The Post-Political City

Erik Swyngedouw School of Environment and Development University of Manchester Oxford Road Manchester M13 9PL U.K. E-mail: Tel: 00-44-(0)7956879213

December 2006 (Revised and final version: March 2007)

Published in: BAVO (2007) Urban Politics Now Reflect Series, Netherland Architecture Institute (NAI)-Publishers, Rotterdam.

“Well, my dear Adeimantus, what is the nature of tyranny? It’s obvious, I suppose, that it arises out of democracy” (Plato, The Republic)

The polis is dead. Long live the creative city! While the city is alive and thriving (at least in some of its spaces), the polis, conceived in the idealized Greek sense as the site for public political encounter and democratic negotiation, the spacing of (often radical) dissent, and disagreement, and the place where political subjectivation literally takes place, seems moribund. This figure of a de-politicized (or Post-Political and PostDemocratic) city in the late capitalist order will be leitmotiv of this contribution. Taking our cue from Jacques Rancière, Slavoj Žižek, Chantal Mouffe, Mustafa Dikeç, Alain Badiou and assorted other critics of the cynical radicalism that has rendered critical theory and radical political praxis impotent and infertile in the face of the de-politicising gestures that pass for urban policy and politics in the contemporary neo-liberalising late capitalist police order, we shall attempt to re-centre the political in contemporary debates on the urban. We proceed in four steps. In the fist part, we explore the evacuation of the political from the plane of immanence that defines the very possibility of the polis and the concomitant consolidation of an urban post-political arrangement, characterised by the rise of a neoliberal governmentality that has replaced debate, disagreement and dissensus with a series of technologies of governing that fuse around consensus, agreement, and technocratic management. The second part dissects the depoliticised condition of the late capitalist city, arguing that the urban frame has been thoroughly, and perhaps fatally, infested by an ordering that is thoroughly post-political and post-democratic. In the third part, we

maintain that the post-political consensual urban police order revolves decidedly around embracing a populist gesture, one that annuls democracy and must, of necessity, lead to an ultra-politics of violent disavowal and, ultimately, to the foreclosure of any real spaces of engagement. The final part attempts to recover the notion of the political and of the political polis from the debris of contemporary obsessions with consensual (participatory) governing, technocratic management, and neo-liberal urban polic(y)ing. We maintain that the incoherencies of the contemporary urban ordering, the excess and the gaps that are left in the interstices of the post-political urban order permits thinking through, if not materially widening and occupying, genuinely political urban spaces.

The Late Capitalist Urban Police

“The end of the socialist alternative, then, did not signify any renewal of democratic debate. Instead, it signified the reduction of democratic life to the management of local consequences of global economic necessity. The latter, in fact, was posited as a common condition which imposed the same solutions on both left and right. Consensus around these solutions became the supreme democratic value” (Rancière 2004a: 3-4).

The late capitalist urban policy (or police) order, we maintain, is not only one that is predicated on the elimination of dissent, but more importantly, forecloses the political, evacuates ‘the litigation of the sensible’, and, through that, produces what Rancière and others define as a post-political and post-democratic constitution. Before we embark on

dissecting this post-political condition, we shall briefly outline the contours of the late capitalist police order. Urban polic(y)ing in the European city, in the context of the implementation of consensual neo-liberal socioeconomic policies, brought about critical shifts in domains and levels of intervention and in the composition and characteristics of actors and agents, institutional structures, and policy instruments. For cities, changing fortunes means coming to terms with the consequences of socio-economic dislocation wrought by the reorganization of production and demand globally, the transnational networking of companies and individuals, the flows of global hot money, and the fast restructuring (and often dualisation) of labour markets. To meet the challenges posed by these new socioeconomic realities, the polic(y)ing agenda of cities has been drastically redefined. The new urban agenda reflects, on the one hand, a shifting policy focus away from regulatory and distributive considerations towards the promotion of economic growth and competitiveness, entrepreneurship, and creativity (Oatley 1998; Roberts and Sykes 2000). This strategic turn on the urban agenda is part and parcel of a critical reappraisal of the form, functions and scope of urban policy and of the rise of a new mode of urban governance (Brindley, Rydin, and Stoker 1989; Healey et al. 1995; Swyngedouw 2005b). While a variety of competing styles of governance still provide for a great deal of differentiation, urban regeneration is increasingly framed in a common and consensual language of competitive creativity, flexibility, efficiency, state entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, and collaborative advantage (Healey 1997; Jessop 1998; 2002; Albrechts 2006).

From the late 1980s onwards, after the initial successes of large scale urban redevelopment projects in Boston, Baltimore, and Barcelona, urban development strategies, aimed at re-positioning cities on the map of globally competitive metropolises, have strongly relied on the planning and implementation of Large-scale Urban Development Projects (UDP) to lead economic regeneration. These emblematic projects are now present all over the urban and regional landscape and are the material expression of a developmental logic that views them as major leverages for generating future growth and attracting investment capital and consumers. Berlin’s Potzdammer Platz, Amsterdam’s South Axis, Rotterdam’s Kop van Zuid, Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, or London’s bid to stage the Olympic Games are just a few examples of the sprawling number of cities that have pursued such tactics. In particular, such projects have become an integral part of neo-liberal policies to replace more traditional redistribution-driven approaches. The search for competitive redevelopment has become the leading objective of the new urban polic(y)ing in an attempt to reassert the position of cities in the consolidating global economy (Swyngedouw, Moulaert, and Rodriguez 2002). Enhancing urban competitive advantage is seen as largely dependent on improving and adapting the built environment to the accumulation strategies of a city’s key elites and plugging the city into cutting edge transnational economic and cultural elite networks. Therefore, physical reconstruction and economic recovery tend to go hand in hand and, very often, are perceived as quasi-simultaneous processes: mega-projects are viewed as providing a solid foundation for fostering future growth and functional transformation. At the same time, urban revitalization is projected beyond the cities’ limits and linked to regional recovery and internationalization strategies (Moulaert, Rodriguez, and

