Hall S - Divided City - The Crisis of London

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Published on open Democracy News Analysis (http://www.opendemocracy.net) Divided city: the crisis of London By Stuart Hall, Created 2004-10-27 23:00 In an article written in 2000 I posed what I called ‘the Multicultural question’. It runs something like this: What are the chances that we can construct in our cities shared, diverse, just, and egalitarian forms of common life, guaranteeing the full rights of democratic citizenship and participation to all on the basis of equality, whilst respecti
  Published on open Democracy News Analysis (http://www.opendemocracy.net) Divided city: the crisis of London ByStuart Hall,Created 2004-10-27 23:00In an article written in 2000 I posed what I called ‘the Multicultural question’. It runs somethinglike this: What are the chances that we can construct in our cities shared, diverse, just, andegalitarian forms of common life, guaranteeing the full rights of democratic citizenship andparticipation to all on the basis of equality, whilst respecting the differences which inevitablycome about when peoples of different religions, cultures, histories, languages, and traditions areobliged to live together in the same shared space? At the time, despite the many evident tensions of modern city life, it was plausible to believe thatthe contemporary metropolitan city – cities like my own home, London – might be able to offer the model of a workable form of ethnic inter–culture, predicated on a practical cosmopolitanism.The outlook now, four years and a ‘war on terror’ later, is much less optimistic. The promise of the city, which David Theo Goldberg argues for in hiscontribution[0] to this debate, isincreasingly looking a broken one, and it is time to name the forces which are articulatedtogether in a process which is sub–dividing shared space into discrete, differentiated warringenclaves, before it is too late. My argument, though it applies to many cities across across theworld, will be focussed largely on the city I know best, London. A tale of many cities Cities are the product of their times. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the great Englishcities were motors of industrial production and centres of world trade, commerce, and finance.Some – Bristol, Liverpool, London – were also integrated into the networks of imperial power and colonial trade: monuments to the imperial life of the nation. Later, cities became the sites for a modernist aesthetics of corporate power, a development more evident in New York’sskyscraper skyline and elsewhere in the US than in Europe, as the axis of world power shiftedwestwards. Western cities are no longer like this.The social and spatial configurations of London and other metropolitan cities have beensignificantly re–shaped in recent years by three forces above all – post–industrialisation,globalization and migration. The first is the uneven transition from an industrial to apost–industrial economy. Cities today not only embody this shift towards the service andinformation economy, but vividly represent the dislocations which have inevitably accompaniedthis process.The second is globalization. Of course, a kind of globalization has been in progress sinceEurope broke out of its confines towards the end of the fifteenth century, and began to constructthe beginnings of a world market and to explore, conquer, subdue by trade and naval power,and ultimately to colonize much of the rest of the globe. But the globalization I have in mind hereis that represented by the new forms of the ‘global’ economy, based on the multi–nationalcapitalist corporation and augmented financial flows, which began to emerge in the mid–1970s. Page 1 of 7  The third factor is migration, which is a consequence of the other two. What concerns meespecially is how the ethnic, social, and cultural diversity that results necessarily from migrationis changing the face of the modern urban landscape and reconfiguring the social divisions andconflicts characteristic of so–called ‘global’cities[1].These issues have to be addressed now in terms of what cities are becoming. Cities havealways been divided. They are divided by class and wealth, by rights to and over property, byoccupation and use, by life–style and culture, by race and nationality, ethnicity and religion, andby gender and sexuality. The template of these social divisions can be read into thedifferentiated zones of the city’s cartography. The boundaries between these spaces, however,have never been absolute. Enclaves merge and overlap at their invisible borders, shift andchange across time. The various zones, however distinctive to those who know how to ‘read’them, are never uniform in look or homogeneous in social composition. Differences edge, slide,and blur into one another. The city, as Walter Benjamin reminds us, is ‘porous[2]’.Intangible as these boundaries often are and maintained as they are by complex cultural andsocial codes, they tend nevertheless to divide the city into distinct clusters. On the other hand,cities also bring elements together and establish relations of interchange and exchange. Theyfunction as spatial