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Friday, April 25, 2014

A Picture That Captures the Failure of Proposition 1 and Leads to Thoughts About Thomas Piketty

Posted by on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 10:38 AM

As I have said before, cars are a kind of military occupation of the city...

The suburbs were made for cars, and this is why their once stable future is now in danger. Recall the movie Escape from New York. The urban future imagined in 1981 has been completely reversed in 2014. David Moser at City Tank:
American suburbs are a particularly bad place to be poor. Though poverty poses dire and unjust challenges no matter where it exists, sprawling and auto-dependent land use patterns can exacerbate these difficulties. And this problem is gaining urgency, as more and more of America’s low-income individuals now live in suburbs (or are being pushed there), a phenomenon the Brookings Institute has called “the suburbanization of poverty”

True that. But the thing that no one is talking about is this: Where does American capital go after the death of the suburbs? What we Marxists get is, to use the words of Thomas Piketty (but in another context): The past devours the future. But Piketty is thinking of how, in the long run, inheritance (the past) becomes the dominant form of wealth in advanced capitalist societies. What we Marxists have in mind is how the contradiction of overproduction and repressed wages leads to the opening of the future to conjure up effective demand. In a word, credit devours the future.

The suburbs provided this future for American capital in a way that the inner city never will (which is why it was abandoned in the first half of the 20th century). The core of the city, with its efficient economies of density, does not go into the future far enough. You do not have to borrow a ton of money to own a bike, pay for a public transportation card, or replace shoes worn down from walking. A car throws you into the deep future; other forms of transportation do not. Car culture requires a sprawling and costly infrastructure that must be maintained; this is not the case with pedestrian and public transportation culture. And without this deep future of debt and costs, where will the effective demand needed to satisfy the always-pressing hunger of surplus production come from? The city does not devour enough of the future. No one has properly faced this fact at a time when exactly the inner city is being revived in a capitalist context.


Comments (7) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
Two kinds of cars, though. Low mpg beaters driven by the poor that pay high gas and sales taxes to repair roads.

And high mpg electrics (1000 mpge) and hybrids (60mpg$ driven by the rich that pay zero or close to zero in gas and sales taxes for the roads.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Nieuw Hollander 2
Where does American capital go after the death of the suburbs?

Housing, duh. Have you priced a place in the city recently?
Posted by Nieuw Hollander on April 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM · Report this
chaseacross 3
A car does indeed throw you into the future, just like a wedding ring or a house, or even a college education. What is beautiful, I think, about the kinds of infrastructure we see in city projects (things like bridges, subways, etc.), we are still being thrown into the future, but on a scale that points to, rather than denies, finitude. You buy a car, beyond the practical concern, there is the implication that there will one day be another car -- you move into the future. You build a subway, well, you can hardly move into the future so far as to see the next subway. A private purchase denies finitude, a municipal purchase points to it. In that regard, it is exactly as Lewis Mumford said: "The final mission of the city is to further man’s conscious participation in the cosmic and historic process."
Posted by chaseacross on April 25, 2014 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Kinison 4

Eastside got fucked with the elimination of 13 routes 2 1/2 years ago. There was no vote to keep them, no response from Seattle or county leaders to keep those routes.
Posted by Kinison on April 25, 2014 at 12:52 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 5
I drove to work today and it was awesome. does 9 miles away count as the suburbs?
Posted by Max Solomon on April 25, 2014 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 6
We should ring the city with toll booths and use the money for transit.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on April 25, 2014 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Charles: municipal govs of Detroit and Chicago have borrowed lots of money. munis hot
Posted by alfresco on April 25, 2014 at 7:53 PM · Report this

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