14 February 2012

the re conceptualization of urban governance

The city in post-industrial/information age city in the U.S. , Europe and other developed nations is organized on rigid representative democracy, defined political jurisdictions and controlled by a plutocracy made up of developers, corporations and the extremely wealthy.  As on the national scale, but sometime worse, politicians are guided by their own self-interest which is usually geared toward first establishing and maintaining their power in the community. The citizens of a city must come forth and petition for changes, much like in medieval times.  The city system of government, like the national one, has been placed under the control of the One Percent (AKA economic nobility.)  Most residents of cities have been alienated from their government and have become complacent.  The Occupy Movement in some locations have set in motion new ways of civil involvement and engagement.  The General Assembly form of decision-making has been proposed as a adjunct or replacement of city government.  However, this is undeveloped and needs to be expanded.

New ideas of city government and involvement need to be formulated.  However, they need not be based on ungrounded ideas. There is ample literature to warrant a new kind of city that will stress the participatation of its citizens and diffuse the influence of the One Percent.  Possible sources that can be used to construct this new form of government is those that were first proposed by Peter Kropotkin in Mutual Aid, which would be distinguished by cooperation among different groups working for the good of the city, town or rural area.  These concepts are also complementary to Communitarianism,  the social organization of the Kibbutz and the Just City advocated by David Harvey.  Recently in Latin America, new forms of participatory democracy are also emerging, particularly experiments in participatory budgeting. With the Interenet and other advances in telecommunications are renewing ideas of Direct Democracy and posing it as real alternative or adjunct to  urban governance.

On a national and international level, the Occupy Movement is emphasizing that the One Percent have taken control of the government and controls the Ninety-nine Percent at all levels.  Underlying the Occupy Movement IS NOT the destruction of the government or of the United States but its evolution toward a system that will serve the needs of post-modern man. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution knew that the abuses of an elite and also mob rule, were always present.  The Constitution establishes the rights of all citizens and is a model for all governments. They did not intend for the Constitution to be staid document presenting barriers to the economic and political freedoms of the public, but a living and evolving Social Contract.  The emerging concepts of urban governance will not be in contrast or lead to worse government, but better. 

As in other blog entries, these ideas need to further developed in other blog entires or in papers. One can think of these blog entries as sketches, that will be filled in later with detail and color to form a painting.   In key junctures in history, there comes a moment where new ideas must be introduced, discussed, put into experimental practice, and antiquated insituational structures which must be reformulated or dissolved.  This is not the concept of a revolution by a few who then impose on others their will, but a deliberative process by all people to create a framework that will make society to be: more prosperous, more just, more sociological and physiologically  stable and sustainable. I think we are entering such an era.

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