20 July, 2009 - 20:42 — Matthew Jacobson
THE GEOGRAPHIES OF RESPONSIBILITY
One of the reoccurring motifs in what follows is just how little, actually, space is thought about explicitly. None the less, the persistent associations leave a residue of effects. We develop ways of incorporating a spatiality in our ways of being in the world, modes of coping with the challenge that the enormous reality of space throws up. Produced through and embedded in practices, from quotidian negotiations to global strategizing, these implicit engagements of space feed back into and sustain wider understandings of the world. The trajectories of others can be immobilized while we proceed with our own; the real challenge of the contemporality of others can be deflected by their relegation to a past (backward, old-fashioned, archaic); the defensive enclosures of an essentialised place seem to enable a wider disengagement, and to provide a secure foundation. (Massey, 2005.pp. 7-8).
In this chapter we outline a conceptual framework from which to consider spatializing as an aspect of reflecting on citytext. We draw from Massey’s conceptualizations of ‘spatialization’ (1999; 2000; 2005) and ‘geographies of responsibility’ (2004) to look at space (time and place) in terms of social relations and exchange. Spatialization as a critical ‘tool’ is used to analyze the ways in which urban political discourses produce particular ‘realities’ of space and time to reveal more clearly their political agency and effects. By examining agency in terms of geography and power networks we can get how expressions like ‘globalization’, ‘civic citizenship’ and ‘participation’ are used to naturalize the concrete agendas being exercised by particular agents in context. The expression ‘geographies of responsibility’ implies that these logics and networks are relational issues and involve particularly issues surrounding social rights and responsibilities. Spatializing text also implies looking at subjectivity in terms of discursive productivity and material relations as ‘subjects’ are always defined in relation to some either explicit or implicit ‘other’. Spatialization then gives us a means of analyzing subjectivities in concrete geographic relational dimensions bringing to the forefront issues of rights and responsibility.
So, if that is the case (a city is a globally constructed place), if we take seriously the relational construction of identity, then it poses, first, the question of the geography of those relations of construction: the geography of the relations through which the identity of London, for example, is established and reproduced. This in turn poses the question of what is the nature of ‘London’s’ social and political relationship to those geographies. What is, in a relational imagination and in light of the relational construction of identity, the geography of our social and political responsibility? What, in other words, of the question of the stranger without? (Massey, 2004; pg.6)
Spatialization is a tool which we can utilize in the critical analysis of discourses to open up different terminology to think about subjectivity in terms of relational space, time and place juxtaposing material geographies with discursive effects. The imaginaries of Massey and other critical geographers open up multitudes of creative and politicized ways in which we can take constructs which are often used in urban political discourse and see how they translate into the relational geographies of space, time and place.
Space as the ‘Final Frontier’
Space: the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise. Its 5 year mission: To explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.
For Captain Kirk space is a place of infinite newness; of foreign ‘others’ that the Enterprise seeks to ‘understand’, ‘help’ or if threatening, defeat; a world of expansion and potential, where Earth and all it’s problems and limits are far away, in fact Earth had disappeared for the most part other than serving as a command headquarters giving instructions and assistance to the Enterprise. Except in this episode:
Intro: Captain’s log. Using the light speed break away factor the Enterprise has moved back through time to the 20th century. We are now in extended orbit around earth using our ships deflector shields to remain unobserved. Our mission, historical research, we are monitoring earth’s communications to find out how our planet survived desperate problems in the year 1968 .
A man in a black business suit with a black cat in his arms appears, beamed up from somewhere and states: ‘This is the most crucial period in Earths history and the planet I live on wants to help the Earth survive’. Captain Kirk is afraid this black suited man could be an invader trying to do earth harm and sends him to confinement. Spock reports on history as the enterprise orbit the troubled earth of 1968: ‘The current earth crisis would fill a tape bank Captain. There will be an important assassination today, an equally dangerous government coup in Asia, and, this could be highly critical; the launching of an orbital nuclear warhead platform by the United States countering a similar launch by other powers’.
