Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

3. Functional, organizational matters or issues, initiatives of local leadership, participation and expression of opinions by citizens and local actors

“Our world is crossing a great threshold, for the first time in human history more than half the world's population live in cities. As a consequence of this rapid development, the cities are becoming increasingly segregated. Over one billion people live in slums. The fastest expanding urban structures are the areas with no city planning or communal infrastructure. In the informal cities legal rights are denied and citizenship are uncertain. While the organization of housing and livelihood is developed by the dwellers themselves, the informal economy is developed in a complex relation to the planned city. The formal city might have something to learn from the slums where people have started to organize themselves both in local and international networks.”

- Informal Cities Conference in Stockholm, September 6 – 8, 2008







3. The factor ‘change’

Most crucial is to realise a new model of cultural governance when designing the cultural planning strategy.

As long as culture was the exclusive sphere for the elite, other social and cultural groups were excluded. Equally, the involvement of all institutions in the integration of everyone has to resolve the problem of segregation brought about by income and educational differences related to socialization practices. Persons who have a name by reputation but also family background have a definite advantage.

Then the dissemination of culture has to take into consideration different territorial entities.

Altogether citizens of the city need to interact before a common decision can be reached about allocation and use of cultural resources.

Cultural planning entails giving a time frame often attained by having a common theme or goal e.g. Olympics, Mediterranean Games. It shows that something is needed which can unify the vision for the future. The political advantage thereof is that it can legitimize a common decision making process and facilitate coordination between different actors and bodies of the city. Altogether cultural planning does entail setting free creative forces at various levels.

Most important is to reach the smaller groups, individuals and lower levels of city governance; in short, a bottom up participation will ensure a broad base of support.

Culture acts as filter for the selection of interventions (see here Volos Report within the CIED project) and thereby makes possible an overall adaptation process of the city to new challenges. This process cannot be described in following variations:


Unfortunately selection procedures and methods to file apparently successful projects are evaluated according to managerial capacity and hence financial accountability than what would be an innovative potential while expressing a complexity over and beyond simple organisation principles. That tendency to select a priori only manageable projects to ensure success cuts short both the creative and practical i.e. learning process in how people imagine their future and inputs with regards to what has inspired them when thinking about contributing to a major event.


3.1 Management of change

3.2 Changes at policy level to include ‘culture’

3.3 A key factor of anticipated changes: cultural adaptation and cultural innovation

Since cultural accommodation goes on all the time and this most often in a remarkable quiet but sustained way. Children do not have such a filter and neither do those who feel overexposed to all kinds of information and demands without knowing therefore on how to respond. They can be simply overwhelmed, over demanded and over taken by all the challenges of advancing in a knowledgeable, intelligible and anticipatory manner. It goes without saying the integration into an urban environment along with the complexity of institutional set-ups is never easy especially if forms of alienation and various barriers to integration have to be overcome.


3.4 Coping with changes – tools for making meaningful changes possible

3.5 Agenda 21


3.5.1 Sustainable development – two examples: Palmero and Master Plan of Chicago



3.6 Entering the cultural planning process



3.6.1 Setting the urban agenda

3.6.2 Beyond mere habits: cultural consciousness

3.6.3 Planning or chaos with or without consideration of others

3.6.4 The concept of politics

If politics is to contribute to the clarification of common assumptions to make possible life in cities, then prior to making cultural planning into a viable tool a closer look has to be taken at what constitutes not just any, but viable political solutions. For one, there is overlooked very often a hidden interdependence between politics and culture. It makes itself felt in the voices to be heard and listened to. Even if atmosphere cannot be captured in so many words, most telling is already if a meeting takes place in a tense or relaxed atmosphere. If there are screaming citizens, such wild fires need to be put out. Many politicians have here experiences on how to bring things under control. That is why reference to short-term remedies and workable solutions were made before. Now they have to be reinforced by seeking political solutions capable of linking short and long term processes better known as the city’s development.

Interestingly enough both politics and culture have to do with the problem of recognition. While politicians look very differently at what can offer a solution insofar as they depend upon support i.e. people recognizing this is a solution to their problems (and always they have to anticipate from where shall come the opposition if they decide upon a certain course of actions), artists search for recognition as to the answers they try to give as to how they experience life in a city.  dominated by consumption and overt activities having little or nothing to do with setting the human spirit free.

A crucial cultural aspect would be that ‘language and silence’ no longer acts as juxtapositions and therefore would leave the majority outside the political process. Here culture in the broadest sense along with some very concrete measures would have to resolve the problem of articulation and therefore the negative trend to leave people in silence rather than cope with injustices, including abuses of children, and a growing aggression amongst youth and those who feel in rage after having been made by society at large into ‘radical losers’. Culture stands for civilized conduct and a way to seeking solutions in a non violent way. This is why common life has to be based on civic values passed on from generation to generations and incorporated as well into the way political decisions are arrived at.

Already acceptance of a political solution would say some kind of cultural consensus does prevail. In general, people tend to be reasonable when it comes to weighing options in order to know what goes, what not. They just do not wish to be fooled.

For instance, already the quality of political debate can provide a variety of insights into the knowledge base of politics, but also what level of literacy does exist when public figures argue about a way to go forward with the overall development of the city. The level of debate will very quickly tell how well informed are all participants and whether or not real options are being weighed as serious alternatives compared to just one group trying to press through a scheme of things so as to safeguard only their own interests. By taking interest in raising the level of debate everywhere in society, cultural initiatives can help specify issues, what citizens know and how to organise future debates as part of an overall learning process. Here would be important that stories told are as important as fact sheets. That would require, however, politicians able to deal with different representations of reality and come accordingly to terms with these newly emerging realities presented in quite a different, even novel way.

Often it is the case that politicians are over demanded by the complexity of issues while facing from many different sides at the same time a variety of demands. Consistently citizens and interest groups demand their projects are supported first. Rarely are Municipal governments approached by individuals or groups who have a proposal to make and who seek to clarify with the political side the conditions under which such a project could be realized.

Over and again it was pointed out that especially the more interesting cultural projects require the support not just from the cultural department, but equally from the labour, economic, social and technical departments since re-use of a former industrial plant for artistic purposes poses many questions and not always the spontaneous users have either money or knowledge to bring back to life such a premise. Cultural planning would require a mechanism by which the various cross boundaries co-operations would be realized so that truly interdisciplinary experts would find common terms of references and thereby allow a way forward in public spending for the arts and culture not yet practiced or foreseen in all too many cities.

That is exactly when the interlocutor is needed if another way is found to finance activities in the cultural sector while understanding the project is not really limited only to the cultural fields. If something has a broader base requirement to become viable, the political solution sought has to start with recognizing both the complexity and the potential as a way to challenge conventional wisdoms and ongoing practices. For every promising cultural project will already be from the outset a part of a cultural innovative process involving a new understanding of culture as much as another way of citizens working together with the various municipal administrations. As Bob Palmer would say, politicians must become therefore quasi surfers of cultural waves when seeking to bring about viable political solutions.

Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830, Louvre)[1]

Equality, freedom and justice had become since the French Revolution key demands throughout the ages. People want to live in freedom, be treated fair and just, and enjoy equality. It presupposes mutual recognition in a way that does not require hierarchy as key principle of organisation to sustain work in and for society. Nevertheless, if top down measures are constantly introduced by modern politics and bottom-up success stories few and hard to find, it means that hierarchy remains a key stumbling bloc in the emancipation of people from their fears and inabilities to cope with all the challenges ahead.

