“Enlightened professionals-to-be in countless college courses”

“Within a rather short period, what began as a language of resistance and critique was transformed, no doubt for the best of motives, into an expert discourses and a professional vocation – community is now something to be programmed by Community Development Programmes, developed by Community Development Officers, policed by Community Police, guarded by Community Safety Programmes and rendered knowable by sociologists pursuing ‘community studies.’ Communities became zones to be investigated, mapped, classified, documented, interpreted, their vectors explained to enlightened professionals-to-be in countless college courses and to be taken into account in numberless encounters between professionals and their clients, whose individual conduct is now made intelligible in terms of the beliefs and values of ‘their community.'”

- Nikolas Rose, p175, Powers of Freedom (1999)

“Seeing planning as an interaction of historically unsecured and continuously unstable set of practices and regulations opens up possibilities for ‘thinking otherwise’ about spatial government.” – Margo Huxley in Problematizing Planning (2010)

Ascertaining the new rationality

“Foucault alerted his readers to the dangers of modern rationality – more precisely, the dangers of ‘governmentality,’ the modern rationality of government – by revealing the origins of the ways in which people govern themselves, govern other individuals, and govern society at large. Though he himself did not discuss city planning, he studied modern government (as a general practice of control and as a set of specific institutions) in a way that should illuminate debates in our field. Using his genealogical approach, we ought to think critically about communicative theory as a new theory of government and about collaborative action as new form of governmental practice. That is, we should try to ascertain what that ‘communicative rationality’ really is – the new rationality that communicative theorists claim is emerging in planning and policy making – and we must try to assess its dangers.”

(Emphasis added)

- Raphael Fischler, Communicative Planning Theory: A Foucauldian Assessment

Wreckers

A 1949 poem from Edgar Guest, a Detroit Free Press columnist and “poet of the people”:

I watched them tearing a building down,

A gang of men in a busy town.

 

With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,

They swung a beam, and the side wall fell.

 

I asked the foreman: “Are these men skilled,

And the men you’d hire if you had to build?”

 

He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed!

Just common labor is all I need.

 

“I can easily wreck in a day or two

What builders have taken a year to do.”

 

And I thought to myself as I went my way,

Which of these roles have I tried to play?

 

Am I a builder who works with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

 

Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan

Patiently doing the best I can?

 

Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town,

Content with the labor of tearing down?

As always, the …

As always, the battles that swirl around epistemology are ultimately questions of ethics and politics. As Bacon noted, knowledge is power. And knowledge is not simply power in the sense that it allows us to control or master the world around us, but rather knowledge is also power in the sense that it determines who is authorized to speak, who is authorized to govern, and is the power to determine what place persons and other entities should, by right, occupy within the social order. No, questions of knowledge are not innocent questions. Rather, they are questions intimately related to life, governance, and freedom. A person’s epistemology very much reflects their idea of what the social order ought to be, even if this is not immediately apparent in the arid speculations of epistemology.

Levi Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (2011)

Suspending “blightocracy”

Profile of Bill Pulte – scion of Detroit residential construction empire – and his take on local demolition politics:

DETROIT BLIGHT

“Last month, his group announced plans to tackle another 35 blocks of abandoned buildings and lots in Brightmoor this year, its biggest project yet. The price tag is nearly $1 million — funded in part by grants from several foundations and private individuals. Among the donors is Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert, a Detroit booster involved in an effort to catalog all of the city’s vacant structures in order to help secure state and federal funding for cleaning up the city.

Pulte views this latest project as yet another way to show how blight removal can be more efficient — in spite of what he calls ‘blightocracy,’ a word he uses to describe the enormous amount of red tape he says makes it hard for groups like his to demolish empty structures.

Local officials appear to be listening to Pulte’s concerns. A new blight task force comprised of city and state officials and funded in part by a $53 million grant from the Obama administration is making recommendations to the city about how to make demolitions easier.”

(emphasis added)