Section = 002_1


“The specter of uselessness first took its modern turn in the development of cities, whose migrants no longer had land to work under their feet.”
(Sennett, 2006a: 84)

“Do you want to sit back and let some cluck do what you can do a thousand times better?
‘I’m used to that,’ I said, shrugging. ‘That’s the case in many departments of life already.”
(Bellow, 1963:52-3)

“All that remains are ‘grandma’s recipes’, produced by major food companies”
(DeRoo, 2006)

Radical monopoly exists where a major tool rules out natural competence, imposing compulsory consumption and thereby restricting personal autonomy. It constitutes a special kind of social control because it is enforced by imposing consumption of a standard product that only large institutions can provide (Illich, 1973:35; 1978). Industry exercises this deep-seated monopoly when it becomes the dominant means of satisfying needs that formerly occasioned a personal response (Illich, 1978). In cities this means that almost every civic problem is resolved not by action that goes to its social roots, but by legislation that further restricts the rights of the citizen as an autonomous being and enhances the power of supraindividual agencies. Crime = More Police. Transportation Problems = More non-elected bureaucracies. Neighbourhood Problems = More powerful city planning authorities. Urban administration problems = City Managers or more executive powers for mayors. All orchestrate civic life on an epic scale (Bookchin, 1974:87). Concurrently, being required to satisfy the demands of masslandholders or employers in exchange for personal space and commodities, autonomous subsistence living becomes impossible (Wilson, 2001) and the urban dweller becomes passive object[1] (Bookchin, 1974:87). People give up their native ability to do what they can do for themselves and for each other, in exchange for something “better” that can be done for them only by a major tool (Illich, 1973:36; e.g. Salingaros, 2010a, Section 4), but we always forget that that which produces the common good is always terrible (Vaneigem, 1967:chpt2). Life shrinks to an aggregate of isolated human monads – grey, featureless, raw materials of bureaucratic mobilization and manipulation – and almost incidentally does industry respond to the material requirements of humanity[2]. In return we are no longer individual/ for we are no longer effective as such./ And we may only be flavoringly effective/ as one of the many merged riskers,/ researchers, believers, or laborers./ No corporate expression expresses/ what exactly we mean,/ and therein precisely/ lies the fate of a Democracy[3] where the anti-urban is mistaken for genuine solution[4].

“…not every building is a dwelling.” (Heidegger, 1971)

Witness the building industry (in Mexico, Latin America, England and Massachusetts for example) where legal and financial machinations in favour of ‘the industry’ (see also Tsukamoto on the devlopment of Tokyo) (paradoxically intended to protect the ordinary man) cancel opportunities for the much more efficient self-builder see statistic in turner (Illich, 1973:27-8, Salingaros et al., 2010; Turner and Roberts, 1975; Ward, 2003[5]) and in the end even architecture and the architect (who is the accomplice of the machinations of the very system whose approval he seeks[6]) capitulate before the property developer (in the most direct instance), who spends the money (Lefebvre, 2004:54). Bone up on how, at a cost of US$3,000 million the Urban Renewal Agency managed to materially reduce the supply of low cost housing in American cities (Scott Greer[7]). Take a look at how Brazil’s National Housing Bank (BNH) resulted in mass mortgage defaults and transport costs which devoured whole incomes (Wilsher and Righter, 1975). Raise your eyebrows at buildings which must be simultaneously air conditioned and heated, and 100-storey offices which service 20,000 and use the energy equivalent of 200,000 (Ward, 1975:217). Visit the site of the death of modernism, at Pruitt Igoe[8], view Heritage Park, just outside of Cape Town, where you can buy yourself a place in a community that doesn’t have to worry (Bauman, 2000:91-3), or attend the open-homes of California-style suburban homes built for nomadic Bedouins in the UAE[9]. See how cars create channels of danger where daily live once existed[10] and drive wedges of highways through cities creating internal remoteness and destroying the environment for feet and bicycles[11] as well as tearing apart families and communities[12] (Jacobs, 2004). Recognize that the spread of gated communities was germinated in creeping insecurity on a global scale through the steady, if patchy, march of neo-liberal policies that enclose the commons, shift public goods and resources into private treasuries, and sacrilizing property value at the expense of all other citizen rights (Ross, 2004 discussing Low, 2003). Here lie the symbols of the defeat of the human element in the city (Jinnai, 1995:131).

 “Down quantity street, everything’s always just the same” (Vaneigem, 1967:chpt10)

Even single-celled organisms construct shells from sand grains. Weaverbirds construct progressively better nests. Termites construct self-sustaining environments containing ventilated living quarters and fungus gardens for food production (Tuan, 1977:101). Swallows build nests all over the show. Even very large organizations can use man-powered hand tools (Turner, 1976:127). The components for self-building of the city can be easily and cheaply made available. People could build, adapt, create and modify, while at the same time learning about materials, systems and relationships. But government and commercialities instead deposit/slot/connect roads, apartment blocks, green spaces[13], roof gardens, barbeque zones, and other built environmental components into the city, defining the professionally built as the functional unit, marking the individual as an inactive consumer, and stamping the self-built as a shanty (Illich, 1973:41; see also Salingaros, 2010a, Section 8; Turner and Roberts, 1975; Ward, 2003). Specialists and experts (concerned with business and prestige[14]) exert control over the world removing from people the ability to live on a day-to-day basis (Zerzan, 2008b:52) (see also Certeau (1984) on specialists).

