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An Urban Ethic of Europe.
by Paul Treanor

There is an urban ethic in Europe, a set of moral principles which are applied: they explain why some cities exist and others do not. Prominent are: de-urbanisation as the chosen urban trend of modernity; cities as part of national culture in a Europe monopolised by nations; and the liberal idea of an open, interaction-maximising city. In effect, three prohibitions on the existence of classes of possible cities. The urban policy of a state "Europa" should reverse these prohibitions.

Cities are for change, not for people. The standard ethic of cities in Europe, however, contradicts this. This standard ethic has a historical and structural context: briefly, modernity, national unity and liberalism. Its explicit form is largely liberal, that is: cities exist to serve their inhabitants, or more specifically some aggregation of their preferences by politics or the market.

The tradition of urban studies (and its preceding disciplines) is largely non-normative and excludes the idea of an urban ethics. At least explicitly, for much work on "urban problems" is implicitly normative. It defines "problems" and suggests solutions. (Some classic works are explicitly normative, so also all urban design). The idea of a "standard ethic" implies a voluntaristic approach: cities are as they are, because people have consciously made them so. The rejection of voluntarism, typical in the social sciences, is a political claim in itself. In urban studies, it is part of a conservative claim that urban processes are too complex to change easily. People who say "things are not that simple" usually mean "things should stay as they are". Anti-voluntarism also evades the question of moral responsibility. Although conscious motives are rarely referred to in explanations of urban process (see McGrath 1992 on anti-urbanism), cities do not happen. People are responsible. If a city is wrong, then people can be guilty of it. It is as logical to arrest the mayor of Madrid for Madrid as to arrest the mayor for murder. (It is not a defence to a murder accusation to say murder is complex).

Even aside from recent normative works on cities (Jacobs and Appleyard 1987; Nicholson-Lord 1987; Short 1989; Sennet 1990; Hough 1990; Yanarella and Levine 1992; Harvey 1992; Graham 1994a, 38-40; Haughton and Hunter 1994, 285-312; Schoonbrodt 1994; Vojnovic 1994; Mega 1995; Camagni et al. 1995; Meller 1995: Miles 1995; Eichler 1995; Sachs-Jeantet 1996) and official policy (CEC 1990; EC 1994a; World Bank 1995), it is easy to formulate the standard urban ethic. That is, to formulate propositions about cities which most people, in western Europe at least, will agree with. For instance:

  • Existing cities have existence rights: possible cities do not.
  • It is legitimate to forbid high densities.
  • Every city must have culture and art. No-one has a right to live in a culture-free city.
  • A nation has the right to make such policies for cities: national urban policy. Those who incite external powers to invade and change national policy, may legitimately be executed for treason. Rebellions to change policy may be suppressed.
  • The knowledge sector is good for a city.
  • Cities must be monocultural, or multicultural, or intercultural: there is no other choice.
  • Preserving urban heritage is morally superior to destroying urban heritage.
  • Believers may exclude atheists from holy cities, but it is tyrannical for atheists to exclude believers from any city.
  • No child may grow up in a city without trees.
  • People should be active citizens.
  • It is inhuman to divide a city simply to allow some people to escape the free market.
  • Better that some people die in a pogrom than that a city be divided by walls to protect them.
It may be impossible to test this urban ethic by simply asking people if they agree with it: they might just become angry. For instance, few people would like the insinuation that they tolerate pogroms: unfortunately, under the circumstances stated, most people do tolerate them.

The three contexts of the urban ethic - modernity, nationalism, liberalism - have all contributed to this list of propositions. Although these contexts are interrelated, most of this article will approach them as separate ethics of urban modernity, geocultural structure, and the liberal city. The approach is formalist. (Formalism is not the same as over-simplification, and it is a logical error to assume that formalised statements are untrue because of that formalism).

Urban modernity is itself so important in modernity that it is an indicator of its character: conservative and contra-technological. The long-term urban trend in Europe can be traced at least as far back as the beginnings of urban dispersal in Venice and Amsterdam around 1600, a "proto-suburbanisation". At that time access to the city became a locational requirement of the country houses of the urban rich - no longer remote landed estates (Brusatin 1980; Fishman 1987, 17; Burke 1994, 79-83). The long-term trend since then can be expressed in a four-value structure. It replaces the dual oppositions generally used in Europe - "urban-rural", or "nature-urban"). These oppositions continue to form the basis of much urban theory. However, as descriptive ethics (in this article, as a description of what is to be opposed) they are insufficient to characterise urban modernity.

The world is described here as an ethic of four zones, four values. The first three are: uninhabitable zones, productive zones (housing, factories, oil fields, farms), and nature (parks, gardens, nature reserves). At the beginning of history the world is largely uninhabited. The productive zone then expands to cover the whole earth, carrying within it islands of nature. These in turn expand to cover the earth and so transform it into a beautiful paradise of nature, ending technology. During this process parts of the productive zone in which there is undervaluing of nature effect a temporary fourth zone, the "urban" zone in the usual meaning of urban: this generates the conventional nature-urban oppositions. This is not to say that cities cannot exist: only that they are unintentional. At most, in this ethic, cities are the way to nature. The fourth zone is also a model of possible cities, which exist only as nightmares for most people: the urban dystopias. Semantically it would be clearer if the term urban was reserved for these accidental or dystopian cities, but that is not the case.