Since the Enlightenment failed (see Adorno, Horkheimer), it is not clear what has become of people desiring to become world citizens. The confinement to a national framework meant also a single state laid claim to their identity. Today, in face of immigration problems, national politicians would reinforce that claim by demanding immigrants to become French, British or Dutch depending where they landed. Even the existence of the European Union has not brought any respite from that tightening demand and thereby increases the tension between people with very different cultural backgrounds.

Whether political and cultural identities differ so much to make a difference under which rule people want to subjugate themselves, that has not been so much debated, but after the many religious conflicts leading even to wars have subsided for the time being in Europe, it might be well the next big challenge. Former Yugoslavia is an example where ethnic assertiveness exploded and brought about hideous forms of violence fuelling still more extreme forms of nationalism.  That cannot be the political solution sought for the future. But Europe is now forced to deal with Kosovo to accommodate new forms of cultural independences seeking political recognition.

The French Revolution brought with it equality between men and women, freedom as something concrete and justice as derived from a desire to be free from arbitrary rule to become a new constitution.

Naturally, as shown by Jean Pierre Faye in his analysis of the Paris Commune, already the invention of a health police introduced reactionary forces into people following the figure of liberte freeing them first of all from fear. It was echoed by Kant who asked how can rule by reason and not by fear be realized?

Solution – institutions must solve the problems they have been designed for otherwise they are overwhelmed by the problems

Hegel – observing the French revolution: people tore down institutions which they had helped to construct – not a very accurate observation: they did not build the Bastille, for them a symbol of ruthless and arbitrary power having become unjust. They wanted justice to rule.

From state level to city level – local governance – political solutions in the making and the immediacy of political authorities when exposed to the demands of the citizens on a day by day basis.

Political philosophy – facing new challenges

“The first is the issue of social justice, which in one form or another has dominated political philosophy for much of the century. Most of the many liberal theories of justice on offer have had a broadly egalitarian flavour, demanding at least the partial offsetting of the economic and social inequalities thrown up by an unfettered market economy (see Market, ethics of the; Justice; Rawls, J.; Dworkin, R.; though for dissenting views see Hayek, F.A. von; Nozick, R.). These theories rested on the assumption that social and economic policy could be pursued largely within the borders of a self-contained political community, sheltered from the world market. This assumption has become increasingly questionable, and it presents liberals with the following dilemma: if the pursuit of social justice is integral to liberalism, how can this be now be reconciled with individual freedoms to move, communicate, work, and trade across state boundaries?” [2]

Translated into physical terms the urban environment must maintain a balance of complexity to what any natural or physical landscape entails. The urban environment can become a cultural landscape only under certain conditions. It cannot rely solely on outstanding landmarks but must involve everyone on how they treat their immediate and more mediate surroundings as the handling of waste shows. Many people do not wish a rubbish dump near their homes but then they do not care how much waste they produce on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. The campaign to reduce use of plastic bags is one recent initiative to be linked to a growing awareness that the consumer world of affluent society has its negative side with costs in terms of damages done to the environment over exceeding any gain to be claimed on the side of living quality by having larger houses with three or more bathrooms and a swimming pool. The latter does not make sense when a country faces drought.

Consequently the ecological movement or the Environmentalists have started to challenge basic principles of governance based on economic growth and free market i.e. de-regulation:

“Liberalism is challenged by the environmental movement, whose adherents claim that liberal political principles cannot successfully address urgent environmental concerns, and more fundamentally that the liberal image of the self-sufficient, self-directing individual is at odds with the ecological picture of humanity's subordinate place in the system of nature as a whole (see Green political philosophy; Environmental ethics; SUSTAINABILITY). Liberalism, it is said, is too firmly wedded to the market economy and to consumption as the means of achieving personal well-being, to be able to embrace the radical policies needed to avoid environmental disaster.” [3]

Unfortunately as seen just before, leading ideologies cling not only to tradition to distort perception of the present. Under the influence of cynical philosophers like Leo Strauss public lie is not merely advocated but any meaningful collaboration between different groups distorted so as to maintain a top-down model for the exercise of power. It includes the love for the public lie or what is known as mendacity. Martin Jay is correct in pointing out even philosophers like Adorno were sceptical what truth can be imparted to the general public and masses of people. He preferred to bestow anything having to do with an attempt at truth to the ‘imaginary witness’. It would mean only a dialogue with the imagination could give people access to this other vital information described by Umberto Eco in ‘The Name of the Rose’ as those books no one is allowed to read lest it would reveal what manipulations are going on and how business is being conducted under the umbrella of a powerful political constellation. By setting terms of trade the aim is to influence the purchasing power. People quite often embed abstract power with their own real life and therefore are asked to make sacrifices. It leaves people entangled on the one side in rituals of power while on the other hand politicians are free to do what they like. They do so outside any public sphere and in reality without any legitimacy. This is why accountability and transparency are key issues when calling for political reform.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_philosophy

[2] David Miller (1998), Political philosophy. In E. Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, London: Routledge, Retrieved March 4, 2008, from www.rep.routledge.com/article/5099

[3] Op.cit. David Miller


3.6.5 The willingness to see where the problems exist


3.6.6 Practical solutions                                                                                              3.6.7 How memory works to give meaning to people, places and times


3.6.8 Learning to anticipate or the difference between success and failure

One further qualification must be made here. If people are to become practical, they need a culture allowing them to anticipate. They do so by learning to work with changes as they step into the future. Important what reflections accompany their actions. It has been a long time since debates about the difference between theory and practice preoccupied everybody, including academics and scientists who seemed to be too far removed from ordinary people and what they can understand. That gap has been bridged by various ways to prepare people for the future. As exemplified by Ruhr 2010 and in particular the build up of the cultural industries, changes invoked, provoked and induced are accompanied by promotion of the arts giving people both an ability to see things in a new light and to reflect what changes are taking place in reality. [1]

Even though prediction of the future is nearly impossible, mankind has progressed from asking the oracle in Delphi to dialogue. This was also the title of a conference which took place in Athens. Four fields of inquiries gave a framework for discussion:

Of interest is that dialogue as a way to anticipate the future by becoming free to imagine things was left out. An open dialogue can take place if people are willing to discuss what they image will be their future actions and therefore do not confront others with mere explanations as to why certain developments are taking place already. While the one position is informing prior to deciding, the other is setting facts before the other side can object. Consequently the narrative of the Palestinians is most difficult to tell while the continual failure of the peace process in the Middle East is almost a certainty. If the case, then such self fulfilling prophesy requires no anticipation. The ugly side of life takes its own course and tolls in terms of land and human lives.

Within the context of story telling, anticipation out of practice allows saying what goes, what not. It requires learning something from the story and the ability to articulate the assumptions by which it is believed that success will be immanent if things are done in a certain way. Most crucial seems to be the link between theme and realization as it concerns strategies. Here then Aristotles understood becoming practical as reflection of such theory which allows perception which goals are worth while striving for. It can become known through the activation of the imagination. In the subsequent process people can become culturally qualified to reach that goal e.g. the holding of the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 or the Mediterranean Games in Volos / Larissa 2013. [3] By setting such a horizon, the process towards that can be sustained by policy measures which facilitate cultural adaptation to both future and specific needs linked to holding such games in a certain period of time at the concrete locality. People and organisers will know that their stories link up with a proper cultural planning process when they become free to imagine the next steps.

