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The city we built and they stole | openDemocracy

19/06/2012 15:02

architectural heritage, edgy nightlife and conflicted past bound together as a packaged discourse to be fed through the blender of the tourist industry. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics was the catalyst, providing a crucible in which a new market-centred identity for the city could be forged and capitalised upon through tourism and booming property prices. There is a stupid sadness to the whole self-defeating project. Nobody wins. The slow tornado of gentrification ensures the destruction of the very appeal it markets, borne by a social life which can no longer exist in the conditions it creates. Another small bonanza for the developer; more dead space in cities emptied of all vitality from the centre outwards. Streets become graveyards haunted by their opulent, fleeting residents. Real communities are scattered and disseminated to the outer reaches. Harveyʼs famous phrase ʻaccumulation by dispossessionʼ proliferates through the corrupt monopoly of government and capital over the right to shape the city in their own lifeless image. What Is to Be Done [1] It is Harveyʼs initial attempt to resolve this question dialectically which is the least convincing. In his formulation, to avoid the above scenario, capital will now be dependent on maintaining – even nurturing – “divergent and to some degree uncontrollable local cultural developments that can be antagonistic to its own smooth functioning” in order that it can use their particularity to extract monopoly rent. Additionally, the attempt to categorise the quality of place in order that it can be marketed and consumed will inevitably raise the question of whose history is being defined as ʻauthenticʼ, thereby setting the ground for political opposition from those who are excluded from the narratives being created. Yet surely such spaces are only tolerated so long as they fail to pose any serious threat to their benefactors, and Harvey is dubiously vague about what these spaces actually are. As he himself points out, ex-New York Mayor Giulianiʼs “decency commission” shows how tightly curtailed and censored any such spaces backed with public and private capital can be. And Guilianiʼs successor, multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg (9th richest man in the United States, making him not so much a member of the 1% as the 0.000003%) used police repression to shut down another alternative space in the form of the Occupy Movement. You need only look at the London Olympics for an example about how narratives which include the radical legacies of the local environment simply serve to mask their material erasure. Consider the insult of the Westfield supermallʼs kitsch industrial aesthetic, supposedly to chime with the working class history of the area, and the shameless exhibition of the 1888 matchgirls strike at the Olympic viewing platform (the Bryant

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978 84 460 3799 6 dossier harvey  
978 84 460 3799 6 dossier harvey