A Hopeful Obituary for Urban Capital

From AnarchistNews.org:

For the city as we know it, rigor mortis has set in.

“Historical” mansions of centuries past stand empty, meticulously kept, arrogantly lauded and fiercely guarded, while a housing crisis wracks the urban populace, because we care more about dead aristocrats than about homeless children who still breathe. Foodstamps are little solace when there’s nothing to eat for miles.

Public schools, denied any readily available cure, instead face involuntary euthanasia. Co-ops, those bourgeois utopian clubhouses, are constantly reproducing and reifying their own sterile elitism. This is New York City, a rotting mosaic of doors we can’t open, windows we can’t touch, and would-be getaway cabs we can’t afford. Five sprawling boroughs of dead labor keeping dead space from crumbling.

And then there’s the MTA, tasked with grinding unions into the ground and ensuring that even if poor kids get into “good” schools, they won’t be able to pay for the commute. No student metrocard revival, of course, will actually bridge the distance between poverty and access; after graduation, hopping the turnstile is a criminal offense.

We are to believe that there is hope in “urban renewal”. The blighted landscapes to which the poor are confined will be revitalized just enough to mask their lingering tripwires. The lucky ones will make it to middle management. Gentrification will be democratic. Coffee will be fair trade, produce will be organic. Graffiti will be replaced with the art student’s midterm. Taxpayer funds will be more reasonably allocated. Jobs will appear out of nowhere, and their providers’ shiny new businesses will ensure that their new employees’ rents soar, once again, higher than their wages. Public housing will be cleaned up with dollars made off of imprisoning their inhabitants. Glass windows on condos and boutique storefronts, rather than a grim reminder of guarded wealth, will become healthy glimpses of an attainable goal. Maybe the trains will even run on time.

And the community boards, the city council, and the mayor’s office here finally aim for transparency and accountability; their constituents will be proud and their future projects unquestioned. Nowhere is bureaucracy so promising as in contemporary urban planning.

The city we want is a locus of whatever – buildings in motion, streets on fire, busted locks, and a centrally-located mass grave for developers and policy analysts. Out the window with zoning regulations flies the very possibility of a housing crisis and any conceivable need for their proponents’ administrative salaries. Healthcare will be supplemented with access to the landlords’ freshly harvested organs.

There is no “urban renewal” under capitalism because you can’t revive a corpse. As the Angry Brigade once wrote, “You can’t reform profit capitalism and inhumanity. Just kick it ’til it breaks.”

Unfortunately, brick doesn’t yield easily – you’re going to need something with steel toes.

love, rage, and detailed critiques of traffic patterns

Bureau for the Ruptured City


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