Not entering such a learning process would partially explain the cultural failure to anticipate. Without such an act cultural planning would not make any sense at all. Anticipation through literature was mentioned before when citing the writer Robert Musil. The problem can be reformulated here as a critical question: does the multi media world which cities are entering leave intact or even strengthens the cultural capacities to anticipate?

To anticipate, the culture of every city needs to distinguish clearly between past, present and future. It has to be done without transforming time into an eternal present. If so, it would rob everyone of the chance to make experiences and therefore force people to live only within the system. As Sigmund Freud pointed out, once remaining only inside, then feelings cannot be experienced; that is only possible if people step outside the system and into their feelings and emotions as they come up like bubbles to the surface of the sea. Out of such movement into the future is created the much needed memory path. Cultural planning must unravel such paths.


[1] See here, for example, the speech by Bernd Fesel at the ECCM Symposium “Productivity of Culture”: www.productivityofculture.org

[2] “From Oracles to Dialogue”, Athens, July 9 – 11, 2007 http://www.costa22.org/conference/program.doc

[3] The cultural games envisioned for the Mediterranean Games in 2013 have the title: “The Mediterranean: The sea that unites us”. See http://www.2013volos.gr/CulturalProgramme.asp

Failure of the multi cultural model

Truly international cities are open to people of all walks of life but that does not mean all newcomers are seen by everyone with the same favourable eyes. Already in the polis of Ancient Greece poets remarked that a stranger was viewed with a mix of fear and curiosity. People’s looks were accompanied then by the main question if this stranger can evoke such changes to make their urban society become more just? Since that is not an easy task, people realized then they cannot demand too much from the stranger and thereby risk being unjust to him but still they need to know what changes he can bring about. Alone this mediation in a glance requires an honest, equally fair culture to remind that ‘social justice’ applies to everyone.

Something happened at cultural level and therefore perception once New Yorkers and the world witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers on that fateful day known as 911 since it took place on the 11th of September 2001.

Twin towers of the World Trade Center burning. United Airlines Flight 175 impacted the South Tower (right) after American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower (left). Source: Wikipedia [1]

That event proved to be a turning point in how others are regarded and in particular those from Arabic countries or are else linked to the Islamic religion. This is because the subsequent declaration by the US government of an all out ‘war against terrorism’ provoked such one sided creation of enemy pictures needed by an army if to go to war, that the backlash to such an unjustifiable war has lead to declaring the multi cultural model a failure when it comes to integrating into modern cities people of another religion and with a different cultural background.

European cities need to deal with the failure of the ‘multi-cultural’ model to promote and to bring about integration of people with different cultural backgrounds. The failure of the model was claimed in Europe not immediately after 911, but in that context coming to terms with radical followers of a certain faith proved to be too much. This was especially the case after the film maker Van Gogh was murdered by an Islamist extremist in Holland, the bombings of trains in Madrid and after the four Muslims who had grown up in the United Kingdom nevertheless ignited bombs on both the tube and one double-decker bus in London July 2005.

In view of such tensions between a main society and an ethnical defined community with distinct character for any outsider or insider to recognize, it mattered that dialogue seemed to be no longer enough. Things turned violent and ugly not only in a spectacular way but also during daily encounters e.g. how women without head scarf were admonished as being a whore by those who thought to know how to distinguish between believers and non believers. It is a crude power game in imitation of how power draws the dividing lines in society. So while cities had to face new security needs, it was made ever harder for not only administrators, but also artists and cultural workers to find a balanced approach to integration. Old models were abandoned due to mistrust having become too great. While the British government invited the Muslim council for talks, there was a need to know how these councils could prevent further radicalisation of its youth. At the same time, many of the anti-terrorist measures taken, they have contributed towards the making of an Orwell like state with surveillance cameras everywhere and the privacy of the individual no longer respected. It is commonly said to fight terrorism by undermining the Western values of democracy hands a victory to the terrorists who have set out to strip Western states of their cultural masks and to expose their anti human stance with regards to almost all crucial issues mankind faces in a global world marked by climate change, genocide, dictatorships, corruption etc.

Rarely do officials, but above all political leaders like President Bush or Prime Ministers Blair and Brown never admit that ‘war against terrorism’ along with all the security measures is counter productive. At best they are short term measures taken to convince their audiences that the state is undertaking something. In reality they have turned out to be compulsive adaptation measures e.g. the Patriotic Act in the United States has been complimented by the Home Security Act with both undermining any good neighbourhood development as mistrust and alienation are implanted into everyday life. It is counter productive because these measures do not allow for a thought through socialization processes. Yet urban cultures live from people developing empathy for the other and thereby making avoidance of violence possible through dialogue. Instead of promoting peaceful measures, ever stricter military and para-military conditions have been imposed. If fashion but not only is something to go on, the increase in para-military clothes says something about the state of minds in such a situation. The models projected into the minds of especially the youth make Rambo like heroes appear meek and weak compared to what are the radical Jihads and new militias working no longer for the Yankee dollar, but for whatever currency happens to promise the most lucrative business in trade with all kinds of commodities but also people as the increase in human trafficking, child labour and child abuse indicates.

To obtain work permits, new requirements are imposed, e.g. to learn the language of the country the migrant finds him- or herself in. However, the special training courses do not make sense since most migrants find themselves to be in a multi-lingual context where besides their own native language, also English, French, Spanish etc. dominate as in a city like Brussels, while they have to learn in the programs set up for their integration purpose only Flemish. Naturally here cultural peculiarities play a role and one has to take that into consideration as much as possible, but some more practical solutions are needed in order to improve upon the integration chances of immigrants. Otherwise those measures on the ground play havoc with not only the migrants’ cultural identities, but also with what they shall experience as a compulsion but which is in reality deeply humiliating. If integration depends upon feeling dignified as a human being, then cities must make sure through the services they provide that people attain as well cultural perspectives. Only when they know that they can contribute to the life in the communities of the city, they have a chance to integrate themselves. Their success stories will furthermore help them form lasting friendships and even start their own families, if they do not have already a family to take care of.

As social pressure mounts for immigrant groups to integrate themselves more into society, there is at risk to reproduce not only conformity but to reduce culture to ‘norms’ standing for good citizenship and an ideal human being. Mass conformity was never a good recipe for living cultural diversity. Given such pressure and suspicion, if not outright racial discrimination, it is only natural that these loose groups of migrants tend to unify in a much stronger and cohesive way. They need to do so in order to give each other mutual support. Once they form these groups, then individuals will experience it much harder to integrate into the society they work in but which they will not know either socially or culturally speaking. That prompts a reproduction of mutual fear linked to the unknown. Misunderstandings will aggravate the situation and if prejudices are encountered at daily basis, then it will reinforce and strengthen the position if not of the hard liners, then of the traditionalists e.g. upholding a specific form of faith. Frightening is the prospect of a city giving in to those who demand a radical clean-up up the situation once and for all, in order to have some ‘peace’.

Given the failure of cultural policy to assist in the integration process of citizens with diverse cultural backgrounds, the decision making and planning process has to be re-considered under these new ‘cultural’ terms. There needs to be heeded cultural diversity done best by promoting intercultural dialogues throughout the cities, as facilitated best by international artists working together with local ones. Since it has become ever more difficult to find a common language, cultural projects should encourage collaborative work by letting children of diverse backgrounds paint together. Through that common experience they can learn how to reach a cultural consensus and take a stand in support of recognition of the other(s).