The problem, the alien in a business suit explains is that ‘technology and science have progressed faster than political and social knowledge’. The purpose of the alien’s mission: to prevent Earth’s civilization from destroying itself before it can mature into a peaceful society’. Unsure whether a US nuclear rocket will fall to earth and kill everyone, Spock tells Kirk to rely on his human intuition in regards to trusting the alien ‘business man’. Kirk decides to trust him and the alien detonates the rocket before it hits earth. The earth is saved and a new international agreement on nuclear disarmament is formed. The cat turns out to be able to turn into a sexy black haired white women and Spock, reading the future tells the alien that he and the woman will have ‘interesting experiences’. ‘Live long and prosper’ says Spock.
Obviously the life of Captain Kirk and his multi-cultural adventurers in this episode would be a field day for a multitude of gender and colonial critique, but we will focus on ‘space as the final frontier’. Western political texts tell particular stories either directly or indirectly about ‘space’, time and place and ideologically work to forward particular ‘common sense’ understandings of what space is or has been, or is becoming. These stories are embedded deeply in the manner in which cities are discussed in urban political text, in particular in the ‘naturalization’ of neoliberalism as another step in the adventures of Western ‘progress and development’.
Re-read as a ‘spatial’ narrative, the white man and his crew come back from history to better understand how their culture survived planetary extinction. The problem is ‘technology and science have progressed to fast for the political and social knowledge’, the lag of social political development to keep up with the forward progress of technology and Western science, or the linear narrative of white male European civilization. There is only one centre of progress and knowledge and civilization has only one trajectory in terms of Western knowledge, named both as the problem and the solution. Only the white men and the aliens, the colonial adventurers can stop the insanity of nuclear escalation, only ‘pure’ colonial exploration exists, far beyond the whole earthly project and the messy business of private interests and the competitive exploitations of colonial capitalism. The heroes climb back into their ship and wish the Earth creatures the best, ‘live long and prosper’.
Back on Earth
Richar Peet (2001) , in his thoughtful review of MacEwan’s Neoliberalism or democracy (1999), has argued that it is necessary to deepen still further the critique of neoliberalism and the political project in which it is embedded. The argument here is that attention to the implicit play of contesting understandings of space could be integral to this project. It could be central to his suggestion that we need ‘to reveal neoliberalism as a discourse structured, eventually, by multinational corporations…and to read neoliberal hegemony geographically’ (pg. 340).( Massey, 2005;pg.100).
Western myths latent in political rhetoric and rationalizations articulate innocent, often simplistic but telling collective imaginaries in the ways they speak about space, time and place and form particular constellations of subjectivities, objects and relations. These discourses work to set the contingencies and possibilities for ways to act and think and the terms for considering issue such as rights and responsibilities. The ‘spatialization’ of the discursive analysis of their narratives of history and politics which are embedded in Western political discourse is potentially useful in opening up debates in terms of power relations and potentially a useful angle in unravelling political debate in the urban context. In this sense we could ask the question, is there a kind of subjective coherence in its texts in terms of spatiality; the kinds of space, time and place are being produced in the neoliberal narrative? Can this help us critically reflect on both the productive nature of urban political text as well as its resistance? How can we reflect on the colonial/capitalist Western system as an internal urban project, is that useful?
Kirk and his calm friends are ‘good guys’, leaving colonial/capitalism riding off freely into ‘space’ for its next adventures . Bringing the Enterprise back down to earth means circumscribing it, rather than ‘save us’ it might be more accurate to consider how we can ‘save ourselves from it’ to survive the as of yet unresolved problems of ‘1968’. Yet Kirk and his buddies may have been headed into a useful adventure if they had been interested in the geopolitics of colonial/capitalism which may still hold potential for us ‘earthlings’. If we can use space to unravelled a way into geopolitical relations with different ways of ‘knowing’ and being, where unknown languages are spoken and communication is understood as ‘translation’ and ‘interpretation’, then we can gain access to politically located debates surrounding relational geographies and responsibilities. Spatializing urban political discourse has the potential to challenge foundational economic and geopolitical rationalities, potentially exposing cracks ideologically over how particular rights have been obtained, but more importantly are reproduced on a daily basis through speech and action.