This descriptive ethic is exactly that: a description of the ethic which would produce urban modernity. (It also suggests urban modernity brings a deeper long-term trend to light). Nevertheless, there is no reason to dismiss it as absurd, which would be the usual reaction of urban theory. The concerns of urban theory are accurately summarised in this research proposal:

A basic assumption is that the primary driving forces generating changes in the European urban and regional system are those of the production system...(Hansen 1990, 256).
Research and theory certainly concentrate on shifts in the existing:
  • the three basic processes of technological revolution, globalisation, and informational economy (Castells and Hall 1994, 2-5), the seven basic processes identified by Hall (1993) - or perhaps it was five (Hall 1996)
  • globalisation and the global-local duality (Schön 1993, 639-641; Massey 1993; Bohm 1994; Knapp 1995)
  • the emerging hierarchy or classification of cities (Pumain 1992; Meijer 1993; Hall 1993, 894-897; Schön 1993, 648-9; Lever 1993; Shachar 1994, 389-393; Rubalcaba-Bernejo and Cuadrado-Roura 1995)
  • or the new macro-regional differences in urban process and situation (Brunet 1989; CEC 1992; Conti 1993; Davies 1993, 238-242; Schön 1993; Kunzmann 1993).
The assumption is that what is happening is indeed fundamental change, and that only its causes need to be sought. Wrong question, wrong answer: looking at radical possibilities it is obvious that any "forces generating change" are being met by obstacles blocking it. The descriptive ethic given above is one answer to the questions: what are these obstacles? And are they just obstacles, or processes of reversal?

However unacceptable a thesis of inherent urban reversal, there is certainly evidence for a cultural equivalent to the four-zone ethic. To begin with, evidence for the basic human preferences is provided by paradise myths: even in urban cultures, paradise is not itself urban. In modern writing, urban dystopias dominate urban eutopias: that in itself continues a long anti-urban tradition in western culture (Williams 1973; Gerndt 1981; van der Pot 1985, 97-100; Wagener 1985, 33-39). There were some "ideal cities", especially in early modern Europe (Kruft 1989). However, they have been superseded by garden-city utopias, or by anti-utopianism (Hough 1990, 59-68). Current normative urban visions usually fit the standard ethic.

Further evidence is the strength of the political coalition in Europe between environmentalists, nature conservationists, developers and the road transport sector. Its current expression is the promotion of eco/green/ sustainable cities, roads and cars, together with opposition to new rail links. Trends in the Netherlands are a good indicator. There is an emerging consensus on a large sustainable/green low density metropole in the western Netherlands, with agro-recreation a dominant land use and ecological networks as primary ordering structure (Frieling 1995; van Blerck 1995; Ottens and Harts 1996, 20). This combines with an attack on high density as "unsustainable" (van der Wal and Witsen 1995). The motorists organisation combines with the World Fund for Nature to lobby for the transformation of the area's central agricultural zone into a nature leisure area for walking, sailing, horse riding and survival courses (van Dooren and Sijmons 1995; ANWB/WNF 1995). Central planners foresee/propose a dissolution of non-car forms of transport (Heerema 1995). Semi-official assessments of underground construction and the transport ministry's so-called Underland scenario combine mobility, sustainability, and a wave of new construction - for urban dispersal with underground roads (Modder, 1995; Peake 1995). The national planning agency proposes conversion of huge zones in Western Europe for "landscape-culture" or as European nature parks (Rijksplanologische Dienst 1991). In fact sustainability is becoming an almost unquestioned planning ideology in Europe (CEC 1993; Healy and Shaw 1993; Healy and Williams 1993 707-708; Mega 1994; EC 1994b, 107-108; Gibbs 1994; EC 1995; Nijkamp and Geenhuizen 1995; EF 1995; Camagni et. al. 1995, 2; European Environmental Agency 1995). The urban component of post-Rio sustainability policy in the Netherlands is co-ordinated in the "Ecopolis" strategy (Rijksplanologische Dienst, 1995). In a sense Ecopolis is a superlative, a hyper-version, of the Garden City. In turn, the agriculture ministry propagates "green strategies for the urban landscape", including the introduction of urban agriculture (Ministerie van LNV 1995).

The political coalition behind this consensus may expand further through the overlap of feminist and sustainable urban visions (see Eichler, 1995). Other sectors in the economy have similar coalitions, but the range and scale of this coalition suggest it rests on an underlying consensus for one urban trend. It is consistent in its demands. When land use was mixed and high density, urban movements demanded low density residential areas. With this demand met, they seek to transfer remaining higher density uses to mixed low density areas (Goodchild 1994, 151-152). Politically, all variants (functional separation or mixed use, zoning or non-zoning) have served lower density.