True cultural governance can only be achieved if it includes promotion of ‘cultural literacy’. Empathy furthered by cultural studies which take everyone beyond one’s own cultural borders allows for a greater appreciation of other cultures. Also otherness should not be made into a prerequisite on how to gain in identity since it invites merely delineation from others. Equally ‘sameness’ should not be ranked as desirable since it reflects a mere need by individuals in mass society to have affirmed their own identity by others as being just the same. Rather identities are best formed if they allow to be challenged by a diversity of other identities.

It is through cultural planning that people can be put into a position of dialogue with other cultures e.g. Amsterdam has preachers from other religions hold sermons in congregation centres or worship places of other religious dominations, so as to foster religious tolerance. More importantly for people of different backgrounds is to know how they can make own cultural contributions to the life of the whole community. Here a cultural calendar giving recognition to different holidays can serve already as vital bridge of mutual understanding.

This matter of recognition has to be extended to especially museums. They must show not only in their collections that they are willing to include cultural artefacts of other cultures, but by hiring experts coming from these cultures museums can facilitate proper interpretation of these artefacts. Repeatedly the mistake is made to let only one official narrative dominate while people need different stories to live by. Therefore the agenda should not be set solely by experts and above all a conservative academia who wish to preserve cultural heritage as it is, but to let previously conceived national heritage become world heritage to embrace everyone.

Contributions made to the community can only be recognized once a mutually enriching cultural knowledge exists. It has to be created in the process of an overall cultural adaptation to a city’s need to face local and global challenges. Without such openness but also active links between various groups, there is no certainty in knowing what is going on in the culturally diverse communities. Integration shall be only possible if cultural planning evolves out of authentic information obtained through dialogue based on mutual recognition. Here Bart Verschaffel adds the important caution that the Western assumptions about dialogue might not be acceptable to others with different cultural backgrounds. [2] Dialog as rational form has been developed over centuries and cannot be presupposed that the other comprehends the questioning of ones opinion is not an insult but a rational method of inquiry. Hence common references and assumptions have to be clarified and above all the constant redesigning of cities in terms of public and private spaces has also to be about learning to respect other Rights.

At risk is ‘human reasoning’ especially if politics begins to work with fear that ever more immigrants shall be coming into the land and take away jobs. It always leads to a drawing of wrong conclusions. It has contributed a great deal to integration failures by Western societies. Cities have here their own experiences as exemplified by the fate of special communities like Kreuzberg in Berlin or special districts in London where Muslims are the majority as made visible in the streets by the dominance of Islamic shops and institutions.

In view of European history and all the political turmoil linked to extreme Rightist of Leftist positions, it should be reminded that Adorno and Horkheimer predicted already in 1944 that even when Fascism has been defeated, there shall still be ‘xenophobic’ forces to be reckoned with. As there is at risk critical thinking and sound public opinion once an ‘avalanche of stupidity’ sweeps through cities, care has to be taken that a certain opinion does not grip people’s minds to make suddenly everyone willing to find a scapegoat for all failures. [3]

After July 7th, 2005 the reaction in the UK has been to put a greater emphasis upon ‘Britishness’. That is not a solution. Mistakes are made by cities once they attempt to put a single cultural stamp on everyone and this without regard for cultural diversity. Furthermore it undermines merely civil rights once tougher measures are taken such as in the UK when the prison term without need to be charged has been extended for suspected terrorists by parliament from 28 to 42 days as of June 2008. These counter terrorism measures entail what a Londoner taxi driver observed in the days following the bombing in July 2005 a policy direction by which “the affluent ones shall be well protected, but not ‘us’!” Such a policy undermines any open urban culture by not ensuring equality of life for everyone.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11,_2001_attacks

[2] Bart Verschaffel, (2005) “Public Truth and Public Space”, Paper given at the conference, ‘Truth and Public Space’ organized by the Catholic University Leuven in Brussels, Sept. 21 – 23, 2005

[3] Th.W. Adorno and Horkheimer, (1972) “Dialectic of Enlightenmen”, New York: Harper and Harper

3.6.9 Article 10 ERDF Project CIED (Cultural Innovation and Economic Development) – linking culture and economic development through refinement of planning practices

The project gave a voice to the cultural sector and based decisions on cultural consensus seeking methods of planning with citizens and not against them.

Learn to use but not abuse culture (one of the 5 CIED objectives)

In order to be able to do so, care has to be taken that when it comes to setting the urban agenda for culture, all participants should avoid oversimplification of ‘culture’.

-         by setting meaningful constraints

-         no distortion of reality by resorting to legends and myths

-         promote attempts at truth by aesthetical reflections enhancing cultural literacy

-         diminish corruption to insignificant level (not only in financial terms but what can be called a system of favourism by taking special interests into consideration there is also corruption by conspicuous consumption which acts as provocation for the poor and not well off)


Institutional solution

If cultural planning is to become an open ended learning process involving all citizens then some instruments and measures have to be thought to link financial viability of cultural activities in the city and region with such cultural development that is conducive to social and economic cohesion while offering at the same time artistic and cultural activities of the highest quality.

This means cultural literacy and in turn impact upon cultural development will have to be monitored.

Cultural sustainability as key basis for further going decisions needs to be made into a very clear, that is measurable orientation point for future cultural investment decisions.

Resolving financial and other resource restrictions means as well to improve the mechanisms by which cultural activities are financed. It is advisable not to be solely culturally orientated since EU programmes have shown that other areas are affected as well by cultural content even though they are considered to be within the domain of industrial policy e.g. film industry, or a part of Information Society e.g. digitalization of libraries.


The institution should have a library with records about cultural planning efforts within Volos e.g. programming by the Musical Theatre and focus on tracing changes affecting the cultural map of Volos. Here it will be interesting to see how additional cultural venues will alter the flow of things and people e.g. constructing the Argonaut Museum near the wetlands outside the port. Consideration has to be given the cross over from cultural activities to entertainment and gastronomy as often night club bars spring up in locations meant to preserve and to promote cultural heritage. What mixture works favourable to upholding a cultural tone whereas economic and business approaches would seize opportunities without necessarily taking into account the impact this type of development will have upon the existing neighborhood. Naturally there will be alterations in composition of population living in or near such an area. That would make instruments of cultural planning into workable tools of urban renewal and development. By bringing cultural activities into a specific area, it can with time attract further inward investments.


3.6.10 The radical looser

Radical loser are those who feel being singled out and hurt by the ‘cutting edge’ making a difference between being a success or a failure not so much in the eyes of society but much more in one's own eyes. The term derives its meaning from the book by Enzensberger about "die Schreckenmaenner" or those who create fear of themselves.

Unfortunately a society relying almost exclusively upon a market economy is driven hard by competition. Subsequent mechanisms which regulate everything from how people can earn their living to what taxes have to be paid, they carry a high risk with them. Once installed, then at least a quarter, if not one third of the people end up as a complete social failure. This institution of the so-called free market, especially if backed by a government policy called ‘deregulation’, tend to sharpen continuously the cutting edge of success and failure. As a result many are made into ‘losers’ in a society even if they could contribute substantial things to society, their immediate communities and make a difference in their own lives.

If the so-called losers do not manage to get in time out of this kind of trap being cemented shut by the notion of failure, they end up very quickly believing to be only losers. This radicalizes them in the belief to be permanently disadvantaged in a system which is itself engaged in a permanent war especially against terrorists, including suspected enemies of the system. Even fierce loyalty does not count in such a system but only personal connections. That alters the emphasis put on education and qualification strategies. Other skills are needed if one is to survive.