Three proposals about Space
Doreen Massey outlined three proposals about space as a reference point to consider the ways in which space can be (re)thought. We contra-positioned three common conceptualizations of Neoliberal ‘space’ with Doreen Massey’s alternative conceptualizations in relation to space, time and place to give a contrast from which we can also think about how space is often considered in Western political text (Massey, 2005; pp.9).
I. Space as productive rather than ‘evident’.
a. Neoliberal space: Space is an objective and quantifiable entity which is owned by some agent who decides its usage. Space can be designate for private exploitation or ‘public’ use by the legal and political system. Communities have not legal special rights to space outside of their own private ownership. Through rational decision making and city political bodies the city decides what is ‘best use’.
b. Massey’s proposal: That we recognize space as the product of interrelations; as constituted through interactions, from the immensity of the global to the intimately tiny.
In this way discourses about space produce rationalities of social and power relations rather than having their ‘true’ properties ‘discovered’. The shift becomes social rather than from a singular point of truth as proposed by Western science.
II. Space and reality as polemic, pluri-versal, simultaneous and multiple
a. Neoliberal space: Space use is based on legal ownership and with correct rules can be managed with order to balance everyone’s needs. The city needs to generate profit and thus must be utilized according to use and profit value working cooperatively with those with the power to develop and control them. Private interests have the right to compete and exploit cityspace within legal boundaries. Space is physical, concrete and material as defined by Western scientific epistemology.
b. Massey’s proposal: That we understand space as the sphere of the possibility of the existence of multiplicity in the sense of contemporaneous plurality; as the sphere in which distinct trajectories coexist: as the sphere therefore of coexisting heterogeneity; without space, no multiplicity; without multiplicity, no space. Multiplicity and space are co-constitutive.
This is a radical departure from Western rationality in which the singularity of space is ruptured into fragmented, temporal, political multiplicities, simultaneously occurring, thus making points of annunciation and claims to ‘reach’ or scale polemic and relational. In others words whomever speaks for particular definitions of any particular space is analyzable according to their location, what investments and claims they are making based on whatever types of space they are forwarding conceptually. ‘Truth claims’ are thus considered as spatial practices in which a particular position attempts to forward a particular collective conceptualization of space. This shift in perspective signifies we speak and think from our locatedness, and claims to ‘objectivity’ are disrupted and replaced with open politically invested positional debates.
III. Space as process rather than content
a. Neoliberal space: Space is structural and the city is the correct social body to centrally plan and decide space usage. Residents have no ownership of their shared spaces outside of their private boundaries. Citizens elect officials to govern them and to be the experts in regards to urban planning and development.
b. Massey’s proposal: That we recognize space as always under construction.
The concept of process implies a focus on social interactions as productive and visible by examining the ‘realities’ produced by particular discourses and practices. Process pays attention to the moment of annunciation, the context and dynamics which form the manner in which debates and relations are formulated and structured. Process language is different than content language in that it is interested in interactions as the actual creative moment, as such accessible and changeable.
Massey’s proposal highlights in spatial terms a type of challenge to the epistemological centre of Western modernity. It opens the conceptualization of space to multiple interpretations and thus opens questions related to the privileging of Western models of space over conceptualizations which propose alternative conceptualizations. Alternative spatial conceptualizations are (as Foucault states) always present as forms of resistance and even part of the constitution of the dominant Western model itself. So as Foucault suggested, we can look at Western dominant discursive ‘formations’ in relation to their resistances to see how power relations are produced within these tensions, as constitutive of each other. We work to bring this conceptualization more into spatial terms as dimensional, temporal and located in place, thus forming a useful model from which we moved toward more specific urban contexts and considered how the tensions in some urban battles reflect resistances to the uses and constructions of Western colonial/capitalisms versions of space .