magnets for different, converging streams of human activity. This is the basisof their often unplanned ‘cosmopolitanism[3]’. The points of convergence, as well as the routesand passages through and across them, are as significant as the spatially defined and sociallymaintained differences. Cities both divide and connect.For an assessment of how American space articulates race see David Theo Goldberg TheSpace of Multiculturalism (September 2004[3]). The new multicultural city The question is how  the cartography of the contemporary city is being re–configured under theimpact of globalization and migration. In significant ways, the old, hierarchical ordering of urbanspace seems to have disappeared for good. As Gary Bridge andSophie Watson[4] put it, intheir essay ‘City Economies’: “Global cities are a result of transactions that fragment space,such that we can no longer talk about global cities as whole cities – instead, what we have [are]bits of cities that are highly globalized – and bits juxtaposed that are completely cut out [from theglobalizing process].”The major forces driving these changes are the result of the new forms of globalization. Theyreflect the new division of labour, a result of the general decline of manufacturing in thedeveloped west and its trans–nationalization to other, less developed parts of the globe, withwhich corporate and financial centres in the west can remain connected through ‘space–timecondensations[5]’ which the new technologies of finance and communication make possible.These forces for change are associated with the dominance of the trans–national corporation,the renewed power of finance capital, the pace of global investment flows, currency switching,and the spread of a global consumer culture and media. These are the engines of the nowhegemonic deregulating, free–market, privatising, neo–liberal economic regime known inanother context as ‘the Washington Consensus[5]’ (to which New Labour in the UK is apaid–up, loyal, junior signatory). These forces constitute and define the true, substantialmeaning and content of that deceptive term ‘the global’ (which implies a parity it is designed notto deliver).For a debate over the contours and meaning of contemporary globalisation see David Held’sessay Globalisation the dangers and the answers (May 2004[5]) and responses from MartinWolf, Maria Cattaui, Patrick Bond, Roger Scruton, Megnard Desai andDavid Mepham[6]. Page 2 of 7  This is now the governing world system, rooted economically in the free play of deregulatedmarket forces, global capitalist penetration, the privatization of public goods, the monopoly of scarce or valuable resources, the dismantling of welfare and health programmes, and the lure of ‘free trade’ between profoundly unequal partners on a fundamentally skewed playing field. All this has severe consequences for global / multi–cultural cities, which are linked to this newworld–system of power through corporate global economic networks, rather than in their earlier function as the city bases of giant industrial firms, as centres of imperial investment, nationalgreatness, and colonial rule. Their characteristic new skyline is now increasingly dominated bythe corporate headquarters of globally–dispersed transnational companies, surrounded by their ancillary and supportive out–sourced dependencies in financial services, marketing, banking,investment, advertising, design, and information technologies. The urban architecture whichmirrors this shift is most paradigmatically to be found in London’sCanary Wharf[7]: corporate‘towers’ of glass and steel, functionally–exposed transparent cubes or architect–inspiredcucumber shaped pods now dominating financial centres and urban skylines around the globe.Meanwhile, the promises designed to make the poor complicit with their global fate – rising livingstandards, a more equal distribution of goods and life chances, an opportunity to compete onequal terms with the developed world, a fairer share of the world’s wealth – havecomprehensively failed to be delivered.The rapidly growing disparities between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have–nots’, which is glaringlyobvious at the global level (The UN–Habitat Report[8] recently reported that the global urbanpopulation increased by 36% in the 1990s and that there are 550 million urban slum dwellers in Asia, 187 million in Africa, and 128 million in Latin America and the Caribbean), are beingreproduced within the richest societies of the developed world. Following the long period of levelling incomes and wealth after World War Two –– the era of re–distributive welfare states –these inequalities rose exponentially after 1980. The gap between rich and poor in the UK iswider now than when New Labour took power in 1997.Reliance on market forces as the sole driver of global economic and social development hasbrought in its train insuperable problems: ecological and environmental disaster, the disruptionof the fragile balance of indigenous economies, the destruction of peasant farming and of subsistence agriculture, and the collapse of world commodity prices. The result has been rapidand unsustainable urbanisation and – coupled with collapsing