As the disadvantaged by such a system have not the resources to respond to the crisis they are in nor do they see a way out of a largely polarized world, they seek for other solutions. Permanent losers tend to bide their time in silence. They know what lowers self-esteem especially in a society which tends to give only recognition and hence a voice to those who have apparent success i.e. money, power and influence etc. How then to prove to the rest that they are losers since even that goes unrecognized as long as they stay silent? More importantly their silence covers up a lot of hidden pain while they bide their time, if only to prepare plans on how to silence others due to their failures.

The phenomenon of loosing out on society is not new. Already S. Kracauer in his analysis of ‘Die Angestellten (the employed)’ (1930 (1999)) [1] describes brilliantly how those seeking a job ponder possibilities of getting it. Amongst girls there prevails the alternative of either to become beautiful or else to be reliable. It was an either/or choice as if both together was not possible. They deduced from who got the job or not, which category the employer would prefer. But whenever a beautiful girl applied and everyone thought she would get it, the employer reacted to the contrary by hiring instead of hiring the reliable one. In the end, they were never sure and had to gamble in their own life by putting their own bets on the one or other categories. What Kraucauer wanted to point out is that the employees never succeed in getting to know the system by which someone, the beautiful or the reliable one, is hired. The fact that they do not know who will get the job, explains why they will always lose out in the final end. They seem never to realize that human self understanding is complex and based on multiple levels of meanings all categorically interrelated to form an identity recognized and understood by others. It means that both these categories of reliability and beauty belong in reality together. They are a natural part of any human being and more so self esteem e.g. to think of oneself as being beautiful as more than mere appeal. A system which splits these categories and plays out one against the other is nothing but a crafty design used by those who hold power. What alarms is that they use this power over others arbitrarily and discriminatorily. It leaves the suppressed so stunned that they appear to never really know what shall be the case. The fact that they reduce decisions like these to fate makes it very hard to convince otherwise that things are not dependent merely upon others but lies within their own abilities of conscious decisions. That is, however, a hard position to take up for at times people are completely convinced they cannot do anything themselves.

If people remain at the level of thinking about things in terms of fate, they will believe that without any opportunities given to them, they shall end up self defeated, in a circular virtuosi. It seems that this lack of knowledge is wanted by the system for then people serve more or less ‘blindly’ or at least obediently as to what the owners, managers and those with power tell them to do. Consequently cultural planning must take that into account and attempt to remove such predetermining, equally negative structures which have developed out of a few over dominating the many others. If culture is to play a role in their lives, then the prerequisite for appraising reality in a differentiated way can only be fulfilled, if people emancipate themselves and can let many categories come together. What counts is not outplaying one category against another, but a new playfulness of knowledge as to what is possible in reality. Such playfulness can be taken as a sign of creativity. Culture takes in view of such activities another meaning.

In Hegel’s slave-master model it is the slave who gives voluntarily knowledge to the master on how to be controlled; equally a person standing still has an advantage over the other who is forced to move all the time and not the time to take notice as what the other does. Getting from the other side information if not directly through war and invasion is based fore mostly on voluntarily co-operation and compliance. A young man who spent four years in a Turkish jail after having been caught there as a tourist with drugs told after his release the police would invade the prison cells whenever the prisoners would not inform the police voluntarily what was going on. There is minimum information needed for power to feel secure, i.e. to be in control.

A more recent example shows how far this can go, namely war and therefore occupation of Iraq. Saddam Hussein did not so much provoke the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but he was labelled by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair as not complying and cooperating fully with the inspectors send to Iraq to see if there were any weapons of mass destruction. More so the demand for full cooperation and compliance went far beyond any self understanding as being sovereign in terms of own governance and politics. There has to be always some reasonable doubt in place when it comes to demand something from the other side for otherwise such absolute compliance and full cooperation can only be given by a dead man, so to speak. That is to say any living human being, whether political leader or common person in the street, has an own life and shall deviate from the common ground so as to seek solutions for him- or herself. That significant leeway was never given to Hussein. Certainly the Iraq invasion followed a post colonial demand by Western powers.

Certainly cities can easily be punished if they do not comply and cooperate in the global game of politics. An image thereof as to what can happen if a city does not give in was created by Rodin. His famous sculpture of the citizens of Calais shows them carrying the key of the city outside the gates of the fortification towards the approaching enemy in the hope the city shall not be overrun and ransacked.

The burghers of Calais (1884 – 1889) [2]

Recent developments especially after 911 have prompted the question but why do these acts of terrorism happen? Why would people suddenly turn against the community they grew up in? Why kill innocent people who have not done anything to draw attention upon themselves but just try to live a normal life? Here the German writer Enzensberger has identified a new figure which upsets all of a sudden community life: the ‘radical loser’. [3] Enzensberger warns that such a radical loser is about to erupt out of silence. His motive seems to be to seek revenge. In reality he tries to convince himself and everyone that the only way left to preserve life is its very destruction. In these negative acts the radical loser seeks confirmation of previous loses he claims to have suffered or else in symbiosis with losses of others claims to act on their behalf. It is solidarity through death on the way to death. All their arguments take on desperate, equally fanatic forms. They wish to underline first of all that the social process as experienced till now has nothing else in store for everyone but a further degrading of them as human beings. If this alienating and dehumanizing life destroying human relationships is to be countered, then with all the violence that only utmost self sacrifice can produce.

If this downward spiral is not halted by culture as was the case in Germany under National Socialism, then people no longer know what would give them still dignity and respect except by being obedient to the highest authority and a murderer of others at one and the same time. It has all the marks of being a traitor to everyone below and by extension of humanity in general. If that self admission into a spiral of violence becomes a general pattern, then anything is possible even if still unexplainable. The latter was captured by George Steiner when he asked how is it possible for someone to play music by Schubert on the piano the evening before when capable of going the next day into the concentration camp to kill there innocent people?

Nowadays the consequences of such loss of dignity can be seen in the irrational increase in sectarian violence in Iraq after the invasion and occupation of that country in March 21, 2003 by American, British and other coalition forces. The ‘war against terrorism’ has produced since then new kinds of ghettos e.g. the privileged live in the Green or protected zone of Baghdad while the rest of the people are exposed to arbitrary violence. More so an elite or privileged group of people, once cut off from the reality of others, will give shape to opinions and attitudes as something alienated and completely distinct from what common people consider to be ‘reality’ with all the dreams, losses and happiness in-between a hard survival fight. As to those who acclaim themselves to be the ‘radical losers’ in such a situation, they will use terrorism to expose the fact that there is no mediation possible between the rich and the poor, the privileged in the green zones and the commoners forced to survive under extremely hard conditions. Their use of violence shall make any peace process impossible as it will provoke extremists on both sides.

Certainly the Palestinians in the Gaza strip have created their own ghetto under the rule of Hamas but this negative state of affairs has been reinforced all along by the Israeli’s tactics to use at times brutal force to underline their occupation policy. In such an unjust situation only the most negative lessons are perpetuated. People end up in despair and many claim no one can be trusted, lest themselves. On both Israeli and Palestinian side the majority opinion is that the others will attack again even if some peace agreement has been reached. On Israeli side much of the same can be associated with experiences made in the Jewish ghetto in Warszawa but in another way. There came the turning point of the Jewish people. Rather than to submit to the orders of the Germans, the younger Jewish men and women decided to fight back out of fear not to survive. This fear not to survive is continued by the state of Israel, but at another still more extreme level. For state power in the form of tanks and highly trained soldiers vis a vis a stone throwing youth in the Gaza strip describes an asymmetry known already before the war against terrorism became a world wide phenomenon, in particular in Afghanistan and Iraq. But no matter on which side, it means resorting first to violence before trusting anyone outside that cultural and political ghetto surrounded by a minefield of misunderstandings.