We were interested in ‘reading citytext’ in terms of spatiality through examples of urban political texts to look at how they produced spatial and temporal dimensions that figure into the production of power relations, resistance and governance. We asked the following questions:
In terms of Space, how discourses:
a. Express physical dimensions in terms of distance, volume and size in relation to how these forms define or determine social relations (power relations). For example: a new plaza should not be for youth sports, rather for an open walkway to create a more visually attractive site for tourism.
b. Discuss scaling, or the ordering and valuing of different qualities and dimensions in relation to each other. For example: in a private property system space that is paid for or rented is considered legitimate whereas space that is merely occupied is considered illegal and thus legitimate to enter by government regulatory bodies.
c. Produce difference in terms of issues such as citizenship, ownership, private and public, boundaries, rights and borders. For example: boundaries and access are determined by city officials as to how residents may utilize particular spaces such as park benches, sidewalks, and public buildings.
In terms of Time, how discourses:
d. Create historical narratives which have temporal dimensions in terms of the passage and value of movement and change.
e. Place value on certain types of time frames and use in contrast to others. For example: linear time vs circular time.
f. Time epistemologies: ‘one’ time or multiple simultaneous ‘times’ as ‘real time’ or not. This is very clear in the examples of different paces in which different activities take place, or the different paces of different cultural or social groups. In ‘pure’ capitalism for example the phrase was coined ‘time is money’ which would have been meaningless to pre-capitalist cultures.
g. Official time verses day to day time or formal verse informal time tracking.
h. Dominant vs alternative or resistive ‘time’. Resistance actions often take the form of creating alternative time, such as in the case of a deliberate work slowdown as a form of protest.
Shifts in conceptualizations and discourses about time relate to how power relations are being constructed as well as maintained. Always interrelated to time, spaces order movement and regulate access which affect the ‘rhythms’ in a sense of community. Loaded political terms such as ‘progress’, ‘competition’ and ‘development’ as well as ‘modernity’ itself are all embedded in implicit conceptualizations of what types of temporal orderings are valued and privileged. Spaces are constructed around particular time functions and activities, making certain temporal uses of space easier or more difficult. Analyzing cityspace in terms of time shows contrasts in the ways in which time is measured or marked in particular places or the type of temporalities that occur in different cityspaces. Since relationships occurring within time dimensions we can also consider how particular types of relations exist within particular time dimensions, or even how they change ‘over time’. As with space, time is a type of meta-level of analysis that is often overlooked and thus ‘naturalized’ within discourses. There are interesting and potentially useful openings in urban discursive studies along with spatial analysis to consider in particular how ‘time’ is produced within particular political discourses .
In terms of Place, how discourses:
i. Identify place in terms of history and its role in formal political bodies such as regional, national, provincial, city and neighbourhood dimensions. The phrase ‘think globally, act locally’ highlights the ongoing questions related to ‘long reach’ power relations and ‘short reach’.
j. Place as ownership or identity are central dynamics in many urban debates including who belongs or doesn’t belong to certain neighbourhoods or who controls them. The ‘claim to place’ is central in often high stakes debates surrounding power relations and urbanization, which if problematized provides potentially useful openings in making these relations more visible.
Arturo Escobar (2001) also argues for the return to ‘place’ as a critical dimension of academic and social research, claiming that the social sciences have tended to overemphasize the power of ‘global’ forces at the risk of marginalizing the both interactional nature to power as well as the actual power of ‘place’ based movements. In this way he also highlights the efficacy of place to deconstruct in a sense the ‘normalization’ of particular forms of social oppression and domination. In relation to ethnocentrism, he comments:
‘The marginalization of place in European social theory of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been particularly deleterious to those social formations for which place based modes of consciousness and practices have continued to be important. This includes many contemporary societies, perhaps with the exception of those most exposed to the de-localizing, disembedding and universalizing influence of modern economy, culture and thought. The reassertion of place thus appears as an important arena for rethinking and reworking Eurocentric forms of analysis.’ (Escobar, 2001; pp.141)
This raises the question of the critical potential for debates surrounding of distance and relations. Urban political text work on producing particular subjective positions related to distance, rights and responsibilities. This holds true for cities as well as groups and individuals. Broad sweeping generalizations about the forces of the economy or the market can make place appear as insignificant and a passive agent, and also not responsible for what is occurring in terms of larger macro levels of the economy.