Finally the clearest evidence of the urban trend to nature is the cities themselves, the sea of gardens-with-houses which forms the bulk of "urban" expansion in the developed countries. Only if other hypothetical possibilities are excluded can this be described as an "increase in the range of urban experience" (Cheshire 1995, 1058). This explicitly green "bourgeois utopia" (Fishman 1987) suggests the standard ethic is also acceptable as a description of urban modernity.

Several features of modernity facilitate, and relate to, the nature of urban modernity. Briefly modernity is characterised by increasing sacrality (of art, nature, culture, peoples, landscapes), by increasing codification (rights, duties, prohibitions, laws, national standards), by increasing concern with the past, and a slowing down of the erosion of tradition. There is a general trend to a sort of reverse Faustianism: building the existing as utopia, building new nature, restoring the past, building community. All these are prominent in urban modernity: conservation of historic cores within the growing zone of park-like low density settlement, structuring cities to facilitate democratic community, the special status of culture, especially national culture. Modernity preserves, improves, extends and intensifies the diversity of the existing, in opposition to change. Conservative historiography then presents this process as change itself, and as inevitable.

This interpretation of modernity is derived from the historiography of the Third Reich. It is a central question for historians: did the Third Reich, deliberately or unintentionally, modernise? In this complex debate (Könke 1994) the Nazi urban, transport, and housing policies are themselves a central theme and a metaphor for the entire Third Reich (Dülfer et al. 1978; Thies 1980; Frank 1985; Gröning and Wolscher-Bulmahn 1993). The apparent paradox of Nazi propaganda glorifying at the same time farm family life, single family houses, villages, monumental urban projects, industrialisation and military expansion, will be familiar to non-specialists. Indeed, it ought to be very familiar, for such paradoxes characterise all urban modernity. In resolution of this paradox the historian Turner proposed a (generally unaccepted) thesis that the modernisation, including military-strategic modernisation, was directed at de-modernisation. It sought a return to a utopianised medieval Germanic culture, exactly as propaganda implied (Turner 1975). Expanding earlier comments on the Nazi revolution by Schoenbaum (1966) Turner sees, partly in the urban policies, the resolution of the paradox:

Despite continuing rhetoric to the contrary, industry grew still bigger in the Third Reich, German cities became still larger, the flight from the land persisted, and women continued to be drawn into the labour force. This seeming paradox has puzzled a good many observers, but there is a simple explanation. How, after all, was it possible to obtain vast stretches of Lebensraum for the purpose of an extensive de-industrialisation and de-urbanisation of Germany in the mid-twentieth century other than by conquest? And how was such a conquest possible except by resort to a vast industrial war machine? The Nazis, that is, practised modernisation out of necessity in order to pursue their fundamentally anti-modern aims. (Turner 1975, 126)
Directly contravening Turner's intentions, the thesis can itself be expanded into a general explanation of modernity: that its nature is de-modernising. Modernity is a self-destructing, or at least self-braking, process. In this sense it is logical to accept that urbanisation is de-urbanisation, that not urbanisation but counter-urbanisation defines settlement in modern Europe, and that nature is urban. The conventional oppositions only confuse, because there is no doubt about the urban processes themselves. In any case the semantics are changing, as current use of the word "nature" in the Netherlands illustrates. New words like natuuraanleg (nature construction) and natuurbouw (naturiculture, by analogy with landbouw, agriculture) indicate Dutch thinking, and Dutch reality: "nature" is something constructed by the Government. The word has become a semantic extension of "park". Via other neologisms, such as "eco-housing", "eco-district" and "ecopolis", a semantic convergence of "city", "park" and "nature" is possible, and increasingly probable.

To summarise urban modernity: if the modern urban process is seen as the systematic extension of a park-like and garden-like environment for habitation, at densities sinking to regional averages, in parallel with continuing development of that environment towards a controlled version of the pre-human ecosystem, then there is no need for artificial paradoxes - the language of urban, counterurban, para-urbanisation, carpet urbanisation, disurban, suburban, peri-urban, exurban, edge city, new towns, spill-over, expansion, citt diffusa, garden cities, green cities, or sustainable cities. On the contrary, there is a good case for extreme reductionism in urban theory, because so many urban processes are reducible to the basic urban trends of modernity: more nature, lower density, therefore more mobility.

Peter Hall's identification of the garden city idea as just one of six basic "responses" to the nineteenth century city would be one rejection of this reductionism, and probably representative for urban theory in general (1988, 7-10; 86-318). A unidirectional process (urbanisation for nature) is presented as a succession of opposites, on the assumption that de-urbanisation cannot be inherent, and must be a response. That rejection is a defect of urban theory. It is a general defect of the social sciences that they reject reductionism. A reduction of all social processes to "hostility to change" is often necessary to overcome that hostility. That defect in turn derives from a defect of science in general: science worships the complexity of the existing. As so often in the social sciences, urban researchers are fascinated by the object of study, the existing cities. Emotionally, they cannot accept proposals for their destruction, nor see their complexity reduced by ethics to "wrong".

