Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Responses to My Article “Beyond Separative Modern Urbanism: Looking for the Connective Design that’s Already ‘Out There’”

Two more responses to “Beyond separative modern urbanism: looking for the connective design that’s already ‘out there”. The original version of the essay is to be found here.

  1. Patrick S Says:
    Hi Oyvind,
    thanks for the reply, and much to ponder here in both your original and extended comments.
    I realise your critique of the ‘welfare state’ is quite complex – it reminds me to some extend of the idea of a need for a more ‘Relational State’ that I think was posted here recently – bit.ly/UyjVjA . And in Scandinavia, I saw a talk by Dan Hill (@cityofsound) recently who’s now at SITRA in Finland arguing something a bit similar. Another Scandinavian example (which Michel wrote a chapter towards) is the co-p2p.mlog.taik.fi/ book.
    But on the energy example in particular, as a good example – contrast Norway’s approach of taking a big share of oil revenue for a sovereign wealth fund, with my home country of Australia’s approach – where the vast majority of our mineral wealth being rapidly extracted is going to multi-nationals, and only a small portion to workers and the state. Of course, there is the Alaskan alternative of just paying an equal dividend to all citizens – a step towards a ‘basic income’ which it seems many of us are in favour of.
    I know a little of Alexander’s thinking but haven’t read his books in full – is on my todo list for next year, haven’t come across Zahavi or Bongard.
    Whilst I’m generally interested in subsidiarity, devolution etc my current research interest in public transport systems does seem to suggest that in the developed world we do need a strong (but ideally both democratised and readily transparent) state to at least play a strategic and tactical role in organising and providing such services.
    As you point out though, the point is not to go backward but imagine forwards, and energy and other environmental constraints suggest a new pattern is needed. One possible future I’ve been thinking about lately is one with a much more democratically controlled industrial sector providing much of our material needs with minimal employment (using automation, P2P principles etc) but with surplus distributed more evenly e.g. a basic wage – along with a flourishing civil society and private sector in service provision, farming, and environmental remediation.
    The latter because the issue of ‘unemployment’ does seem persistent and pressing. But there are plenty of useful things to do in our environmentally-stressed world (thinking along permaculture lines etc) – just not within the constraints of a profit-driven capitalist market. So some kind of new settlement with the state (basic income etc) could seem to unlock this potential as a benefit, rather than liability. But as Keynes suggested in ‘Economic prospects for our grandchildren’, this would be a v. difficult social and psychological transition to go through, not just a new economic approach.
  2. Øyvind Holmstad Says:
    Hei Patrick!
    Yes really, my governments have been clever in making most of the oil income become a “benefit” for its people, only a fraction of the income goes to the corporations. Here you can see the speed of which the oil billions trickle in (the moving number in the heading): www.aftenposten.no/okonomi/Boom-er-ordet-som-gar-igjen-i-oljebransjen-7088824.html
    As you see the oil money flows into our economy with a speed of 100.000 N.Kr. every 5 sek., or 1.200.000 N.Kr. every minute or 72.000.000 N.Kr. every hour or 1,73 billion N.Kr. every day. The Oil Fund named “The Government Pension Fund – Global” of the Norwegian State is on about 3700 billion N.Kr., making it the world's largest pension fund. Still, the pension obligations for the state only to public workers is on 4300 billion N.Kr. And note that this fund is invested into corporations, so the welfare state is completely depended upon the benefit of the corporations.
    Note also that the number of public workers increased with 110.000 just the last 7 years, about the size of Norway’s fourth largest city. Or an increase with 15 percent: http://www.dn.no/forsiden/politikkSamfunn/article2539509.ece
    Anyway, I’ve changed my original text from getting rid of the bureaucratic with getting rid of the corporate welfare state, from inspiration of Michel in another comments thread here recently. He also wrote we need to replace it with a partnership state: blog.p2pfoundation.net/video-of-the-day-the-story-of-change/2012/12/18/comment-page-1#comment-495695
    Bongard will soon launch his book “The Biological Human being” in English! Here’s an interesting comment from him I just came above:
