Critical Urban Moments

What are critical moments?

This blog is premised on the notion that a critical moment is emerging in many of urban quarters. Why now? For over a decade many cities have trumpeted the benefits of sustainable urbanism, whether through regeneration, redevelopment, redesign, or re-engineering (physical and social). Financial engineering and slight-of-hand capitalism enabled this development paradigm to not only grow but prosper. Low interest rates brought by government banks, abstract capital created by obtuse math, and the revalorization of urban living helped sustainable urbanism to overcome its reputation as a obstacle to growth to become an engine of growth. Similarly, anthropogenic urban natures, neo-cafe culture, and the buzz of urban life helped to fuel the rhetoric of environmental sustainability. Alas, despite the enormous surplus value embodied in these urban landscapes, access to cheap cash and other subsidies, these sustainable urbanisms could not fulfill the triple bottom line promised by sustainable development. Capital could not commodify social justice. Instead, economic boosters, developers, environmentalists re-branded sustainable urbanism to make it about green growth; green capitalism.

Sustainable urbanism, for us, is the practice of employing the principles of sustainable development discursively to create the appearance of sustainable urban development in practice. The moment we are in now is “critical” because it represents that uneasy time for capital when it hasn’t reconciled its own contradictions. Through slight-of-hand and a puff of smoke capital is trying to hide the contradiction of actually existing sustainable urbanism and social justice. We are in that period where arguably we MUST move to a post-sustainable society, to new regime of urban capitalism.

By reflecting on different urban moments from different local contexts, we will aim to address explicitly this moment of repetition. By collecting and sharing different narratives we will examine why this process of capitalist urbanism gets repeated again and again even though significant criticisms have been leveled that detail the negative implications social justice. Why does actually existing sustainable urbanism continue if no one believes in it anyway? We seek to use this blog to understand the underlying principles and mechanisms and the ideologies that drive of urban development.

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