In general, the consensus of urban theory is non-reductionist. It is built around complex processes such as globalisation (e.g. Engelstoft 1991). At worst this is political manipulation: fears of globalisation allow conservatives to present localism and community as the only alternative (Bohm 1994; Graham 1994a, 39):

With regard to urban and regional strategies, there seem to be two approaches to the challenge of these economic conditions. One is acceptance of the developments and conformation to their demands of competition. The other is the search for a more independent socio-economic existence. The first approach can be seen in city and regional endeavours to merit the status of "Global City". The other, the Local Economic Development approach, is an emerging movement with the main objective to make places, communities, neighbourhoods and cities less dependent upon global economic premises and to develop local resources. (Bohm 1994, 108)
More typical is Castell and Hall's use of dominant processes. None involves ethical judgement, and they seem too large for voluntarism. Nevertheless, the resulting extreme consistency of urban form and economy suggests otherwise. The shrinkage of the so-called Multi-Function Polis from claims of being a turning point in urban history to a resort suburb of Adelaide (Castells and Hall 1992, 206-219; Haughton 1994) suggests semantic illusions are active. Language shifts are concealing basic stability and uniformity. A uniform trend does not exclude all historic succession: "trend" implies some process and transformation. These processes can create the illusion of fusion between opposites, if taken out of the context of the standard ethic. This illusion also appears in urban theory. Sometimes illusion is deliberately promoted: political claims that opposites exist are often followed by claims to necessity of some form of fusion. Howard's original Garden City proposals were a classic example. In current spatial theory the first claim - "dualisms exist" - is associated with mainstream realism. The second - "fusion is better" - is common in post-structuralism and feminism. Of course, not all land surface is identical to all other land surface: it is however a question of definition as to which categories are used, and the four-zone ethic is at least as valid as a categorisation of land surface as dual oppositions, or any claimed fusions.

The real processes of fusion, then, differ according to the categorisation. Certainly, the former urban-agricultural boundary is being eroded in some form. This is a source of much comment and confusion in terminology and theory (Coombes et al. 1989; Fishman 1990; Fishman 1991; Garreau 1991; Sudjic 1991; Short 1991, 50-52; Frankenhauser 1991; Piccolomini 1993; Mezga 1993; Stiens 1993; Luchsinger 1994; Irmen and Black 1994; Davis et al. 1994; Müller and Rohr-Zänker 1995; Halliday and Coombes 1995). More interestingly, there is a direct transfer from "farm" (productive) to "garden/park" (nature) which is ignored by most urban theory. It is visible in its products: agro-tourism, riding stables, nature-based theme parks and leisure parks, zoo's, safari parks (Loda 1994; Europäische Kommission 1995; Ilbery 1996). Despite a trend to combination in all-purpose leisure park-centres (Hatzfeld and Temmen 1993, 364) this are more than a phase in the leisure industry. In effect agricultural areas are bypassing the urban (fourth zone) phase entirely. Similarly "counter-urban" settlement of some depopulated rural areas (Clout 1991) is a direct conversion to what is, crudely speaking, very low density suburbia. The "appropriate label" sought by Saraceno (1995, 329) for these post-rural areas is "urban". This comment on 1970s Britain is still relevant (compare the map of migratory gain from Paris in Lipietz 1995, 151):

The concept of an outer city embracing both the more accessible and some of the more remote rural areas appears to be increasingly relevant. (Herington 1984, 15).
Finally there are basic changes in urban form: the house in a garden has become the prototype for the landscaped offices, industry, airports and even refineries. New urban form is primarily a garden:
Within perimeter centers building-to-garden relationships, not building-to-building relationships, are the only formally substantive morphology. The buildings themselves may be best analyzed as components of garden typologies, not as structures that exist independent of landscape. (Kieran and Timberlake 1991)
This is the historical triumph of the utopia of the suburb, and certainly in the United States of some form of anti-urban ideology. It is a triumph of the Arcadian vision which inspired the first "green" movements over 100 years ago (McCormack 1989, 1-17). Equally, suburbia reveals itself as transitional, leading to "a new kind of decentralized city" (Fishman 1987, 17).

An ethic which promotes fusion of nature and urban excludes non-natural cities. This process parallels a more general form of technological conservatism, seen in Donna Haraway's (1991) cyborg concept: only that which can fuse with humans ( or biological organisms) can exist in the cyborg world. As Haraway's exclusion of future technologies is the veto "no non-cyborgs", so Howard's veto is "no non-garden cities": conservatism through syncretism.

In urban modernity, cities are an accident: the intention was to build a garden. It was an explicit goal of prototypical early modern gardens to restore paradise (Gerndt 1981, 68-70; Wagener 1985). The ultimate result of the "demand for nature, even if reinvented" (Micale 1992, 37) is the reverse of the "western" relationship to nature and modernity seen by Max Weber:

Es ist nach der Darstellung wohl völlig klar geworden: dass in dem Zaubergarten vollends der heterodoxen Lehre (Taoismus) unter der Macht der Chronomanten, Geomanten, Hydromanten, Meteoromanten, bei der krüden und abstrusen universistischen Vorstellung vom Weltzusammenhang....eine rationale Wirtschaft und Technik moderner okzidentaler Art einfach ausgeschlossen war. (Weber 1989/1915)
The continental scale inter-meshed metropoles, eurocorridors and ecological networks proposed for the central capitals region in "Europa 2000+" (EC 1994b, map 30) show how far the geomancers of modernity have got in the urban sacralisation of nature.

