We have theorized the city, we have theorized the rural, we must now theorize the suburb beyond "it is soulless and it sucks"

We could start thinking of it as sort of a misshapen monster, the worst of both worlds, neither efficient, dynamic use of space nor fractal, intriguing pastoral/nature. Herbicidally green from artifice, hypocritically leeching the city of resources, sprawling and poisonous, ecologically and culturally, we reject the suburb, as we would reject the values of our parents or grandparents who built them.

But I feel there's a flaw in that analysis. I don't want to argue, in contradiction that the suburb is good. Good or bad are not critically interesting categories, they do not help us assess a work of human creativity. Rather, I want to argue that the suburb has a sense of itself, that it has an identity outside of pure negation of the City and the Rural. I want to argue that the suburb is a creation, a fiction, that was written by architects and planners and citizens and politicians.

These actors created something. They created at the expense of the environment, true. They created at the expense of black and brown people, true. They created it as a backlash to labor as it organized, to schools as they integrated, they created it as a last violent fortification of settler colonialism as the internal logics of Empire were stripped away by world wars.

They created it from a fullness of heart and mind, they created it for their children and the future. Maple lined streets, ranch style houses, speed bumps and little leagues, they fussily made their world. I don't disagree that we should tear that world down. But I think we should study it, as maybe the ultimate achievement of this age, the end goal of all the efforts the 20th century. Somewhere green. Somewhere abundant. Somewhere calm.

Follow

Why did the White American imagination need the suburb? Is there a place for the suburb in the rest of our imaginations? In our lives? Can the American suburb be something other than what it is? What will become of the communities surrounding the greater metropolitan areas as the century progresses and we keep struggling against Whiteness? As Whiteness dies?

@MoMartin I think there is some sort of new suburb waiting to be born, and even peaking out in some older examples. With high biodiversity in gardens. A small urban core walkable from them, connected to bigger urban stuff with public transit. I don't know though.

@MoMartin

Suburbs were invented to make "central" city real estate worth more.

Decenter that thinking.

@indie sorry, I'm a little unclear what I should decenter. Are you saying I need to break out of the idea that suburbs were invented to make cities central? Because that's not an idea I put forth. Or are you saying something else in my thinking needs to be decentered? Sorry for the obtuseness, just trying to understand.

@MoMartin

So, yeah. My initial instinct was to be like "For a very obvious example, look at who tried to be king of New York with a "luxury tower hotel" empire and an address!"

All the real estate scumbags want to sell snobby city people (or aspiring city people) this false ideal of "access" or "success" or some other false delusion. To be able to rent or AirBnB near the "elite" of a city is what hoteliers like Trump wanna do. Every city has a WS like him at its core fueling its corruption.

They expect an unending supply of slave labor to serve them from every direction. Chicago (home of the NAR) is one of the worst offenders.

Maybe what I'm trying to convey is the need to decenter what you've been "sold on" regarding appeal of "the city" and reexamine what's really necessary for a city. Is it a vibrant immigrant (slave) population living in tiny rented shanties?

Is it tall buildings, or access to sports events, theater? Is it public transport?

Take what you think is so great about living in a city and deconstruct it so that it's not centered around economics.

I've thought about this topic a lot, actually. And it's kind of fascinating. People think they want a city life, but what they really want is ego of being able to brag that they live in "whatever" city.

Might think more about this and write more later.

🏙️

@indie Well, the point I was making here wasn't really about the appeal of the city, which is a different issue entirely, that I do write about a lot. I tend to think in line with Jane Jacobs on the appeals of cities outside of economics, namely, that they offer a certain mixture of community and anonymity, spontaneity and intimacy that many of us have come to appreciate.

@indie Of course those qualities are not exclusive to cities, and it is also true that cities have been forcefully sold to the American imagination as "the place to be." I like what you're saying, tho again, I don't entirely see the relevance to my original post.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Social @ PV

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!