Re: Conservatives' Vision of an America Without Cities
- The article mentions in passing the critical point, namely that a
who/whose issue is being made of what ought properly to be what/how
issue. The consequent Us-Them distinction results in an ultimatum that
is in large measure a false ultimatum. We are told that, to enjoy the
benefits of true urbanity, we have to forfeit the desire for autonomy
and personal sovereignty that, however illusorily, generates the great
appeal of suburban land-ownership. We are told that we must choose
between living on our own terms and living in urban relationships with
our neighbours. We are told to choose between using a car daily and not
possessing a car at all. We are told to choose between economic
irrelevance in dormitory suburbs and intrusive overregulation in the
city. We are told that the price of the city is our unreserved
obedience, because reserving the right to withhold our obedience is
something that belongs to the countryside - and that simply does not
We are moreover tempted hereby to go on, much in the vein of the
Marxian notion of 'false consciousness', about 'territoriality' as some
sort of despicable bourgeois deviance, which attitude is anathema to
one so territorial as myself. For in many senses I am both Us and Them;
and it seems probable to me that more are thus than otherwise. And as
such I resent the ultimatum.
Is the challenge not precisely to generate urban forms that satisfy
valid desires for 'rural' autonomy in a tight, walkable form?
--- In email@example.com, Claude Willey <claudewilley@...>
> Conservatives' Vision of an America Without Cities
> By Jeremy Adam Smith, Public Eye. Posted December 12, 2006.
- =v= Thanks for articulating some of the either/or criticisms I
had of the original article.
=v= I will add that the conservative/liberal divide in the U.S.
(such as it is) doesn't really split into geographic divisions,
and that the real demographic situation has to do with the
topic of this list. While it has certainly been a conservative
(and cryptoracist) meme to demonize the cities as hotbeds of
liberal decadence, there's a lot of wealth in the cities and
no shortage of conservative urbanites. Further, the American
countryside has a long, strong history of progressivism.
=v= The crucial story in the U.S. is what demographers call the
swing vote, what sociologists call anomie, and what I call the
mushy middle. This is a vast slice of the populace, largely
suburban, who stand for nothing and fall for anything. National
politics in recent decades has been about courting this vote, a
process that has little to do with political positions and much
to do with focus groups and marketing research (and, of course,
strategic voting fraud).
=v= When the balance of this vote tipped to Bush, we were fed
nonsense about a unified "Red America" voting its "values."
When, previously, the very same demographic supported Clinton,
we were fed nonsense about tender-hearted "soccer moms."
=v= American suburbia is extremely dependent on cars, so some
have looked at the voting this century and speculated that
this demographic voted its interests by voting for the oilmen
and -women. I know of no research that really supports this,
and again, the 1990s and 2006 votes suggest otherwise. The
real story, I think, is that car-dependent land-use patterns
promote anomie and create the malleable demographic. People
living this way are compartmentalized inside their cars and
are more likely to experience others through a TV screen than
in person, and the closest thing to public space is a shopping
mall. Without the back-and-forth of unmediated experience,
this population has fewer opportunities to think critically
and consider alternatives. Which is a boon for politicians
of any stripe.