Urban modernity is therefore an ethic, a prohibition of cities, and not the inevitable process presented by historicist claims. That can also be said of the second context of urban ethics, a second prohibition: the geocultural structure.

The geocultural structure corresponds to the geopolitical structure. Europe is so far unique in having a series of explicit visions, not so much of alternative futures, as of alternative forms of state. The three most prominent are the national model, and the ethnic and regional challenges to it. If military force, the ultimate resolution of alternative forms of state, is an indication, then the reality is one-sided. Counting soldiers and weapons, Europe is 95% Europe des patries, a few percent Europe des rÈgions and Europe des ethnies, and 0% Europe d'Europe.

A "geocultural structure" is not an abstraction. Apart from one explicit multinational federation, nation states hold almost all the territory of Europe. All of them operate policies to promote national culture and unity, including a national monopoly of force, of the executive, legislation, and elections. What makes this a single geocultural structure is not the diversity of cultures, for they may not differ at all in some respects, but the exclusion of the non-national. Concretely: there are no non-national cities in Europe, the Vatican excepted. Urban theory tends to take it for granted that modern cities are national: here too a historicist approach equates non-national with pre-national, as if there were no ethical choice involved.

So there is an exclusionary effect of the geocultural structure: there are also internal processes of conformity to the national culture, rarely referred to explicitly (CEC 1992, 190-192). In effect each nation has a national urban model enforced by law, by the military and police, and by social and economic pressures. In accordance with the transgenerational nature of nation states, that model includes projection of the past into the future.

It is these characteristics of national cites - permanence, transgenerationality, convergence to national norms - rather than post-industrial or post-modern trends which explain the growth of the culture and heritage sectors. This growth can in any case be traced well back into (or before) the classic industrial period. The form may be recent, but a heritage park (for instance) has nineteenth century precedents: improvement, paternalist education with nationalist emphasis, cross regional exchange through new infrastructures. Still at work is a range of classic nation-building, or at least nation-consolidating practices (Knippenberg and de Pater 1988) - now usually without direct state coercion.

Heritage and culture do not take up 100% of urban economies. However their impact is probably increasing, and almost never questioned. Opposition, if any, is only to the priority for "high culture", not to culture as such (Jauhiainen 1992). European cities are supposed to have culture, because they are national, and nations are supposed to have a culture. This unquestioned assumption underlies policy (see Häussermann and Siebel 1992; Lim 1993; Friedrichs 1995):

London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels....The race is on as to which city will be the heritage/cultural capital city of the new Europe. (Morris 1995, 67).
Nothing "new" here: this vision of Europe as competing historical cultures derives directly from Mazzini.

The imposition of culture, and prohibition of its absence, is central to nationalism, and identity politics. Nationalism justifies this with claims of historical continuity, new forms of identity with the value of diversity in general, or their own internal diversity. Urban theory presents this as a neutral fact, referring to "British cities" or "German cities" as if they had existence rights. So too with "lesbian spaces":

And so the process of imagining, contesting, reworking, redefining, and the challenging of sexual identities, community identities and the reshaping of landscapes of desire continues...(Valentine 1995, 109).
That does not mean it should continue. No quality of a culture confers existence rights, or the right to prohibit its absence. In practice there is no difference between forcing people to live in a city with a National Museum, or in a city with a Lesbian Centre.

The standard ethic incorporates logical errors in its views on urban unity and diversity. Basic models of urban space can be presented in simple diagrams: they make implicit norms explicit. (Sometimes it may only confuse: see Heikkila and Griffin 1995, 274). With such diagrams Aravantinos (1994) presents three models: diffusion/multiculturality; segregation within cities; and "complementary cities". The first is preferred, the "multi-national city". Those who favour a territorial mix of nationalities, should logically seek the dissolution of, for instance, Greece. Instead, nationalists accept the principle of ethnic segregation at country level. and reject it at city level.

Secondly, Aravantinos accepts the existence of non-national social groups, but rejects separate cities for them - because of the danger of racialist or nationalist trends. Here the logic is reversed: arguing, from the problems of division among nations, against other divisions. Thirdly, harmony is wrongly accorded intrinsic value. A city cannot be better, simply because the relations between some groups are open, peaceful or harmonious. If Mafia clans stop killing each other it gives them no more rights than when they were shooting. In effect Aravantinos claims cities for peacemakers. This claim parallels the claim to territory from peace among nations: both Israel and the nascent Palestinian state began as armed non-territorial groups.

The merit of Aravantinos' paper is to state common assumptions clearly. A geocultural structure is taken as given: - territorial diversity as a monopoly of national cultures, and - inside nations a territorial monopoly of national culture or cultures.