    “Godt observert, Jens Andreas. Som du vet har vi i boken vår “Det biologiske mennesket” (Akademika 2010) laget en skisse over en mulig vei å gå for å få kontroll over disse problemene som oppstår i store samfunn, gjennom å benytte nettopp de egenskapene som dukker opp i nære relasjoner (raushet, samarbeid, kontroll over korrupsjon osv). Kaller det for Inngruppedemokratiet, det innebærer blant annet demokratisk styring av produksjon og fordeling. En kombinasjon av Høyres selveierdemokrati og det egentlige målet for miljøbevegelse og venstreside: Rettferdighet, fordeling, bærekraft og trygg framtid.” : darwinist.no/er-vi-domt-til-a-gi-opp-velferdsstaten/
    My translation:
    “Well observed, Jens Andreas. As you know we have in our book “The Biological Human Being” sketched out a possible way to overcome these problems which arise in huge communities, to play on these properties which arise in close relations (generosity, cooperation, control over corruption etc.). We call it In-Group Democracy, it means among others democratic control of production and distribution. A combination of the self-owner democracy of the right and the true goal of environment movements and the left: Justice, distribution, sustainability and a safe future.”
    Why I really write you now is because I just got a comment that summarizes perfectly the essence of what I wanted to say with my article, on the Norwegian Deep Ecology blog Kulturverk:www.kulturverk.com/2013/01/20/gudstru-pa-avvegar/
    “Avhengigheten av en velferdsstat har tatt bort ansvarfølelsen den enkelte hadde overfor det nære fellesskapet. Dette er ikke noe forsvar for liberalisme som kun erstatter velferdsstaten med avhengighet av private institusjoner som utfører de samme tjenester, men da er man i tillegg bundet til et rotterace. Ansvar og fellesskap må være organisk om det ikke skal utvikles til et passivt mekanistisk forhold mellom stat og borgere.” – A. Viken
    Translated:
    “The dependency of a welfare state has taken away the responsibility the single person felt for his nearby community. This is no defense for liberalism, which only replace the welfare state with dependency on private institutions performing the same services, but when you in addition is bound to a “rats race”. Responsibility and community must be organically if it shall not develop into a passive and mechanistic relationship between state and citizens.”
    In these words A. Viken has masterly said everything I wanted to say with my essay.
    Also I was tired of everybody criticizing the corporations while nobody criticized the corporate welfare state, I think these people are cowards. Actually I sent my article to permaculturenews.org before giving it to Bauwens, but the editor there was almost mad at me for complaining about my welfare state. Also Bauwens said he didn’t agree with me, but he didn’t mind. For him it was ok to put it up as long as it was somewhat p2p-oriented and might got someone to think.
    About transportation I think the most important is to design for walk-ability, and a recent study shows this is best done through self-organizing: bettercities.net/news-opinion/links/15408/messy-street-patterns-boost-walking
    ‘Messy’ street patterns provide the most functional urban space:
    “Venice has 1,725 intersections per square mile. “It’s very complex, it’s very messy, and people walk,” said Allan Jacobs, urban design consultant, former San Francisco planning director, and author of Great Streets.
    Brasilia, near the opposite end of the spectrum, “has 92 intersections, and you don’t walk there,” The Vancouver Sun reported Jacobs as saying. “Irvine, California is the classic automobile city. It has just 15 intersections, the lowest I’ve ever counted.”"
    On Zahavi, who discovered the “handicap principle”, his work and it’s significance is brilliantly explained in Bongard’s book, I’ll let you know when it’s published in English and German language. Bongard’s point is that we only have a basic salary decided democratically, while what motivate us is by utilizing the positive energy found in the handicap principle.
    By the way, I plan my next essay to be about the thrush bird the Arabian Babbler, which Amoz Zahavi studied for about 40 years. I will write it for Kulturverk first, but hope to translate it into English.
    About Alexander you’ll hopefully understand how important our physical surroundings are for creating a sound democratic and cooperative spirit of people: www.biourbanism.org/sacred-profane-and-geometrical-symbolism-in-architecture/
    "The built environment, with its geometrical symbolism, talks about the culture that has created it, and expresses the intimate values of a culture. So, if in the past the built environment was interconnected with their physical and spiritual surroundings, the contemporary has expressed the excessive power of a mechanical culture determining the loss of human identity in favor of “artificial identity”. This artificial structure has transferred its cultural reductionism also to urbanism and architecture and caused laceration of society and deformation of ethical and esthetical values. This new design represents and symbolizes new values like hedonism and a devoid sense of nothing, and is the sculptural expression of our society." – Biourbanism

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