Different places are different types of nodes for globalization `they each have distinct positions within the wider power-geometries of the global. In consequence, both the possibilities for intervention in (the degree of purchase upon), and the nature of the potential relationship to (including the degree and nature of responsibility for), these wider constitutive relations, will also var. ( Massey,1999; pp.11).
Within the process of producing ‘categories, hierarchies and identities’; differences are produced in relation to a broad range of informal and formal regulatory functions such as access to political decision making, resources and movement. Scaling embeds itself in social relations in ways that reproduce power relations along lines of geographical, among other forms of, difference. On one level as Harvey mentions in terms of the urban environment is how a sense of ‘place’ appears as a geographical mosaic ‘made up of historical accretions of partial legacies superimposed in multiple layers upon each other, like the differential architectural contributions form different periods layered into the built environment of contemporary cities of ancient origin’ (Harvey, 2000; pp. 77). How ‘place’ is constructed in relation to history, time and space can carry a constellation of implications as to how particular places should function, who is the rightful party to control and regulate them, and how they should be ‘developed’.
Vingette:´Sitting in the park´
In the city of Barcelona there is a park called ‘la Cuidella’ in which currently there is a zoo, a small pond, one of the few and far between grass areas in the city. As one walks the park, as a tourist might, it is easy to feel the instant relief to be in a quiet tree lined refuge. On Sunday the park is filled with families and all ages relaxing and enjoying a meal or drink on blankets, or various jugglers and musicians gathering on summer days. If we dig deep into the historical soil we can find the military fortress conceptualized by Felipe the 5th created to monitor and control the recently defeated Catalan population. The walls sit silent with their memories of the executions of residents who were part of the resistance of the power imposed from outside. Before this there was the neighbourhood of La Ribera which was moved, so residents either needed to relocate outside the area or to a newly constructed neighbourhood, a land fill that was to be called ‘la Barceloneta’. After the military fortress was no longer needed, Barcelona successfully competed for the Expositions of Cultures, in 1857 and a park was created. Poverty was rampant in the city and class divisions were strong, immigrants from the countryside came to Barcelona to try to make a living, taking up any work they could find to survive. Thirty years later Barcelona would be one of the last strongholds of the Republic before fascism would invade and stranglehold the city for nearly forty years with the native Catalan’s forbidden to speak their language in public and political organizing efforts were to be met with the threat of imprisonment and at times, execution in another historic area of the city, Montjuic. A historical perspective on cityspaces helps us see the temporal and produced nature of spaces, how they are produced for particular invested interests and a result of the dynamics of power and politics which determine what functions and purposes cityspaces should be put to use. Fences are constructed and schedules made to promote or curtail certain activities and present certain images to residents and visitors. Public spaces can be examined as an expression of power relations and the political processes which go on to determine their uses and structures.
Activist groups at times utilize counter strategies of local place to contrast and combat the abstraction and ‘franchise’ nature of multinational urban development as in the form of speculation housing construction and sales, tourist urbanization, and standardization of public spaces. Local resident activists are fighting for rights to the historical spaces they live in, cultural practices, and for a larger degree of participation and power in relation to how their neighbourhoods are being developed. Aronowitz describes Lefebvre’s ‘call’ back to place to highlight the ideological workings of spatial representations that ‘crush’ living experience through abstraction.
‘In opposition to “computerized daily life” which he identifies with the growing tendency toward the domination of the abstract over the concrete, first theorized by Marx in his critique of the transformation of concrete labor into value and exchange value. Lefebvre’s critique of the information society is that it fetishizes its own process of production and its ingression into everyday existence. Insofar as Lefebvre steps out of his own critical framework and addresses the question of what it to be done, Volume Three may be read as a program to restore the concrete — a lived experience that has been “crushed” by abstract, technological rationality.’ (Aronowitz, 2007; pp.152)
So as a political strategy as Massey has also suggested, in an effort to cut through the generalizations which often blur the actual practices of power in urban contexts, geographers have emphasized the importance of ‘place’ as a way to see more explicitly how power relations are formed within particular locations. Thus ‘placing’ is suggested as a type of politics which could serve to make more explicit existing power relations as well as provide an anecdote to the ideological workings of certain types of spatializing. Escobar points to the power of ‘place based’ movements to resist and develop a kind of resilience in the face of larger transnational market forces that may be attempting to further comodify or privatize their neighbourhoods. As a direction for social research he comments that it is necessary to not only focus on ‘place’ as an object of study;
…‘(but to) consider broader questions, such as the relation of places to regional and transnational economies; place and social relations; place and identity; place, boundries and border crossings; place and alternative modernities; and the impact of digital technology, particularly the internet, on places. What changes do occur in particular places as a result of globalization? Conversely, what new ways of thinking about the world emerge from places as a result of such an encounter?’ (Massey, 1999; pp.157).