In such normative approaches the culturalists (mono-, multi- and inter-) have a monopoly: no other choice is conceded to exist. Anti-cultural cities are forbidden in this logic, and in reality existing cities do correspond to one or more existing cultures. A concrete example: if all EU member nations have different legal maximum densities but all under 300 person/hectare, then no city of higher density may exist in the EU. Not just legal prohibition, however, prevents its existence, but also social, economic, cultural and political pressures not to build such a city. Conversely, if there is such a thing as a Slovak city, which could not exist under Czechoslovak federal law, then it could come into existence on the secession of Slovakia. National cities can get built, after independence. Other cities stay forbidden. High density is not a people or a culture, and so can claim no territory in the present geocultural structure.

Nations have a national language, a national density, and a national technology, including national transport technology. The integration of "car culture" (Flink 1975) in national culture is evident: choosing rail becomes a rejection of culture. The social pressures related to meat give a good analogy. Being a vegetarian is usually socially accepted in Europe, trying to forbid meat is not. It would be seen as dictatorial if a vegetarian majority prohibited meat for a minority. Ethically however, the mirror positions are equivalent: eating meat prevents vegetarians living in a vegetarian country. Logically, pro-meat and anti-meat laws are incompatible, like pro-drug and anti-drug laws: a nation is one or the other. So too, a nation is pro-car or anti-car. No nation is anti-car, therefore no city is anti-car: geoculture prohibits its existence.

This is the reason why heritage, culture, identity, and memory are central to policy in nations, and taken for granted in urban policy: preserving the past is the best strategy for limiting futures. Whatever the scale of heritage - local, regional, national, even "trans-national regional" (Larkham, 1994, 7) it contributes to a past-based exclusionary geocultural structure. The class of cities prohibited by the monopoly claim of this structure is vast. It probably includes almost all possible cities. It is therefore pointless to try and list them here. Kevin Lynch (1981) gives a partial categorisation of possible urban types, goals and values; de Klerk (1980) classifies ideal cities; and most histories of urban design include forms no longer existing in Europe (Kostoff 1991; Kostoff, 1992, 71-121). Usually, however, possible cities are just ignored. Conversely, when "alternative" urban types appear in official publications, they tend to be variants of the standard ethic (see Luiten's typology in EF 1994, 49).

The most relevant (and controversial) deviations from urban geoculture itself in today's Europe are:

  • deculturation, the suppression or transfer of the cultural sector:
  • depatrimonialisation, the selective destruction of the urban elements which contribute most to cross-generational transmission of culture;
  • urban planning for the erosion of national barriers to migration (not to give people a better life, but a less national one);
  • de-atlanticisation, reversing the preference in transport and telecommunication infrastructure for transatlantic links;
  • the construction of specific cities of Europe (not the same as a city for a pan-European culture, real or imagined).
The third context of the standard ethic, which also prohibits certain cities, is liberalism.

In contrast to the first two exclusions, this prohibition is often explicit (e.g. Schoonbrodt 1994). At its most simple it is the promotion of the city as a framework for "business" or "enterprise", place market-place, Standortwettbewerb. Liberalism, however, means more: the political and philosophical promotion of openness, exchange, debate, interaction, argument, competition, co-operation, networks and "society" - as natural, desirable and inevitable. Liberalism claims:

  • intrinsic value for interaction,
  • that interaction should be maximised, and
  • that its extent and intensity should be maximised.
Overlapping or separate liberal structures (liberal democracy, the market, Internet) share general characteristics: interaction between parties can affect others, these effects can be transmitted through chains of interaction, cause and effect are collectivised, and there are filter effects usually leading to convergence.

Liberal historiography emphasises the transition from the barriers of the pre-liberal era: tolls, tariffs, customs houses, internal duties. One symbol of the pre-liberal city is the wall of the Fermiers around Paris, one of many such customs barriers in European cites until the 19th century (Kostoff, 1992: 12-14). For Marxists and liberals, its storming during the Revolution indicates the equivalence of bourgeois revolution and liberal free trade. For liberals that prefigures the opening of the Berlin Wall. (Ironically the German unity symbol, the Brandenburger Tor, was also a customs barrier). An open infrastructure is a sign of a liberal city - and therefore a single infrastructure, for logically openness implies unity. One network for each service - roads, water, gas, electricity and telecommunication - with a trend to integration of functions (Graham and Marvin 1994). Single networks are not self-evident, as Berlin and South African cities show. Recent Israeli construction in the West Bank shows it is feasible to build two separate road networks on the same territory, for different populations. Significantly, only ethnic/religious divisions made this possible. Conversely, Berlin's unification came because majorities East and West believed they were the same nation.

Some unity is a precondition of open-interaction cities: in modern Europe, that is always national unity. In turn interaction reinforces convergence around national culture: liberalism reinforcing nationalism. The transport sector is again a good example: individual decisions to use cars undermine rail transport, forcing others to follow the choice. This almost universal preference for cars caused effects "market forces" - including closure of some rail lines. Far more typical of convergence effects is that possible rail lines have not been constructed. Converting raw mobility increases (pass/km) into route length shows a huge infrastructure growth potential. It has gone exclusively to roads: the possible 1000-kilometre metros in large urban regions, and 100-kilometre metros in intermediate cities, have not been built. Convergence tends to exclude possibility.

