Saturday, September 30, 2006

The ideal city: "Everything's waiting for you."

In an essay called "The Ideal Community and the Politics of Difference," the late Iris Marion Young makes claims for the city as potential site for a radical practice of true mutuality and difference. Recognizing that the direction of her thoughts may be "hopelessly utopian," given "the very size of populations in our society and most other nations of the world, coupled with a continuing sense of national or ethnic identity with millions of other people" (which would work against encountering individuals as truly individual), she continues to sketch a notion of the "unoppressive city."

The temporal and spatial differentiation that mark the physical environment of the city produce an experience of aesthetic inexhaustibility. Buildings, squares, the twists and turns of streets and alleys offer an inexhaustible store of individual spaces and things, each with unique aesthetic characteristics. The juxtaposition of incongruous styles and functions that usually emerge after a long time in city places contribute to this pleasure in detail and surprise. This is an experience of difference in the sense of always being inserted. The modern city is without walls; it is not planned and coherent. Dwelling in the city means always having a sense of beyond, that there is much human life beyond my experience going on in or near these spaces, and I can never grasp the city as a whole.

Precisely what Petula Clark said.

A warm thanks to Mr. Sun for this blast from the past.

No comments: