the vision being mulled in the Spanish capital conceives of the city as an ‘ecosystem’ of diverse, competing and uncontrolled human networks”.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Urban regeneration residents' collective in Virgen, Begoña in Madrid. Paisaje Transversal.Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>A few practical examples are the best way to understand the potential of open source code in urban settings. The independent initiative DCDCity-Aire Madrid is one of the best examples of the direction cities could take by following open source ideas and practices. DCDCity-Aire Madrid was the first application of the theoretical and practical framework proposed by “<a href="">The Data Citizen Driven City</a>”, a project designed by Madrid’s MediaLab Prado. Instead of relying on sensors installed by the tech companies and a centralised and closed form of data management, the project saw each citizen as a potential data producer. Thanks to the proliferation of smart phones and the profusion of free technologies, each and every citizen can become a data-gatherer. A simple Arduino circuit board (free hardware), connected to a mobile phone with the Android operating system, is sufficient to enable a citizen to gather data on the functioning of the city. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">In the course of one day’s work, a prototype and ten devices for measuring air quality had been built.</span></p> <p>DCDCity-Aire Madrid aspired to build a community around the problem of air quality in Madrid through participatory data-collection using patent-free technology. The way in which the project came about reflects the importance of a synergy between the public sphere and citizen autonomy that activates processes independently of governments. The support of <a href="">MediaLab Prado</a>, a publicly financed laboratory, was vital for DCDCity-Aire Madrid to take off. The Medialab hosted both <a href="">the wiki</a> and the online community, strengthened by private initiatives such as the <a href="">Internet of Things Meet Up Madrid</a>. In the course of one day’s work, a prototype and ten devices for measuring air quality had been built, with the hope that further systems could be replicated to cover other types of data concerning the city. While lack of funding at the time brought the project to a temporary halt, the new <a href="">Ahora Madrid</a> government has the potential to re-initiate funding and help to build an alternative model of urban data-gathering that takes advantage of the collective intelligence of a widespread citizen network. Furthermore, a working model of open data management could introduce a new type of relationship between the public and the commons and lay the foundations for other cities to follow.&nbsp; </p> <p>Interestingly, the free software approach, with code-sharing repositories and networked cooperation among a wide range of actors, facilitated the rise of municipalist candidates who ended up taking power. The citizen platform, Ahora Madrid, for example took advantage of the source code used by <a href="">Zaragoza en Común</a> to design its election manifesto collaboratively. Open source is thus part of the DNA of Spain’s municipalist candidates. Now in power, they are starting to promote the same idea of cooperating cities that encourage free technology, commons-oriented practices and collective action protocols. As we will see, Decide Madrid, the deliberative democracy platform launched by Ahora Madrid, is now being replicated by other cities. <strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>Beyond technology to building social relations </strong></h2> <p>In order, however, to arrive at a model based on citizen intelligence we must open up the definition of technology. <a href="">Ted Nelson</a>, one of the pioneers of digital culture, maintains that “our social behaviour is the software and our bodies are the hardware. A society’s operating system would therefore be a series of common practices and human relationships, not just a set of online platforms. Open source code goes beyond the technology itself. The open source city is in tune with the concept of the relational city”. The model of the relational city proposes meetings, relationships and dialogue to counter the model of mass surveillance and centralised data control represented by the smart city. “In the relational model, security depends above all on recreating social ties. It doesn’t mean emptying the streets but quite the opposite: repopulating the streets with neighbourly relations, including neighbourliness between strangers.” The open source relational city aspires to be a source code that can constantly be modified by the collective intelligence. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The model of the relational city proposes meetings, relationships and dialogue to counter the model of mass surveillance and centralised data control represented by the smart city.</span></p> <p>The experience of <a href="">El Campo de Cebada</a> in Madrid, a self-managed space that has had the legal support of the city council for five years, is a good example. While DCDCity-Aire Madrid exemplifies the way forward for collaborative collection of data and information, El Campo de Cebada illustrates how open source ideas and practices can relate to the physical space. El Campo de Cebada occupies a 5,500 square metre plot of land where the city council was supposed to have built a sports complex in 2009. The economic crisis meant the space was left empty. As a result, since 2010, local residents of all ages have transformed it into a community meeting, events and learning space.