[1] Siegfried Kracauer, (1999) „Die Angestellten (the Salaried Masses)“, reprinted in Middle Classes and Mass Culture. Siegfried Kracauer's Journalistic Analysis of Popular Culture and Culture of Middle Classes in Weimar Republic. Berlin: Lukas Verlag 1999. ISBN 3-931836-25-8

[2] This sculpture by Rodin can be seen in Victoria Tower Park, London. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_Rodin

[3] Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Schreckens Maenner – Versuch ueber den radikalen Verlierer, (2006), Suhrkamp, F.a.M.

3.6.11 Poverty of experience and the lack of participation in culture

Problems of the youth in modern cities

Of interest is a BBC report (June 2008) about the recent increase in violence committed by youths in the UK. Knife stabbing led even to the unfortunate killing of a young actor appearing in one of the latest Harry Potter’s films. Apparently he wanted to protect his younger brother when a fight broke out in a bar. Before he knew it, a knife was stabbed into his body. That sounds like what happened in West Side Story. Only now media reports and real reactions no longer match since a lot more needs to be analysed before some conclusions can be reached about the increase in violence.

Of interest is, however, the main conclusion in that BBC report, namely today’s youth hardly knows how to communicate. It seems at home they rarely experience during dinner good conversations. Instead they withdraw to their rooms where they eat their food alone while watching television. Implied is that this type of behaviour – social withdrawal, over exposure to virtual reality and no social discursive practice – would lead them astray. With their minds filled with almost only images of violence as the only way to settle a score, they are always close to despair when confronted by real challenges. None of the media films show how dialogue can resolve conflicts and never can be seen that non violent behaviour would lead to success. Above all there seems nothing in culture that could reach them to show that failure means to be human, provided there is a willingness to learn out of these failures.

As far as life in cities is concerned, no ‘human language’ can be heard if they reproduce only a ‘poverty of experience’. This special poverty leaves the youth unable to interact with their parents and peers; if at all they do so, then only by means of a heavily guarded code as shown by how they dress and to what music they listen to. The main aim seems to be not to reveal how lousy they feel. They tend to hide a concrete fear not to be successful at school and generally in society. It leads to masking their real feelings while discovering to their own disappointment that their parents have been practicing that all alone. Much is sacrificed for the sake to appear different from their parents or adult models, but then not to be successful prevails as a set form of fear. Above all they suffer under lack of recognition. With all kinds of projections not questioned, they face a still unknown future.

A youth without concrete perspective will always feel to be an absolute failure but this is not unique to these times, but no one tells them this to be a natural part of growing up. Left alone, they will develop feelings of guilt. Things are made worse if no true happiness can be experienced or is not communicated to them. They are too ready to doubt themselves, especially if things go terribly wrong in an early love life. They are lost as well once they believe no adult can be authentic. Their hatred of the adult world will make them respond like any adolescent to mere overt things missing in the world when in fact they need to take risks in order to go forward. If everything is false what adults say and claim, then they would have nothing to go on. Without any valid reference, they are exposed to the only new like a ship in the midst of the ocean to an approaching storm but without rudder or motor functioning.

There is a tendency which makes youth transform culture into a cult geared towards certain ends e.g. the gothic cult over emphasizes death by use of the colour ‘black’. No wonder pessimism and scepticism can take on new forms of even greater derailment and disillusionment if they hardly experience during daily encounters with their parents, teachers and other adults any good exchange of information. Robert Musil in ‘Man without attributes’ explained Nihilism by the simple fact that the worst thing which can happen to the youth is if they send out their ideas into the world but do not to get any reply; it is far worse than criticism. They need something which gives them some recognition, something to go on learning. Without a culture capable of giving both orientation and concrete feed-back, young people remain disorientated. Once unable to articulate themselves and no longer able to know real needs, society has no meaning to them. They resign like those unemployed who have fled into one of the ghettos of the city.

If there is added the growing gap between rich and poor in cities, making it most apparent where those left out tend to hang out, namely in districts with poor housing quality and no community services, then it should not surprise anyone when in modern cities many highly volatile situations exist. For those without financial means cities turn into a dangerous trap. Yes, they can enter them but they discover once inside to be unable to leave them again. It costs too much money. As a result the shanty towns or urban ghettos which developed out of the illusion that cities could offer an escape from poverty remind daily that something has gone deeply wrong.

When something is deeply amiss then it is because cities face constantly situations threatening to become quickly uncontrollable after just minor incidences. They can spark off riots like the ones which erupted in France in October 2005. Alone the continual wrong handling by the police of juveniles stemming from peripheral social groups can make these squalid suburbs into power kegs. The unfortunate death of two youths who had been chased by the police sparked off a chain reaction of events. A youth went rampant. They burned cars, overturned rubbish bins and smashed windows of almost everything linked to the system e.g. banks. They were not only very difficult to control but could not be protected against themselves. In those wild chases down the streets many things are lost, trust in themselves just one thing.

Once they believe their community has no longer the ability to counter the pressures of the system, the radical part of the youth is willing to go all out. They vent their anger but also fear to be so helpless. That infuriates them the most. In what they express is but an extension of their view that the system lies outside their grasp but still has the authority and capability to inflict harm upon them even if they do not want to get entangled. There is no justice, no one there to ask for advice and no one to ask for support. To them the system is too close for comfort and equally indifferent to their needs and ideas. They feel all the more the heat because they see no chance of integration while time is running out for them. As youth they know time moves on merciless. Albert Camus said about the Algerian youth, they burn out very quickly by trying to live everything within two or three years where others need a whole life and still that life span is not enough for them.

Various measures in response to a rebellious youth are taken by cities. They reflect a general tendency towards mere punitive ones by answering violence with more state violence e.g. police patrols. Too readily use is made by police and administration of arrests and expulsions, especially of those without any legal papers. The hard measures reflect a society unable to come to terms with social and cultural issues such as providing integration chances by facilitating open ended learning methods for both officials and youth to do something for the life in the community. One immediate measure would have to be to alter the concept of providing cheap social housing but without any community structures in place. Any effort would have to involve especially the youth in order to give them a chance to create an environment which is conducive to their needs. A joint effort must be to work out together plans by which they can organise life themselves. It would be a way to give to the youth a chance to qualify for future work and to let them enter further going socialization processes.

One common mistake being made repeatedly by many cities is that no real integration is strived for. Only once the city opens up to cultural diverse groups, then a variety of cultural actions can facilitate integration. If only a rigid cultural code is imposed, then this becomes in reality a demand for conformity. It gives the wrong alternatives, when every newcomer has only one choice, namely to adapt to the official culture or else to get out again. To an Algerian youth living in the suburbs of Paris it does not make sense to embrace solely the French culture. They need to validate as well their own cultural background as well as gain in European and international orientation. Offering such a fake alternative serves no purpose; in reality, it does not resolve anything since no cultural space is given to work out alternate solutions based on integrating elements from various cultural sources. Such demands lead to mere political confrontation and reflects that the political authorities from President down to mayor give in merely to an overall social demand, namely to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and therefore to make that problem of the youth become again ‘invisible’ so as not to tarnish the reputation of ‘la grande nation’. That blocks not only European integration. These national frameworks for culture make it nearly impossible for cities within that territory to pursue any sensible cultural policy.