Analyzing ‘place’ in terms of discourse then is a process of seeing the layers, both visible and invisible, which make a particular place meaningful within its regional and national context. In this sense a social urban researcher must be an archaeologist must also be able to see what ‘is and has been’ to understand the ‘organizing’ forces which make ‘place’ meaningful and which produce and re-produce particular scales and differences. In terms of the capacity of capitalist modes of production to comodify history, one must be careful to look at the ways in which contemporary systems of power ‘mummify’ history into museums and cultural products which can be used as a way to invisiblize the contemporary dynamics surrounding the way in which social relations are being regulated and produced in the present.
Spatializing western urban text
‘…..really globalizing/spatializing the history of modernity brings to light just how standard discourse of that history was used to legitimize so much. It is through that Euro-centric discourse of the history of modernity that the (in fact particular and highly political) project of the generalization across the globe of the nation-state form could be legitimated as progress, as ‘natural’. (Massey, 1999; pp. 11).
Doreen Massey discusses the process of decentralizing European knowledges and epistemologies within her conceptualization of ‘spatializing the history of modernity’ (Massey, 2005). She stresses that ‘globalization’ as a term or construct has been used to ‘normalize’ the narrative of Western modernity, blurring and invisibilizing real historical spatial relations along with normalizing certain types of practices and interventions, as some how inevitable; without invested agents with self interests.
To see how we can consider the organization and productive workings of space, we will look at a foundational discourse of the modern/system of power, discourses surrounding ‘globalization’. Doreen Massey criticizes the general use of the word ‘globalization’ as we mentioned before in terms of euro-centric dynamics, stating that ‘globalization’ is most commonly used to normalize the capitalist extensions of the market. To make the project of global capitalism somehow ‘natural’ and an aspect of some linear discourse on ‘progress’ of ‘civilization’, including in terms of intellectual pursuit, technological, health and almost every area of social relations. Yet paradoxically what is happening is actually the opposite of ‘globalizing’ in terms of making something spatial or spatializing.
‘The implication must be that recognizing true spatiality necessitates recognizing a greater degree of difference and a different kind of difference-one which involves the existence of trajectories which have at least some degree of autonomy from each other (which are not simply alignable into one linear story). A connection between real spatialization and the possibility of different stories, and of the existence of alterity, begins to emerge (Massey, 1999; 13)’.
This implies that in making sense of urban political discourse, we must consider its existence in terms of actual place and particular practices within a more explicit debate about what are the larger institutions and geopolitical structures at play in any given urban context. This opens avenues to consider cities both internally and externally within the larger geostructure of dominant epistemological discourses of Western colonial capitalism.
The paradox about being in the West and trying to reflect upon Western forms of power is that it’s difficult for us from the West to see the ‘ground’ we are on. One way of attempting this exercise is to spatialize text, to go to ‘space’ (imaginary) and see the text as a construction of a ‘world’, a separate ‘reality’. As a strategy in terms of reflecting on Western capitalism, spatialization takes us to its history as a material and epistemological project and to its other face; colonialism. We have to relate then, as Westerners, to other espistemes differing from the Western capitalist project, to ‘spatialize’ ourselves, and then consider in particular locations what is happening in terms of its promotion and resistance.