&nbsp; Eventually, the city council signed an agreement with local residents and community groups to cede the space to them temporarily. With the support and energy of young architect collectives and inspired by the community assemblies that emerged during 2011’s 15M, El Campo de Cebada became a site for all sorts of community initiatives including self-build furniture projects, permaculture and daily community-organised cultural activities. In 2013, El Campo de Cebada won the prestigious Golden Nica prize at the Ars Electronica festival, in the “digital communities” category. The fact that El Campo de Cebada, an initiative with an extremely strong territorial component, was recognised for its management of online communities is symptomatic of a new era in which digital networks and territory merge in a new hybrid space that is more democratic and participatory.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Wall of Cebada market covered with 'Be the change' portraits, September 2012." title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wall of Cebada market covered with 'Be the change' portraits, September 2012. Demotix/ Valentin Sama-Rojo. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>It is important to note, however, that El Campo de Cebada also reveals the problems and limits of citizen self-management. To keep the space functioning, the community had to resort to crowd funding and even today has not obtained public funding from the city council. Despite the success of El Campo de Cebada, the experience has demonstrated that it is not enough to have legal backing for commons-oriented practices unless they are provided with public funds.</p> <p>The risk is immediately evident: the ‘Big Society’ idea touted by David Cameron in the UK or the Dutch government’s community participation projects are to a large extent about promoting voluntary work by citizens in order to justify the disappearance of the welfare state. To avoid reinforcing this, city autonomies and citizen self-management and collaboration have a crucial role to act as an incentive for mutual complementarity between public administration and citizens.</p> <p>In Madrid, the arrival of Ahora Madrid in local government has opened the way for a new form of public management of the common good. The independent <a href="">Los Madriles</a> project, an atlas of neighbourhood initiatives that maps hundreds of projects around the city, is being used by the new local government to understand the autonomous processes going on in Madrid. Furthermore, in the budget drawn up for 2016, the city council has introduced participatory management of these initiatives by neighbourhood residents. At the end of 2015, the Madrid city council also approved a regulatory framework for ceding the use of public spaces to community groups. The combination of ceding public resources and spaces and respect for the autonomy of social movements could pave the way for a new municipalist model of cities against the neoliberal state. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The twin facets of the open source city (free online tools and participatory territories) are shaping a new future for radical democracy.</span></p> <p>Theorists of the commons, Antonio Negri and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, outline a <a href="">thought-provoking relationship</a> between the city and democracy: “metropolitan ways of life are now political and productive in general terms. Making democracy and (re)production of the city interact, we have the possibility to articulate the political”. This relationship between the city and metropolitan ways of life on the one hand, and democracy on the other, places local governments in a special, privileged position. As well as using free technology, any city council that wishes to build an open source city will therefore have to recognise and protect existing citizen practices (as well as foster new ones) that reproduce the commons and strengthen that new, post-capitalist mode of “production” whether they are community centres, self-managed spaces, gardening networks or peer-to-peer file sharing networks.</p> <p>The twin facets of the open source city (free online tools and participatory territories) are shaping a new future for radical democracy. The participatory repertoire of the <em>Barcelona en Comú</em> political confluence, which is currently governing the city of Barcelona, is seen as one of the models to be replicated. “Its radical democracy draws on a set of tools, techniques, mechanisms and structures to develop municipal policies from the bottom up. These include assemblies at various levels (neighbourhood, thematic, coordination, logistics, media, communication etc) and online platforms (for communicating, voting, working).” The role of Spain’s confluences, forged in networks and the street at a time when the other traditional social movements have failed to set the pace of change, is thus shaping up as one of the twenty-first century’s most advanced democratic laboratories.<strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>Irreversible global replicability</strong></h2> <p>On 4 December 2015, the local council in the Spanish city of Oviedo, governed by the confluence <em><a href="">Somos Oviedo</a></em>, presented its online platform for direct, participatory democracy. The Oviedo platform is a replica of Decide Madrid, using the same open-licence free software. <a href="">Pablo Soto</a>, a Madrid councillor who participated in the live-streamed event to launch the Oviedo platform, said that Decide Madrid “is being studied by other cities such as Barcelona, Zaragoza, La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela”. In every city where the deliberative democracy platform is established, citizens will be able to present specific policy proposals. When a proposal gains a stipulated level of support, it will be approved, providing a change has been made to the law as the Madrid city council has already done. The fact that different cities are sharing the code for their digital platforms breaks with the smart city’s logic of proprietary technology and the paradigm of branded cities competing with each other. What has now been baptised as Spanish “intermunicipalism” seeks to create a network of “rebel cities for the common good” which share repositories, tools, digital platforms and methodologies. Intermunicipalism is likewise dealing a harsh blow to the market logic based on selling the same technological product to different cities. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Intermunicipalism is... dealing a harsh blow to... market logic.</span></p> <p>Starting by sharing its technology, tools and platforms, intermunicipalism aspires to build irreversible political practices, thus ensuring that there is no turning back from participatory democracy. This is a participatory democracy that fits better with the post-capitalism advocated by Paul Mason or the economy for the common good than with the classic anti-capitalism of traditional social movements. “The geopolitics of the commons”, writes <a href="">Daniel Vázquez</a> in the prologue to the book on the <a href="">Buen Conocer / FLOK Society project</a>, possibly the most comprehensive <a href="">road map</a> for post-capitalist public policies, “opens up a new battlefront against cognitive capitalism and it does so through code connectivity”. The fact that a city like Madrid can share the code for its digital structures with any other city in the world, as well as with regions or even nation-states, illustrates this inspiring new era of networked transnationalism knitted around the common good and open source codes. </p> <p>A transnational municipalism could reconfigure the struggles of social movements to build this geopolitics of the commons against neoliberalism. As the Spanish case demonstrates, the lever of change wielded by municipal governments who gained power thanks to new ways of working can give the reconfigured struggle for the commons a new institutional scalability. It is no coincidence that some Brazilian cities (such as Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro) and US cities (building on the Occupy Wall Street movement) are studying how to replicate the model of Spain’s confluences. As long ago as 1984, <a href="">Murray Bookchin’</a>s thesis on libertarian municipalism was already envisaging the possibility of a new scalable network of territories: “Interconnecting villages, neighbourhoods, towns and cities in confederal networks”. In the digital age, the confederation could be made up of inter-territorial, cooperative cities, against or without the state, going beyond the well-intentioned United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) network, which still sees the ‘right to the city’ as the future. What is at stake is the life of neighbourhoods and, at the same time, the survival of democratic participation worldwide. The intermunicipal planet/neighbourhood, forever intertwined, may become the new cornerstone of global post-capitalism. Open source local government is the first step towards scaling up new public policy spheres and interwoven citizen practices that can make neoliberalism unnecessary. Code-sharing could reinvent global geopolitics and create a new horizon of transnational radical democracy. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>This essay is published as part of&nbsp;<a href="">TNI's fifth annual 'State of Power' report</a>,<a href="">&nbsp;</a>focused this year on the intersect between power and democracy.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Full TNI report: <a href="">State of Power, 2014</a></p> <p><a href="">State of Power 2014 infographics</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>This essay is published as part of&nbsp;<a href="">TNI's fifth annual 'State of Power' report,</a><a href="">&nbsp;</a>focused this year on the intersect between power and democracy.</em></p> <p><em><br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/pedro-kumamoto-bernardo-guti-rrez-gonz-lez/wikipol-tica-or-quest-for-total-innovat">Wikipolítica, or the quest for total innovation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/carlos-delcl%C3%B3s/towards-new-municipal-agenda-in-spain">Towards a new municipal agenda in Spain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/harris-gleckman/multi-stakeholder-governance-corporate-push-for-new-global-governance">Multi-stakeholder governance: a corporate push for a new global governance </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/bernardo-guti-rrez-gonz-lez/podemos-wave-as-global-hope">The &#039;Podemos wave&#039; as a global hope</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Spain Brazil Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Transformative Cities Bernardo Gutiérrez González Bernardo Gutiérrez González Tue, 19 Jan 2016 19:47:09 +0000 Bernardo Gutiérrez González and Bernardo Gutiérrez González 99186 at The mirage of public-private water <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The reality is the partnership of a city and a company in delivering the right to water always holds the tension of conflict because the mission of a government and company are completely different.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="World Water Forum 6, Marseille, France, 2012." title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World Water Forum 6, Marseille, France, 2012. Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>This week around 30,000 people will descend on Daegu, South Korea to attend the <a href="">7th 2015 World Water Forum</a> (WWF). Often portrayed as a policy-making forum committed to the goal of water for all, the gathering of the international water community is really more of a trade show, dominated by private water companies who promote private-sector solutions to the global crisis. Their solution was happily imbibed by most of its delegates and proclaimed in many of WWF’s previous declarations.</p> <p>Unfortunately on the ground, the promise of private water services has all too often turned into a mirage. Starting in 2000, increasing numbers of cities (from Atlanta to Accra, Berlin to Buenos Aires) have demanded a return to public water services as prices rose and services declined. A book <a href="">Our public water future: The global experience with remunicipalisation</a><em>, </em>published by Transnational Institute and other organisations this month reveals that over the last 15 years, 235 cases of water remunicipalisation have been recorded in 37 countries, impacting on more than 100 million people. Moreover the pace of remunicipalisation is accelerating dramatically, doubling in the 2010-2015 period compared with 2000-2010.</p> <p>Most notably, even Paris has remunicipalised, even though it is home to two of the largest water multionationals in the world, Veolia and Suez. If even their home-town was turning them down, what did that say about these companies potential to deliver in places where the need for investments in infrastructure was much higher?</p> <p>The most recent city to decide to remunicipalise is Jakarta, whose court in March annulled privatised water contracts for failing to protect residents’ human right to water. This court decision came after years of public anger at private operators Palyja (Suez is a major shareholder ) and Aetra’s record profit rates and dismal service record: &nbsp;their coverage never extended beyond <a href="">59</a>% of the population, their leakage levels were an astounding <a href="">44%</a>, and their rates increased almost <a href="">fourfold</a>.</p> <p>In the face of growing criticism, the WWF has toned down its talk of privatisation – this year the language is all&nbsp; about “innovative investment”, promoted most typically through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). But on closer examination, this is another mirage. PPPs are not an “innovative” financing mechanism but a cherry picking exercise: one that allows water multinationals the most attractive contracts (and all profits), while governments assume the risks. In the case of Bandung in Indonesia, for example, the PPP guaranteed a private company a 20% profit rate in exchange for an investment of $500 million in water infrastructure, that could only be paid back because of the presence of profitable local industries. But this cherry-picking means that the public sector is left operating only in regions where cost recovery is not possible – and it prevents the public sector – that can borrow at cheaper rates and is not required to pay back shareholders – to use earnings from more profitable districts to support extending service in less well-serviced low income areas. </p> <p>Research by Public Services International Research Unit shows that despite the big expansion of PPPs in recent years, financing for all infrastructure across the world still predominantly comes from public sources, as high as <a href="">90 per cent</a>. </p> <p>Investment in the public sector can deliver far better results than public-private partnerships. “Our Public Water future” shows that the 235 cities (that have remunicipalised) provide better services&nbsp; - not only because they can reinvest all profits into infrastructure, but also because they are better placed to consider other issues such as labour rights, environmental conservation and democratic accountability. Undistracted from competing for markets, public water operators are also linking up through Public Public Partnerships to share learning and best practice, and build capacity of less well-resourced utilities.</p> <p>In the flagship remunicipalisation of water in Paris, for example, in the first year of operations the new municipal operator Eau de Paris was able to realise efficiency savings of -€35 million What is more, they are prioritising environmental conservation measures and have set up a unique body in which the public can have a say in how the company is run.