There is a general tendency in society to over simplify things while administrations of cities tend to overlook the complex nature of modern urban ghettos. They remain under serviced in all accounts. By approaching dysfunctional social structures with wrong concepts, the city risks to reproduce and to deepen another cultural crisis. Easily tensions can unload themselves in street riots leading to such confrontations between youths and police that things can turn really ugly. Of interest is here a pattern of failure being repeated by failing to socialize young people from an early age on so that they can attain self esteem and thereby integrate themselves into society. The most telling fact is that the youth regards itself as having no perspective for the future and thereby no desire to relate their creative potentialities to what is needed by others living in the same world.


3.6.12 Stories told, stories passed on and when to go public with them: cultural differences

3.6.13 Outer borders of the city

3.6.14 Practical examples: Glasgow 1990 – Brussels 2000 – the concept of the European Cultural Capital City

3.6.15 Cultural Planning as a qualification process and the ECCM Network


3.7 What now? Gone is the European perspective: cities and the excluded


3.7.1 Modern ghettos within cities


3.7.2 The loss of community: the case of Harlem

Communities at risk to loose their voice – the example of Harlem, New York

Regaining and retaining identity is more important in places where people have no voice at all in the overall planning process. As political philosophy stated it already in the seventies anyone who flees to a place to escape danger but who turns around once there to face the threat openly, but equally in defiance by starting to use the imagination subversively, that is already a sign of resistance. [1] Yet most of these escapes into special districts are too weak at best to give that entire community a voice to be heard at overall city level.

Politically disenfranchisement of not only people, but entire cities, if not nation states altogether has been addressed repeatedly by various movements. The answer to that challenge is not easy. Even the European Union as global player has to recognize its limitations as it struggles to keep regional development in line with this global challenge. Above all the movement of people, once that becomes uncontrollable, means people respond to all kinds of threats from war to famine. That then can easily be transformed into unwanted immigrations to Western societies with cities ending up not coping with rising tensions between newcomers of a different cultural background and local societies afraid to loose their privileges within the social security system.

People tend to feel that way if they are themselves alienated due to modern life and when they are without prospects of securing a decent income. Their anti-everything attitudes can reach dangerous levels. It can provoke political developments which leave governments at the mercy of radical groups e.g. the Northern Liga helped Berlusconi win outrightly the 2008 election in Italy and in its wake brought to the post of mayor of Rom a former Neo-Fascist. In Germany the Right Wing party is growing stronger as well especially in former East Germany (10% in Dresden / Saxony) while on the other spectrum the LEFT is gaining in momentum although a party of a former political elite which had ruled East Germany. They wish now to address their grievances in the new system because they don’t seem to enjoy the same privileges as they had under Communism. It is another kind of political restoration on the move. All this is creating political set-backs for the main ruling parties, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. If not corrected, and there is no political reason to believe the system can prevent the increasing political fragmentation, then it can be expected that at local level rising xenophobic sentiments can ignite in mass hysteria. Already lynch like actions against gypsies created ugly scenes in Rom while attacks on foreigners especially in the darker parts of former East Germany has become a common fear that it will not stop there. Similar incidences are reported as to what is happening with foreigners who are targeted in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. All these tendencies may not have their roots in cities, but this social crisis at community levels will have an adverse effect on how European cities face up to the social and economic crisis in the making.

For cultural planning to work a decisive voice has to be given to local communities. That is of crucial importance especially when plans are made for future development projects. Usually cities respond to local communities differently from the general mode. This is because they have a distinct character often underlined by resistance against any general plan. A community may fail to respond not only out of defiance but due to life having reached such uncontrollable levels of despair and des-illusion that people just hang in there. New Orleans revealed that after hurricane Katrina. Often such forms of social resignation are based on years of neglect and mistreatment. It is also a matter of myth as to what sense of freedom a local environment may want to cultivate. In reality, the wish to be different to the rest of society may lower expectations below such levels that these people end up being unable to organise themselves. They will not be in a position to do anything about the problem of integration of not only others, but of themselves as well.

Naturally disjunctive communities lead to political tensions with the rest of the city and the state. This is mainly due to state administrations always wishing to bring restless and disruptive communities under control. All kinds of devices are used to undermine any form of serious resistance. They are usually successful once the community has lost its voice. Repeatedly this is done by destroying the cultural heritage basis of the community done most efficiently by robbing them of their cultural spaces and by splitting the community. It can be done by making offers to one part of local society and because hard to resist will earn them aside from obvious benefits the reputation of betrayal. While some accept the offer, for example to move out or to let themselves be relocated, in order to make way for a new housing development scheme, those who stay and resist end up isolated and even worse the losers. Repeatedly they realize too late that the game was already tailored to let only certain people consider themselves to be winners. As the saying goes, power defines the rules according to which the game is being played out.

In search of its voice, a distinct community learns to respond to the fact that once cultural identity is no longer provided by the city as a whole, a local place has to make that possible. Hence the struggles of a community to articulate itself reflects an overall urban failure generally the case once people no longer find easy access to the overall social strata and thereby by lack of socialisaton no longer share the same cultural values. It leaves them at the margin as they think to fit only into such local environment where they might have a say. That uncertainty tends to be reproduced by holding onto definite world views which can be reaffirmed in the local community as a common vision. However, if local people can identify themselves with humanity which reflects consciously the story of mistreatments and injustices, then a much stronger bondage can make itself felt among all members of the community.

The bondage created in the community acts as a protective shield (some call it a ‘certain barn smell’ when everyone knows instinctively who is one of them and who does not share their common interest) against the ‘outside’ world. It may break down into isolated pockets within the community when challenges are too big to handle but then there is always the possibility of regrouping and in finding a new way to recreate bondages with the rest of the world by upholding a kind of solidarity. Almost instinctively this behaviour perpetuates itself by adopting a specific code of behaviour, language, attire and attitude. It is not done as much out of nostalgic reasons but rather exemplifies what is left from life in such a world known to be tough and uncompromising. An example for this has been Harlem until it was broken up as a distinctive, highly creative district of New York.

Harlem, New York

For instance, Harlem was viewed by outsiders for a long time as a crime invested neighbourhood where one hardly dared to go and especially not at night. But then New York City decided due to the mounting pressure on the housing market to invest in Harlem. Negotiations with the community started with difficulties. Local groups wondered how they should deal with the sudden influx of a huge sum of money. Interestingly enough during the first phases of negotiations the Harlem community spoke with a single voice. All groups came together in the church which acted as mediator in negotiations with city officials.

It was clear to everyone a large influx of money will have a huge impact upon the community. However, no one knew the real intention behind such an offer and therefore could not really anticipate what was to follow. Of interest is that once this huge investment by the city was made, other capital ventures followed suit. They no longer required negotiation with the entire community now even more in need of a single voice but by then the church had already been sidelined. The new investors could start simply business ventures of their own. Companies started to build new houses with social regard that it meant driving out old tenants. Entire street societies ceased to exist and well known people in the neighbourhood simply vanished over night.

Surprisingly gangs which had ruled the streets at will, so it seemed, suddenly disappeared as if they had been disbanded. By creating exclusive high rise apartments the new dwellers with entirely different social habits altered the cultural scene. They would drive with their cars into underground garages and thereby come no longer into any real contact with the people still living in old houses across the street. Gone were the spontaneous concerts out on the porch but then Jazz is no longer alive once without a chance for improvisation.