post–colonial state regimes, civilunrest, and the militarization of ethnic conflict – the phenomenon of mass migration. Theseglobal disasters and the mass migrations they trigger are the invisible forces behind the only toovisible crisis of the metropolitan city.In earlier phases, the problems of religious, social, and cultural difference were largely kept at asafe distance from the metropolitan homelands of imperial systems. Today, the new kinds of differences whose deep, underlying causes we have sketched, intrude directly into the heart of the western metropolitan city, disturb, challenge and subvert the social and political space of itsurban centres, disrupt its long–settled class equilibrium, and subvert its relatively homogenouscultural character. They project the vexed issue of global poverty, social and religious pluralism,and cultural difference into the largely settled mono–cultural spaces of the Western metropolis. New kinds of space The global city has been significantly transformed by these forces. Manufacturing in Britain isnow in general decline, and large–scale industrial production no longer dominates city centres,governs their economies or defines the character and tempo of their social life. These are nowoften urban areas of extensive social deprivation and economic dislocation, endemic Page 3 of 7  unemployment, and environmental degradation as well as sites of a widespread social despair leading to the defensive mobilization of difference – and thus of ethnic tension, intra–classhostility, racial conflict, social alienation, and civil unrest.We can identify two types of London neighbourhood as typical of these degraded urban spaces:The first are run down inner urban areas in which the conflict is between an old white workingclass lamenting the loss of a golden and ethnically homogenous past and non–white immigrantsclaiming a right of place, often against one another. The second type consists of ‘white flight’suburbs and estates dominated by an aspirant working class or inward–looking middle classrepelled by what it sees as the replacement of a homely white nation by another land of ‘foreign’people and cultures. [Quote from Ash Amin, Ethnicity and the Multi–Cultural City  [9]]Both types of neighbourhood can be found in London. In between, there are many mixedneighbourhoods which seem relatively settled after years of patient negotiation, but which arenevertheless, in a subterranean and invisible way, ‘riddled with prejudice and conflict betweentheir varied ethnic groups’ (Amin).This article is an edited extract of the lecture ‘Divided Cities’ given by Stuart Hall as part of theOxford Amnesty Lectures series, see theirwebsite[10] for more information and upcominglectures. The ‘flashocracy’, the creatives and the rest No longer ‘the workshops of the world’, English cities have become the service centres, thefinancial and speculative investment engines and consumer retail hubs, of the global economy.The suited executives – those well–groomed, toned, and limousined corporate ‘heroes’ whosewell–fleshed faces adorn the business pages of the quality newspapers and magazines – areeither a new global entrepreneurial class or, alternatively, the remnants of an old stuffy one whohave undergone a make–over. They are equally ‘at home’ in New York, Los Angeles, HongKong, Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo as they are in London, or their country homes in Hampshire.Individually, their fortunes rise and fall but, as a class, they are installed as the permanentexecutive officers of the new global capitalism.Many wealthier executives now live well outside the city or in its increasingly gated enclaves andpied–à–terres. They are ‘cosmopolitan’ in orientation. They travel constantly for work andpleasure. They remain in touch, through the circuits of instant communication, with mobiletransnational elites elsewhere as they glide in comfort and style across the globe. They are ‘athome’ anywhere, and the more so since ‘elsewhere’ is increasingly like ‘here’, only more so.They are focussed on profit margins and share values, on restructuring core–businesses andabsorbing other companies.They are remorselessly attuned – and without a shadow of embarrassment – to salarysettlements unrelated to any calculable performance achievements, guaranteeing the steadysupply of staggering amounts of money for skiing holidays and private school fees. Their wivesor servants are fully occupied ferrying the children in SUVs to select and selective privateschools, those launch–pads to success. Fitzjohns Avenue in north–west London, where theremust be twelve or fifteen private primary schools and nurseries within a half–mile stretch of traffic–crammed road, is notorious with taxi drivers. The ‘school run’ brings an army of jeeps,with their ranch–like bumpers, some parked in driveways, others perched on the bank–sides,others still blithely reversing into on–coming traffic.This new global executive class are ‘flash, fast, fun, feckless, and fantastically frivolous’, as theeditor of  Tatler  , Geordie Greig – who should know – describes the ‘flashocracy[11]‘. Rapidly Page 4 of 7
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