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, rather than embrace this progress, private water operators are doing their best to undermine it. As they try to seduce cities into signing PPPs, they may project images of everlasting supportive partnerships, but if a city decides to part ways, their behaviour is more like an angry jilted lover. In just the last week, Suez has said it will appeal and fight the Jakarta decision. At the same time, they also won an award for $405 million from Argentina after it cancelled its contract during the country’s economic crisis. Rejected by ever more citizens for profiteering from water, private water companies are now seeking to sabotage public water companies through legal costs and legal actions.</p> <p>Their actions show the mirage behind the term public-private partnership. The reality is the partnership of a city and a company in delivering the right to water always holds the tension of conflict because the mission of a government and company are completely different. If the World Water Forum is serious about its goal to implement solutions to the global water crisis, it should realise that the promise of private investment in water services was always a mirage. The private sector does not have the interest to invest in public infrastructure at the level needed, and has frequently turned out to be more expensive and less effective than the public sector in delivery. It is time for the World Water Forum to look at how it can boost investment in real public solutions that can deliver the human right to water for all.&nbsp;&nbsp;<em></em></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Transformative Cities Satoko Kishimoto Tue, 14 Apr 2015 06:54:39 +0000 Satoko Kishimoto 91979 at The resilience of neoliberal urbanism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span><span class="null">Resilience, the latest urban policy and think tank buzzword extolled upon the world's urban dwellers, operates as an insidious alias to dispossession and territorial stigmatisation.</span></span><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Yesterday morning (27<sup>th</sup> January 2014) I noticed a few tweets announcing the Guardian’s <a target="_blank" href="">new “Cities” section</a>. The newspaper has a track record of publishing excellent short essays addressing urban issues, especially in its “Comment is Free” section, so I confess to initial interest and perhaps even mild excitement.&nbsp; Then I read two of the introductory pitches by the editorial team, delivered with an intention to “start the debate”.</p> <p>Yesterday morning (27<sup>th</sup> January 2014) I noticed a few tweets announcing the Guardian’s <a target="_blank" href="">new “Cities” section</a>. The newspaper has a track record of publishing excellent short essays addressing urban issues, especially in its “Comment is Free” section, so I confess to initial interest and perhaps even mild excitement.&nbsp; Then I read two of the introductory pitches by the editorial team, delivered with an intention to “start the debate”. The first was by editor Mike Herd, entitled “<a href="">What makes your city so special</a>?” the sort of emetic rubric you might expect to find a ‘Business Traveller’ section of an in-flight magazine. Here is how he invited browsers to contribute:</p> <p>“This is truly the age of the metropolis, and we want to uncover what's really going on in cities all over the planet – be it good, bad or eye-wateringly ugly…..[W]e want to start the conversation now: tell us about the one initiative in your city which has made the most significant difference to your personal quality of life. It can be on any issue, big or small, from a smart city app to an old-quarter renovation, new cycle paths to a community cooking collective. Just write a short explanation of what – and who – makes it so great, and we'll feature a few of our favourites on the site soon. Thanks for stopping by.”</p> <p>Amidst the bilious drivel (I think a ‘community cooking collective’ is best understood as a ‘Big Society’ dystopia), a few buzzwords stood out: “smart city app”, “old-quarter renovation”, “cycle paths”.&nbsp; The steer is towards a particular vision, that of the gentrifying city embraced by policy elites enamoured with pseudo-intellectuals like Richard Florida, Leo Hollis, Andres Duany and Ed Glaeser, but universally panned by any urbanist with a sense of social justice and an ounce of theoretical awareness.&nbsp;&nbsp; A few tweeters began to smell a rat, but <a href="">Rich Goulding</a> produced my favourite: “Tell us about the most innovative synergistic initiative unleashing quality of life in your shanty town”. Already more widely across the website, and propping up the gentrified quaintness being embraced, were uncritical nods towards the urbanism of Jane Jacobs, whose defeat of New York City’s master planners is these days romanticised as a humanising vision for cities without any <a href="">acknowledgement of the disruptive and cookie-cutter gentrification that such a vision has unleashed all over the world</a>.