Pressure from both the Left (upholders of Equality) and the Right (upholders of the principle of custom built (bespoke) only for the wealthy) rejects from all angles the possibility of meaningful variation in structures private and public (Salingaros et al., 2010:68). On the same hand, mass-production and social action is weeks, months and years laggard/ to the thinking frontier of the individual./ His hour, minute, and split second thinking/ and vital selection[15] (Buckminster Fuller, 1963:10). Professionals, specialists and employing Institutions (banks, construction companies, land surveyors), petrified of having to manage the succulence of individual variation, default to the logic of Economies of Scale[16] and lock in measured, standard and modular buildings and materials[17] (generalized interchangeability – Kaufmann, 2001) at the expense of the economies of place and differentiation needed to repair and evolve neighborhoods (Bookchin, 1974; Salingaros et al., 2010:68, 94; Turner and Roberts, 1975:129) – A triumph of glue over the integrity of materials….ever more effective adhesives and sealants to hold together our straitjackets and oxygen tents (Koolhaas, 1998b:1261).

“Every call for productivity is a call to slavery” (Vaneigem, 1967:chpt5)

The commercial competition to install these inadequate and outdated innovative components crowds out the more profound issue of the monopoly of this one mode of production[18] above all others. Society is tied in a cash nexus, the chaos of the marketplace and the atomization of labor (Bookchin, 1974:28, 39). Community = the market + isolation; Freedom = total surveillance society[19]. People are required to spend the majority of each conscious day engaged in meaningless, monotonous, regimented, and often physically and mentally injurious labor to obtain basic necessities (Greenbrier, 2006:199; Wilson, 2001; and e.g. Berardi, 2009b; Marcuse, 1965, 1967)[20]. The factory takes over the city, exaggerating its economic functions to the point of urban pathology (Bookchin, 1974:51-2). The result – personal imagination and motivation withers into inertia and lack of hope[21]. People are deprived of their ability to invest their own time with the power to produce use-value, and are compelled to work for wages and to exchange their earnings for industrially defined rented space. They are deprived also of the opportunity to learn while building (Illich, 1973:55, 41).

[1] The ‘teenager’ bears the first wrinkles of the consumer who grows old to the rhythms of his compromises and inauthenticity (Vaneigem, 1967:Chpt22, Section 2) but me, I would rather die in the war than consume its benefits (Bellow, 1963:69)

[2] Bookchin (1974:51, 63)

[3] Buckminster Fuller (1963:11)

[4] See e.g. Salingaros (2010a:Section 5)

[5] The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act in Britain, for example, put an end to processed focused self-building by requiring fully-finished, fully-serviced houses from the start (Ward, 2003).

[6] Di Francia (1982:224)

[7] cited in Wilsher and Righter, 1975:80

[8] The city’s first integrated public housing. Bright new apartments with modern conveniences. Some families enjoyed their first indoor toilets. The bloom didn’t last. No one felt ownership of the green spaces that were designed as recreational areas, so no one took care of them. A mini-city of 10,000 people was stacked into an environment of despair. Shots were fired from rooftops at police officers. Western Union stopped delivering telegrams. Cab drivers stayed away. Government leaders called for dynamite. On March 17, 1972, the first building was blown up. The remaining 34 vacant acres are now overgrown with brush and mature trees (Keel, 2011; O’Neil, 2010). See also: and Noted in Wilsher and Righter, 1975:92-3.

[9] Which they used as store houses and slept in their tents on the lawns. The American architect responsible explains that he didn’t really expect the Bedouins to be able to live in the houses from the start, but that eventually the peoples of the developing nations such as the Bedouins would have to turn in their camels for cars and their tents for homes and enter modern life. This being the case, it was important to teach them to do so as quickly as possible, and training them to live in that kind of housing was one step towards the goal (Kurokawa, 1991:chpt6).

[10] Kurokawa (1991:chpt6)

[11] Bookchin, (1974:68-70 discussing Los Angeles); Illich, (1973:35); Jinnai, (1995:127 discusses this for the case of Tokyo).

[12] In the distant land of Lagos, the cross-town journey could once (in 1960) be walked in twenty-five minutes but by 1975 took a hellish couple of hours to drive (Wilsher and Righter, 1975).

[13] ‘Park’, which in name still carries the memory of Paradise (park is a contraction of paradise, Persian pardesh = garden) has gone out of favor, for the degradation “green zone” (C.G., 2000).

[14] Rudofsky (1964:preface)

[15] “ planning technique invariably lags behind the events it is supposedly controlling and it retains a strictly remedial character.” (Benevolo, 1971:xi) Even this statement has ideological elements: the problem is not one of “technique” keeping up with events; city planning plays not a “remedial” role but an exacerbating one (Bookchin, 1974:102) – it seems almost neurotic in its determination to imitate empiric failure and ignore empiric success (Jacobs, 1993:239).

[16] Efficiency trumps moral consideration (Zerzan, 2008b:71) – Economies of scale are commonly assumed to mean ‘bigger is better’ but the truly economic scale of building and maintaining the dwelling environment is small (Turner, 1976:127).

[17] Note Alexander et al. (1977), gradual stiffening. And Sennett (2006b)’s comments regarding materials. Note also that many ‘features’ of ‘modern’ building are actually old hat in vernacular architecture – prefabrication, standardization of building components, flexible and movable structures, floor-heating, air-conditioning, light control, even elevators (Rudofsky, 1964:preface).

[18] “..plunder. Every entity and human capacity is conceived of as a resource for the acquisition of profit….industrial and commercial classes fall upon the social body…. a once vital social organism [is left as] torn fragments and indigestible sinews that linger more in the memory of humanity than in the realities of social intercourse.” (Bookchin, 1974:61).

[19] Zerzan (2006)

[20] This does not only apply to the poor – see Berardi, Steigler.

[21] Ward, 1975:215. Another result is increasing violent crime in the workplace (one million in the US in 1995) and the murder of bosses (doubled over 1985~94) (Zerzan, 1995).