Everyday Consequences of City Life
Many in the past thought that cities “rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life” (Marx). Nowadays though, is there merit in thinking that a considerable part of the population now needs to be rescued from the idiocy of city life?
Uniformnovember.com is working on a project exploring the everyday realities of negative social entanglements in cities.
Interestingly, cities were the expression of that most basic freedom, from natural necessity, from subsistence and endless toil. City walls protected, and thus freed, their populations from wilder human compulsions, for acquisition, dominance – for war. Nowadays, however, one would be forgiven for seeing it in reverse, cities seem to be where much of modern warfare happens and where everyday fear, oppression and inequalities stem from.
The benefits of urban life have typically included reduced transport costs, exchange of ideas, sharing of natural resources, large local markets, and in some cases amenities such as running water and sewage disposal. Possible costs would include a higher rate of crime, higher mortality rates, higher cost of living, worse pollution, traffic and high commuting times. Cities grow when the benefits of proximity between people and firms are higher than the cost. Historic, modern, mega, manufactured divided or failed, the global urban phenomena has promised a valuable rate of exchange.
However, cities are no longer (Perhaps never were) relatively straightforward cosmopolitan configurations of order and controlled from the top down. The traditional hierarchical systems of dealing with displacement, political violence, health and climate change appear to struggle (Papadopoulou and Giaoutzi, 2017).
Struggling cities and their urban sprawls seem to be developing more like organisms with patterns that evolve from the bottom-up, creating, the patterns that we see emerge as the product and outcomes of millions of individually motivated and emotionally entangled decisions and in so far as there is any top-down planning, this is usually short-lived, nonetheless designed to solve urban problems at different scales but rarely having lasting continuity.
This transition of urban systems informed by the local rather than the state is indicative of an everyday attempt to address the fear that the city as it was once known is ill-equipped to cope with changing demographics and rapid population growth. Nor is it prepared to protect residents from the risk of further violence.
Image: Herr Nilsson's 'Dark Princesses'