</p> <p>Next up was <a href="">a longer piece</a> written by, tellingly, an architecture and design critic, Oliver Wainwright, who began by parroting the irksome nugget that “more than half of the world's population now live in a city” before continuing with, mercifully, the welcome statement that “such statistics are meaningless without asking what these cities will be like, who they are for, and how they are being made.”&nbsp; But that’s where any genuinely critical impulse ends. Wainwright continues,</p> <p>“Featuring regular contributions from established experts and new voices, we'll be peeling back the glossy veneer of the computer renderings, and going beyond the facts and figures of the city sales pitch, to ask what our future cities will actually be like – and how we can influence them for the better.”</p> <p>In an essay that actually reads more like a research centre grant application, he outlines a few issues facing cities and asks what he thinks are pertinent questions, all of which have already been (and continue to be) addressed by urban scholars all over the world, and some of which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered critical, e.g. “as high streets continue to decline, could there be more to the city experience than eating and shopping?” </p> <p>Wainwright’s article draws to a conclusion with the first mention of a word I was waiting for:</p> <p>“Facing threats of flooding and earthquakes, storms and tsunamis, the resilience of cities is tested to the limit…with flooding becoming an increasingly regular event, should we be retreating behind bigger barriers and steeper levees, or learning to adapt our cities to work with, rather than against, these conditions?”</p> <p><strong>Resilience</strong> </p><p>This is the latest policy and think tank abomination to infect and paralyse the study of cities, to the extent that it has become a research funding council priority all over the world (recently, the Urban Europe “<a href="">Joint Programming Initiative</a>” was released, inviting proposals on broad topics, among them “Urban Vulnerability, Adaptability, and Resilience”, where projects will “enhance understanding of and response to natural, environmental, social, economic and technological shocks as well as gradual changes”).&nbsp; It is not a new development that scholarly priorities are, regrettably, shaped by policy priorities (and by the strategies of big business and worries of the mainstream media) and therefore it is no coincidence that an entire cottage industry on “resilient cities” has emerged at a time of global austerity (a needless and wicked political and corporate assault on the poor that needs to be captured as a crisis per se, rather than as a response to an economic crisis).&nbsp; The insidious work of urban resilience lies in the obvious and, to its proponents entirely logical policy suggestion the word carries: “urban dwellers of the world, brace yourselves for austerity [or environmental catastrophe] and everything will be fine in the end!”&nbsp; Recently <a href="">Julian Reid</a> &nbsp;tweeted a photograph of a poster which, in a beautiful act of resistance, perfectly captures the symbolic power of the anaesthetising spell of resilience:</p><p><a href=""><img width="460" src="" /></a><br /><small>A poster in New Orleans, <a href="">blogged here</a>.</small></p> <p>It therefore came as no surprise that the Guardian Cities team ran an article on the day its website launched entitled “<a href="">What makes a city resilient</a>?” which recognised that resilience was a ‘buzzword’ but did absolutely nothing in the way of shining a critical light on it. In fact, it concluded in rosy and technocratic terms:</p> <p>“More broadly, however, the resilience movement is a global attempt to address two of the longest-standing and most vital questions facing theorists, planners and leaders. Namely, what is the purpose of society, and what is a society's responsibility to its citizens.”</p> <p>Less surprising still, but more concerning, is the realisation that ‘resilience’ is guiding this entire Guardian ‘Cities’ initiative.&nbsp; It is sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation, which has devoted extraordinary resources to a research programme entitled “<a href="">100 Resilient Cities</a>”, effectively a neoliberal competition that awards grants to the 100 cities that it feels "have demonstrated a dedicated commitment to building their own capacities to prepare for, withstand, and bounce back rapidly from shocks and stresses". In other words, prizes to the cities that rack up points in respect of getting back to the desired status quo of capital accumulation and elite wealth capture as quickly as possible. That there is a strong desire among urban managers to compete is evident in the fact that more than 1000 cities registered to take part in this programme, and almost 400 formally applied for inclusion.