Thinking about how text produces space, time and place gets us at the background dimensions of ‘reality’ being constructed which have political implications and are foundational to power relations. It points to the manner in which Western ways of thinking of time and space have become deeply naturalized within Western discourses and often unattended to in critical thinking and discourse analysis. What Massey considers is how the totalizing discourses of modernity have normalized Western epistemology in terms of temporal and spatial dimensions. If we can open up this critical level, we agree with Massey, this makes room for a type of plurality in terms of epistemologies that have been largely ‘colonized’ in terms of alternative temporal and spatial constructions. In other words, Western constructions of time and space pervade modern political debate and we can find in the resistances to the project of modernity, including urban restructuring of the Western city indications that these dimensions are being resisted, rearticulated and disrupted in interesting ways.
The everyday urban reproduction of power relations
Henri Lefebvre was particularly interested in how ‘everyday’ discourses are central in terms of reproducing capitalist modes of production. Lefebvre, considered a Marxist geographer by some, wrote extensively on the urban context in terms of the production of space, capitalism, and the reproductive nature of ‘everyday’ life. He extrapolated from what he considered ‘everyday’ life towards more abstract conceptualizations about power relations and geopolitical structures.
‘For Lefebvre, everyday life is the site of and the crucial condition for the “reproduction of the relations of production.” Its colonization by the state and by economic relations provides the answer to the question of the survival of capitalism in the wake of its horrendous 20th century history.’ (Aronowitz, 2007; pp. 135.)
‘What distinguishes Lefebvre’s critical philosophy from Critical Theory of the Frankfurt school is that it understands that categories such as the “totally administered society” and the “eclipse of reason” are accurate as tendencies, but when taken as a new totality, are one-sided. Lefebvre’s most urgent goal is to recapture genuine experience and free the concrete from its subsumption under the abstract, represented most powerfully by technology and its companion, administration.’( Aronowitz, 2007; 154)
One of Lefebvre’s driving themes in his work relates to the ‘object’ of inquiry, which for him had to do with the ‘everyday’; that in contrast to more deterministic or ‘closed’ theorizations of politics as determined from political structures of formal institutions, he believed that the potential for change, although difficult, lay in the everyday manner in which relations are reproduced. Although he was very critical of capitalism, for Levebvre the power of the system was not totally in the macro-forces dominating large institutions as much as the manner in which capitalism was reproduced through daily life. He felt that capitalism, which was focused on the ‘fragmentation of space for sale and purchase (exchange) ‘, used a kind of ‘binary correspondence’ in which ‘needs, functions, places, social objects are placed directly (point by point) in a supposedly neutral, innocuous and innocent objective space; after which linkages are set up’. This leads to the ‘fragmentation of social space’ and to visual ‘projects’ in which the ‘plan of space (is) distorted from the start’ (Lefebvre, 1996, pp.188). In commenting on the relationship between larger social entities and more local particular social dynamics, Lefebvre states that this as an interrelationship in which:
‘the city also depends as essentially on relations of immediacy, or direct relations between persons and groups which make up society (families, organized bodies, crafts and guild’s, etc). Furthermore, it is not reduced to the organization of these immediate and direct relations, nor its metamorphoses to their changes. It is situated at an interface, half-way between what is called the near order (relations of individuals in groups of variable size, more or less organized and the far order, that of society, regulated by large and powerful institutions (Church and State), by a legal code formalized or not, by a ‘culture’ and significant ensembles endowed with powers, by which the far order projects itself at this ‘higher’ level and imposes itself.’ (Lefebvre, 1996; pp.100-101)
Thus the interplay between urban moments and relations produces the translations of power relations into the day to day modes of interaction as well as reproduce the power relations of large institutions and politics. Lefebvre made it clear that modes of production clearly in terms of capitalism have particular relationships with time and space, and in this resistance has taken the form of moments where ‘bodies’ resist their subjectification in terms of productive accumulations strategies. He suggested that these temporal dimensions of production could also become sites of resistance in work settings. Time is produced and in this sense time is relational, the collective standardizing of time therefore embodies subjects, objects, and resistance.