Urban convergence is the process by which, in a city where persons are exposed to a high level of interaction, including competitive interaction, deviance from an aggregate of the inhabitants' preferences will be negatively rewarded, i.e. punished. Price structure in housing is a good example: around medium size cities single family housing with gardens, accessible by motorway at 50 kilometres distance, may be cheaper than one-person housing in inner city areas. Economists can explain such effects: the point is that there are effects. In this case they reward social conformity: the market is not neutral. For some people this is reason to support the market. However, its effects may also be ethical ground to reject it. The market is not transparent to all preferences: openness of interaction destroys openness of possibility.

This effect is rarely explicitly considered. The claim to liberal cities is generally based on an argument of necessity:

Moreover, cities do not only meet the needs of economic life: they have social, cultural and political functions which are based on relationships of proximity, facilitating the construction of social networks with partial or global objectives; these social networks, to the extent that they seek innovation, need a face-to-face relationship in order to produce their effects. (Schoonbroodt 1994, 86).
"Network" contradicts "innovation". The housing market, the labour market, transport and communications infrastructure: all favour convergence effects. If cities are absolutely split, these effects cease absolutely.

Splitting cities would also limit more direct convergence effects - through standardised education, or through urban politics. Most European cities are governed by parties or coalitions based on less than a third of the adult population, sometimes much less. However this minority tend to be over-representative of core population, in terms of age, sex, employment status, ethnic origin, and housing. Their control of the city favours the core culture.

In summary, liberal cities in Europe are "cities as networks within networks of cities". Much urban studies terminology (urban interaction, transactional city, informational city, network city) implicitly accepts liberal ideology, but it is not inevitable. De-liberalisation can take two forms: de-networking the cities internally, or making cities autarkic, at least in respect to liberal interaction.

It is a historicist claim that the demolition of the wall of the Fermiers, or the Berlin Wall, form the inevitable direction of history. It is true that open cities are now the norm. In general, the claimed social polarisation in liberal cities (Marcuse 1993; Schön 1993, 652; EC 1994a, 40; EC 1994b, 100-105; Caldeira 1996; see Hammett 1994 403-409) is insignificant compared to pre-1989 Berlin, or Korea. Dual cities are usually an artefact of liberal bias in urban research:

Contrary to the modern public space constituted in accordance in accordance with ideals of openness, equality, commonality, and the reference to a notion of universality, the new public space which is being formed in So Paolo is structured on the basis of the principles of separateness and emphasis on irreconcilable differences. (Caldeira 1996, 65).
If you adopt such explicitly unitary principles, then all cities will seem as divided as Berlin. In reality, the problem for the poor of So Paolo is not that the rich retreat to enclaves at night - but that they come out during the day to exploit the poor. There is an irreconcilable difference between oppressor and oppressed: it is immoral to ignore it.

Most cities, then, are open cities, yet technology does not determine an open society. Fencing, detection systems, alarms, security recording, tagging, and access control are increasingly sophisticated. (The liberal attitude to this technology varies: wrong in state use, right to protect property; wrong in the centre of Berlin, right at the Polish border). If there is a technical trend, it is to effective division: separate infrastructures become more feasible. Yet despite this, only Nicosia remains as a divided city of any size. Not technology, but policy, made Europe like this: it could be full of divided cities.

Similarly, "intra" networks (networks among cities) can be broken up. In this case, no-one can claim it is not feasible: these networks are already cut by barriers among nation states. Nevertheless networks are presented as neutral, inevitable and/or desirable (Loeckx 1992, 285-286; EC 1994b, 109-111; Baumheier 1994; Graham 1994a: 1994b; Kunzmann 1995; Stoll 1995) with only occasional criticism of the concept (Schön 1993, 650-1). After sustainability, this may become another unquestioned norm for EU urban policy. Yet, if there can be 50 nation states in Europe, then there can be 500 city states. Networks - the word is increasingly used for any form of administrative co-operation - are not inevitable.

Separate administration does not, in itself, distinguish liberal from unliberal cities. The difference relates to the nature of liberal structures. An open liberal city "expresses" preferences of its inhabitants to some extent. Liberals see the ideal city projects of autocratic rulers, correctly, as un-liberal. The inhabitants had (in principle) nothing to say about the decision to build the city. There were no inhabitants, at first: they were compelled to live there afterwards. Such autocratic decisions are not now taken: it is true that some new towns in Western Europe were built on empty sites, but they were planned within liberal democratic frameworks. The clearest modern antitheses to the liberal city are the secret cities of the Soviet military-industrial complex.

Closed, secret societies are abhorrent to liberal democracies (the Italian Constitution specifically forbids them). So also in principle secret cities, although western states also have secret military facilities. Secret societies can have their own agenda, their own goals: for liberals it is dangerous that they are not subject to the "checks and balances" of an open society. They fear the ability to pursue a goal differing from the interaction aggregate. This is the liberal doctrine of "anti-perfectionism": society has no goal other than meeting the aggregate. The unliberal city, therefore, is primarily characterised by a deviant goal: it is a teleological city, and its inhabitants are secondary. And, returning to the opening of this article, the only telos which does not result in a static state of goal achievement is change itself: cities are for change, not for people.