&nbsp; </p> <p>Like its ideological twin of ‘sustainable urbanism’ before it, 'resilient cities’ is proving extraordinarily seductive. In the UK it is currently being embraced and pushed by deeply conservative ‘good-design-can-save-us’ organisations such as <a href="">The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community</a> and <a href="">Create Streets</a>. These are effectively large landowner lobbies that are pushing a profoundly conservative vision of cities. Staffed by bourgeois architects, planners and self-styled ‘urban gurus’, all of whom have started using appeals to environmental terms like ‘resilience’ to bolster their long-held&nbsp; fanatical devotion to the sinister American cult of ‘new urbanism’, they advance a darkly troubling vision of urban planning that purports to be about recreating ‘traditional’ streets and pedestrian-friendly ‘mixed-income’ communities. In reality, they advocate the creation of self-absorbed, clap-happy zones proudly celebrating how handpicked social housing tenants – a minority - are hidden behind a sterile vernacular of Quality Street, neo-Georgian facades. Those behind the scenes, extracting value from the hysterical panic of a ‘housing shortage’ whilst ignoring the existence of nearly 1 million <a href="">empty homes</a> in the UK, call themselves ‘<a href=";journalCode=rjou20#.UufSmndFC70">placemakers</a>’ without the least hint of irony or even squeamishness.</p> <p>Resilience so easily supports not only austerity, but the territorial stigmatisation that so often precedes strategies of dislocation (“that community is just not resilient enough, so we need to break it up and scatter its residents”). Since the famous and hugely influential writings of the Chicago School of Human Ecology, there is a long and ugly history of concepts being brought from biological sciences to be applied to the social sciences and especially the study of cities – “regeneration” being the most pervasive recent example. In the case of resilience, a global recession morphs from being a political creation into a naturally occurring phenomenon that requires a program of public expenditure gutting to set it back on its natural path. As an analytic framework (if it can even be called that) “resilience” studiously, perhaps even judiciously, ignores every important question about the contradictions of capital accumulation and circulation,&nbsp;about uneven development, about enabling political structures, about state strategies of ‘growth machine’ branding – I could go on.</p> <p>What we will not learn from the Guardian ‘Cities’ feature it is that when the shadowy urban ‘experts’ talk of “resilient cities”, there is a symptomatic silence over the most resilient feature of cities all over the world: what David Harvey calls “accumulation by dispossession”, or the relentless quest for profit from land and real estate, usually achieved via violent land grab and forced eviction. Indeed, a frequent past contributor to The Guardian, Saskia Sassen, has a book forthcoming analysing this phenomenon, entitled “Expulsions”. While in 2009, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions produced a devastating report in the wake of a global analysis of forced eviction, and concluded that it “ranks amongst the most widespread human rights violations in the world.” Attention should surely be towards the diminishing ability of people to stay put in cities, given the potential ground rent to be extracted from the land they occupy.&nbsp; </p> <p>Neoliberal urbanism has proved to be extraordinarily resilient, and the most “resilient community” of all appears to be that of a cartel of politicians and financial executives, aided by think tanks and philanthropic organisations, who have “bounced back” (to take the language used in the Guardian) from a crisis they created with even more violence and venom towards marginalised citizens (who they treat as the culprits).&nbsp; There are scholars and activists all over the world charting and challenging these developments, and also researching the social movements and class struggles erupting from Athens to Istanbul to Buenos Aires to Cape Town.&nbsp; But these scholars are very poorly represented, if at all, among the “best urban voices” and “best city blogs” on Twitter currently collected by Guardian Cities editorial team. This very disappointing series is nothing more or less than a pure exemplar of vested-interest urbanism. Given the sponsor, it is impossible to be convinced by Oliver Wainwright’s plea that the series is critical and all about “peeling back the glossy veneer” of buzzwords and ‘big data’ visualisations. Approach with extreme caution. We are not resilient. </p><p> <strong>For more articles on the series, go to the <a href="">Cities in Conflict</a> main page.<br /></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/alex-vasudevan/reclaiming-life-in-precarious-city">Reclaiming life in the precarious city </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/camillo-boano/architecture-must-be-defended-informality-and-agency-of-space">Architecture must be defended: informality and the agency of space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/abdou-maliq-simone/urban-security-and-tricks-of-endurance">Urban security and the &#039;tricks&#039; of endurance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/byron-brewdog-and-recuperation-of-radical-aesthetics">Byron, Brewdog, and the recuperation of radical aesthetics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/arthur-phillips/charter-cities-in-honduras">Charter cities in Honduras? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/emma-cummins/beyond-ghost-town">Beyond the ghost town</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/cecil-sagoe/squeezing-poor-out-of-london">Squeezing the poor out of London</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity openSecurity Cities in Conflict Transformative Cities Tom Slater Cities of Exception Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:38:07 +0000 Tom Slater 78842 at