Massey clearly points to the impossibility of separating time in space in terms of conceptualization, pointing to how historical narratives produce both time dimensions and spatial ones simultaneously. We should be interested therefore in, particularly as critical Western researchers in disrupting the naturalization of time and space in terms of Western constructions. Yet we need to look at the discursive essentializing of non-western constructions of time and space, and rather be interested in the variability and resistances of how time and space are being constructed both by modern colonial/capitalist discourses and their resistances, or in our case the discourses of urban restructuring as proclaimed by those who are forwarding these movements and the urban social movements which are opposing these restructuring efforts. This helped us consider approaching ‘official stories’ of those who are forwarding urban restructuring efforts in terms of the narratives in which they are producing space, and then consider how resistance discourses appear at particular moments, in particular forms, and in particular ‘alternative’ spatial and temporal dimensions, as one way of opening up and broadening debates concerning power relations in these contexts.
Ambivalence, responsibility and relational space
‘As Foucault (1986a, 252), famously said: ‘Space is fundamental in any form of communal life: space is fundamental in any exercise of power.’ Yet, as noted above, much of the development of governmentality in sociological and political frames barely touches on the question of space, possibly because of these disciplines’ longstanding ambivalence about the place of space in social and political relations. (Huxley, 2007; pp. 190).
Ambivalence about ‘space in social and political relations’ has a historical and functional aspect, not just a presupposed un-clarity in relation to the social sciences? The West’s ‘ambivalence’ surrounding the conceptualization of the critical analysis of space is not just due to its polemic historical role in how space has been divided, conquered and colonized, but perhaps more so in relation to how its constructions of space are integral to its contemporary model of rationality and legitimization in terms of rights and responsibilities? If so, then perhaps understanding how space, time and place are produced by Western urban discourses (and resisted) has critical potential in that it may provide new ways to think about the way that power relations are produced and reproduced through these discourses? If we can make space critical in terms of political debates, there could be potential new types of leverage to enter debates surrounding urban space particularly in terms of rights and responsibilities? If neoliberalization of city space is a reordering also of the citizen, then perhaps spatialization can give us some hold on how the neoliberal subject is also positioned in terms of rights and responsibilities. Massey discusses in terms of discourses, how subjectivity fits into spatialization by summarizing Gaten’s concept of re-subjectivication:
‘…a central aspect…is an imaginative leap in which we can learn ‘to think not about how the world is subjected to globalization (and the global capitalist economy) but how we are subjected to the discourses of globalization and the identities (and narratives) it dictates to us (Gaten, 1999; pg 35-26).
The discourses of neoliberalism (rather than globalization) can be spatially analyzed in terms of subjectivity in the present, giving us a view of how these subjective options work to further the neoliberal project.
‘But were the ‘distance’ to be spatial, and in the here and now rather than imagined as only temporal, the element of responsibility – the requirement to do something about it – would assert itself with far greater force’. (Massey, 2004; pp, 10).
Given that identity is relational it follows that it is negotiated and thus space itself and place are negotiated. This may seem obvious, but when it comes to claims over ‘rights’ and place identities the questions of rights and responsibilities is often considered irrelevant and not allowed within the urban debates concerning planning options. This directly relates to political subjectivities as the possibilities for political action become constrained within the limits of the neoliberal project. Central to the matter of making space critical are the demands of residents to open urban debates so that they themselves may become political agents. Massey discusses this issue in terms of debates surrounding spatialization in terms of challenging agency in terms of ‘globalization’. She comments that in order to debate issues of ‘specificity’ in terms of agency and interests:
‘They would need to be a fora which could debate purposes (Massey, 2000a, 2000b), and respond to individual instances in a situated way within those wider premises. The objection to such a suggestion would undoubtedly be that it would lead to endless debate and disagreement. And it undoubtedly would. But endless debate and disagreement are precisely the stuff of politics and democracy. (The effect of the application of ‘rules’ is that, as with the assertion of the inevitability of globalization, it takes politics out of the debate. It treats the process of globalization as a technical matter). (Massey, 2005; pg. 103).
Critical spatialization of political discourse is a move to repolitize urban political debates, to create more political urban subjective positions for residents and demand the forums to address questions surrounding specific questions around agency and political power relations to get to the related question of space in terms of rights and responsibilities.