The urban present described in the three ethical contexts above is certainly modern in chronological terms. Whether a transition to a change ethic would constitute a chronological break is uncertain. In historiography, the normative proposals in this article might be characterised as deriving from a "second modernity", in which some elements of modernity (causing social and political stagnation) were by-passed. Even so, the proposals do contradict a wider standard ethic of the value of nations and community, and the superiority of decision making within historical political communities, democracy. In that sense they are a break.

Maximising urban form, content, and maximising its dispersal, facilitates change through cities, if not in all cities. Put simply, 99 conservative cities and one innovative city are more likely to facilitate change than 100 open, pluriform, democratic urban communities. Urban plurality should replace political pluralism, "civic society", community, and public domain. The liberal restriction - the goal of a city may not exist independently of its inhabitants - should be abandoned: a telos for cities is legitimate.

Concretely, even in the short term, a plurality of cities would affect issues such as density, mobility and transport technology. High densities (up to 20 000/km2) are feasible with existing construction and infrastructure. The first post-automobile city in Europe is a matter of political decision, not technical feasibility. Almost any city in the range around one million inhabitants could construct a high intensity metro (1 km. route/ 10 000 hab.).

Such a plurality cannot exist within the Europe of nations. It is a precondition for all this that the geocultural structure is removed, and that suggests a state of Europa to remove it. In turn, denationalisation of urban areas would be a priority for such a state. De-nationalisation is not simply demolition, for that is also a feature of national planning and housing policies. The differences are largely on what is to be demolished. Possibly, more recent construction (even theme parks and shopping malls) reinforces national culture more than conserved towns or monuments. A general deculturation would also involve closures in the cultural sector outlined by Friedrichs (1995, 454-457): broadcast tv and radio studios, universities, art schools, record companies and art galleries.

As both a strategy for denationalisation, and a result of it, migration should also intensify. As an indication, cities in Europe should exchange about one third of their population. A phase in which urban migration erodes the geocultural structure, should result in a phase in which migration adapts the population to the goals of the cities. (In turn this may require a high capacity transport infrastructure in Europe: not to facilitate interaction, but to minimise it).

At this point, what had been urban policy merges into state formation theory. In the present world order, the only large territorially organised groups with specific goals are nation states. Religion provides some exceptions to this. A rare example of a city with population determined by an entirely transcendental and unliberal goal, is Makkah (Mecca). It is reserved for Moslems, and few non-Moslems seem to care about being excluded. It is not simply jealously to extend this principle. Nor is it self-interest (although atheists would be safer in an atheist than in Makkah). Rather, separation favours the possible against the existing. Conservatives would probably care about being excluded from a city with the goal of change. however they cannot legitimately demand to be admitted, if their presence defeats the goal. Population transfers to facilitate change are therefore legitimate: for states, and for cities.

Without any attempt at urban design, these proposals for a different urban ethic outline radically different cities. Such possible cities are more than just a "phase in urban development" - the usual fault in considering the ideal cities of early modern Europe (Kruft 1989, 18). At a minimum, they clarify how existing cities conform to an existing ethic, and why it should be rejected. The opposite of these proposals - the existing standard ethic at work - can be seen in plans for Sarajevo and other cities in Bosnia. The policy is to forcibly return refugees to live in cities, where they "belong" on the basis of birth and ancestors. They will be forced in effect to participate in restoring a heritage conforming to official mythologies - "our glorious churches" or "our glorious mosques". This inside an economic system largely determined by the intervening powers. These plans will of course be justified from high moral principles: in reality they are no more than suppression by force of alternative possibilities (including depopulation).

Being deported to Sarajevo and forced to work on the restoration of monuments, in order to eat - that is the standard ethic at its most explicit. However, a minority in Europe's cities is pressured every day to buy a car, use the roads and not the trains, to buy a house with a garden, to raise a nuclear family, take the children to the park, take the children to the theme park, go shopping at the mall or hypermarket, have a career, conform to the expectations of boss and colleagues at work, and create the conditions for the next generation to live under the same pressures. Many people will reject the propositions in this article, but some people will not. They will reaslise that all ethics, however "soft", can result in coercion:

If current life-styles and sustainability are in conflict, people will have to learn how to think differently. (Peter Hall in OECD 1994, 43).
Sustainability is indeed part of the standard ethic, and used in turn to justify liberal open cities:
Stakeholder participation creates urban environmental sustainability, and dismantling the barriers that separate minorities and the poor from the rest of society is crucial. (US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, in World Bank 1995, 7)
If they are being told to think differently, however, minorities have good reason to stay outside society.

Not everyone accepts the standard ethic: their coercion is not legitimate, not for sustainability, nor anything else in that ethic. The consensus on cities in Europe is not total. Realistically, however, that will probably first become apparent after the breakdown of existing geopolitical structures. Some form of "civil war" in Europe seems a precondition for urban change.

Paul Treanor

e-mail: Paul.Treanor@INTER.NL.NET
Homepage: http:// www.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor


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