After the community of Harlem was broken up successfully, its fragmented social entity could no longer bargain with the outside world in terms of own interests. The latter had become for those who were left an unknown territory as they were estranged themselves from their own culture which had given meaning to the place. That was, however, only the case prior to when the investors moved in to revamp completely the place. A local culture can no longer re-generate itself when things go too far, that is beyond the self recognition of such a culture created by the very people who use it to express themselves fore mostly as communication amongst themselves and obviously not for external commercial purposes.

Planners from Columbia University in New York say the United States does not have any particular good record in preserving cultural heritages. They point to what happened to the Indians as indigenous people. Always the army or police play a crucial role in breaking up communities. With this enforced entry goes always the destruction of the local, equally subversive cultural heritage. Destruction of memory is a deliberate strategy to coerce people into submission. Without their living cultural heritage they incur a real loss of identity with place used till then by them in a certain way. [2]

In case of Harlem’s cultural heritage, it should not be forgotten that the community went through most interesting periods of artistic creativity. For example, during the Harlem Renaissance, there flourished a culture to the great enrichment of everyone. It can be reflected, for instance, in a picture taken in 1958 of Jazz musicians. When Harlem flourished as community, many stories were told through music, songs or the combination of the two. It says it all when the refrain ends in ‘she loves him no mo’! Such expressions were easily understood by everyone. After all they touched upon universal human pain anyone experiences once a true love has left.

The Harlem 1958 Jazz group [3]

Their creative impulses went far beyond the borders of the community. Not only the ‘Globe Trotters’, the famous basketball team, in reality artists with a basketball, gave this community a name. Equally but not yet really recognized as much but there to be seen, are the Harlem painters with their unique sense for space and colour. They depicted life in stark, but simple terms.

Unfortunately once that community was broken up, musicians and other artistic people, and not only they packed their few belongings and left. Looking back, it made streets once filled with voices, music and all kinds of scents look like all those abandoned places hit by some mysterious force. They left without looking back to where they had played for such a long time. Many of these musicians moved on to find spots not only in New York but elsewhere to play their kind of music. Gone was completely the creative spirit of Harlem. [4]

William H. Johnson [5]

[1] Carol Becker, (1994). The subversive imagination. New York & London: Routledge.

[2] See here also the description by James Clifford ‘Predicament of Culture’ about Indians who fail to justify their collective decision making process on how to use the land accessible to all versus private land owners who through the court made their order a prime principle i.e. private property on the one hand and on the other public services

[3] The Harlem 1958 jazz portrait is used with the generous permission of the ART KANE Archives: http://www.harlem.org/

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem provides an overview of a district going from crime and poverty to a kind of urban renaissance.

[5] http://www.fatherryan.org/harlemrenaissance/


3.7.3 What happens to city areas where those with higher incomes never move in or else move out?

This observation was made by Andre Loeckx in the presentation he made at the Fifth Seminar, 'Cultural Actions for Europe' held in Athens in 1995.

3.8 A city’s worldliness

3.8.1 Artists as indicators

In the REINVENT project it was proposed to invite artists to perceive what cultural spaces and resources are available at a place. They know better to distinguish between obstacles and new spaces which can be made out beside the bridge and along the embankment.


3.8.2 Guidelines for restoration: use of cultural heritage


3.8.3 Identity of old historical towns: crooked streets and an uneven sidewalks


3.9 Conclusion

The role of the imagination - the example of Toronto

Cornelius Castoriadis pointed out that citizen participation begins with what people project in their imagination upon major institutions.

Cultural planning needs to pick up these projections and to give them space and resources so that these visionary aspects can become concrete manifestations of people ready to be active for their city. It does include an entire array from poems to story telling while curators conceive innovative exhibitions telling both residents and visitors the story of the city in a most convincing way. But above all it is a matter of management of communication which ensures that inner and outer processes correspond. People out in the streets know what is being decided upon in Parliament and vice versa politicians must be able to address people and their needs if common goals are to be realized. Thus cultural planning must include imaginative ways of allowing such a communication to take place. It has been suggested that already buildings no longer imposing power but inviting people in to further transparency can alter already the relationship people sense to those who have the means to make decisions on their behalf. That has been tried in the restitution of the German parliament in Berlin where a glass dome at the top lets not only light in but visitors and people alike can see what is happening in the Bundestag. Naturally such suggestive proximity needs to be qualified as there are real barriers and separations between people and those governing in the name of the people. Still, the interplay of light and space can evoke new imaginative discourses which will eventually end up influencing the public discourse and the political process. It is naturally never that simple but again some nexus of understanding can be created out of common cultural events to underline the kind of political understanding required to let the Beatles’ song ‘imagine, the people’ become a reality.

Here then complexity intertwines with what are possibilities at any given time, but this ‘time’ requires both a mode and a rhythm in order to raise the level of expectations to what city officials can manage to address and therefore fulfil as promises given to ensure sustainable development based on a culture able to regenerate itself in the process.

Sharing of values - towards a ‘culture of excellence’ (Phil Cooke)

If the case, then it will improve the overall performance of the city in all its diverse sectors from teaching at school to how the transport system is being operated. Phil Cooke calls this a value consensus based on a culture of excellence to which everyone wishes to contribute and hence mutual reinforcing processes are set off with everyone willing to do well, that is work hard in order to ensure a high quality of output.

Culturally speaking, this begins already with how problems are formulated and information passed on so that the entire urban society becomes engaged in a creative problem solving learning process on a daily basis.

Informal and formal cultural processes

Good cultural events have their way to become stories told both informally and formally. Once that enters literature, songs or poems, the metaphors created thereby connect the parts and help transport into the future the stories, insights but also practical wisdoms. It is a matter of addressing those experiences which are touches of life like that of an invisible paint brush on the canvas called ‘psyche’ or soul of the human being. Insofar as these are authentic moments, they shall be remembered.


Cultural planning is an imaginative mapping into the future

If ‘cultural planning’ is to become in future a method by which politicians and planners can relate in a creative way to culture, then politics and developments at urban level have to be perceived as formal and informal processes intertwining to make a pro-active participation of citizens in governance possible.

  1. Cultural planning methodologies depart from an imaginative mapping of cultural resources (tangible and intangible) to valorize cultural heritage, indigenous knowledge and cultural tourism concepts
  2. By including the cultural dimension integration into urban society for all
  3. what is the difference between ‘experiences’ made in the creation of meanings and experiences resulting out of a development policy and methodology: how are concretely the next steps organized and what are the interests, political dimensions and conflicts in need to be overcome before taking the next step?
  4. respective experiences evaluation starts with the answers given to the previous questions posed and in what socio-economic and overall political context these answers have a meaning if translated into concrete actions reflecting all along policy intentions?
  5. cultural indicators exist like literacy where by visitor statistics for museums shows already an aspect of integration remains unsustainable once only the elite participates while the masses of people are excluded by the very force of transforming culture into a code which not everyone knows.
  6. presumably good practices show how important is the inclusion of culture but what are the real means by which integration succeeds at the same time in a variety of urban fields and not only in those defined as cultural ones?
  7. the interesting thing about cultural integration is that exclusion / inclusion comes with human relationships forming themselves according to aspects like sharing life experiences by which they manifest their own institutions like family or other permanent relationships. It means automatically hurtful exclusion of other possibilities for the sake of remaining responsibility in terms of a livable reality – the human reality a key to all entry points without thereby having to live foregone conclusions. There is this important difference between determination and living in freedom i.e. out of own choices and their consequences.
  8. naturally the facilitation of transferability, the models for living created as the process continues to comprehend reality from different angles, that too is a test of human strength to uphold some simple truths.

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