Four chapters down –> anxious reflections

With four dissertation chapter drafts essentially done, I’m trying to step back and see what it is that I have done. “Is it worth a shit?,” I keep wondering. If the printer in my office had any ink left in the cartridge I would print it out, read all four chapters together and see if it holds together like I think it does — or like I want it to. What am I trying to say, broadly? The Hume quotation I just posted gets to the heart of it. I am trying to say — to show — that all of the little machinations that have produced this neighborhood cannot be explained by defaulting to neoliberal rationality. The producers are doing what they believe is in good taste, and what they believe, I contend, is that it is possible to build “a city of the future” that balances social good and profits. I’m doing everything in my limited power to avoid saying the will to organize in an allegedly sustainable way is nothing but a veil masking the cold drive for profit. Deleuze and Guattari talk about capitalism being a system of cynicism and piety, and I’m trying to give each of these elements due attention.

Is it worth a shit? I don’t know. Is it radical? Not explicitly. If anyone reads it, am I going to be accused of siding with the developers, city councilmen, or “visionaries” from the architectural and urban design disciplines? I hope not, but probably. But to be honest, I’m not currently in a place where I feel it is appropriate to be blatantly radical. Instead, I’m drawing on what I know from the inside of the building industry, or what I hear circulating in a college that trains these practitioners, these designers. Without saying they are wrong, they are fools, they are pawns, I am trying to acknowledge that they have a legitimate “good” in mind. But the problem is the way it is being realized, chained up, linked to the drive to make market rate returns (this is indeed Vulcan’s m.o., sometimes expressed as “doing well by doing good”). So there is no doubt in my mind that this captor is the problem, but I am trying to say that talk of toppling it isn’t enough for me right now. Instead, I’m more interested in how there are so many people out there who are incapable of seeing that it is the problem.

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