Swyngedouw 2002). The implementation of such new urban policy rests crucially on the formation of a set of new formal and informal institutional and governance arrangement that engage in the act of governing outside and Beyond-the-State. In sum, a new police order of governing and organising social relations accompanies the emergence of new urban landscapes (Mitchell 2002; Jessop 1998; Pagden 1998; Hajer 2003b; Whitehead 2003). Governance as an arrangement of Governing-beyond-the-State refers to the institutional or quasi-institutional organization of governing that takes the form of horizontal associational networks of private (market), civil society (usually NGO), and state actors (Swyngedouw 2005a). They provide for a much greater role in policy-making, negotiation, administration, and decision-making of private economic actors on the one hand and parts of civil society on the other in self-managing what until recently was provided or organised by the national or local state. These forms of apparently horizontally organised, rhizomatic, and polycentric ensembles in which power is dispersed are increasingly prevalent in rule making, rule setting and rule implementation at a variety of geographical scales (Hajer 2003a: 175). They can be found from the local/urban level (such as development corporations, ad hoc committees, stakeholderbased formal or informal associations dealing with urban social, economic, infrastructural, environmental, or other matters) to regional scales and the transnational scale (such as the European Union, the WTO, the IMF, or the Kyoto protocol negotiations) (Swyngedouw 1997). Such ‛participatory’ modes of governance have been depicted as a new form of governmentality, that is “the conduct of conduct” (Foucault 1979; Lemke 2002), in which a particular rationality of governing is combined with new

technologies, instruments, and tactics of conducting the process of collective rule-setting, implementation, and policing. The urban scale has been a pivotal terrain where these new arrangements of governance have materialised (Le Galès 2002; Brenner and Theodore 2002). This, so we argue, brings with it a transfiguration of the urban ‘police order’ in the direction of a post-political and post-democratic consensus. Schmitter (2002: 52) defines governance as “a method/mechanism for dealing with a broad range of problems/conflicts in which actors regularly arrive at mutually satisfactory and binding decisions by negotiating with each other and cooperating in the implementation of these decisions”. Governance-beyond-the-State systems are presumably horizontal, networked, and based on interactive relations between independent and interdependent actors who share a consensual view of objectives and problems and a high degree of trust, despite internal conflict and oppositional agendas, within selectively inclusive participatory institutional or organisational associations. The mobilised technologies of governance revolve around reflexive risk-calculation (selfassessment), accountancy rules, and accountancy based disciplining, quantification and market-led benchmarking of performance (Dean 1999; Donzelot 1984). As Lemke (2002: 50) argues, this announces “a transformation of politics that restructures the power relations in society. What we observe today is not a diminishment or reduction of state sovereignty and planning capacities, but a displacement from formal to informal techniques of government and the appearance of new actors on the scene of government (e.g. NGOs), that indicate fundamental transformations in statehood and a renewed relation between state and civil society actors”. This encompasses a threefold reorganisation (Swyngedouw 1997; 2004). First is the externalisation of state functions

through privatisation and de-regulation (and decentralisation). Both mechanisms inevitably imply that non-state, civil society or market based configurations become increasingly involved in regulating, governing and organising a series of social, economic, and cultural activities. Second is the up-scaling of governance whereby the national state increasingly delegates regulatory and other tasks to other and higher scales or levels of governance (such as the EU, IMF, WTO, and the like), and, third is the downscaling of governance to “local” quasi-autonomous and multi-stakeholder based practices and arrangements that create greater local differentiation combined with a desire to incorporate new social actors in the arena of governing. This includes processes of vertical decentralisation toward sub-national forms of governance. These three processes of re-arranging the relationship between state, civil society and market simultaneously re-organise the arrangements of governance as new institutional forms of Governance-beyond-the-State are set up and become part of the system of governing, of organising the ‘conduct of conduct’. This restructuring is embedded in a consolidating neo-liberal ideological polity. The latter combines a desire to politically construct the market as the preferred social institution of resource mobilisation and allocation, a critique of the ‘excess’ of state associated with Keynesian welfarism, and a social engineering of the social in the direction of greater individualised responsibility (Harvey 2005). Of course, the new modalities of governance also involve the mobilization of a new set of technologies of power, which Mitchell Dean (1999) identifies as technologies of agency and technologies of performance. While the former refers to strategies of rendering the individual actor responsible for his or her own actions, the latter refers to the mobilisation of benchmarking rules that are set as state-

imposed parameters against which (self-)assessment can take place and which require the conduct of a particular set of performances. These technologies of performance produce ‘calculating individuals’ within ‘calculable spaces’ and are incorporated within ‘calculative regimes’ (Miller 1992). Barbara Cruikshank (1993; 1994) refers in this context to the mobilisation of ‘technologies of citizenship’, which are defined as “the multiple techniques of self-esteem, of empowerment and of consultation and negotiation that are used in activities as diverse as community development, social and environmental impact assessment, health promotion campaigns, teaching at all levels, community policing, the combating of various kinds of dependency and so on” (Dean 1999: 168). Ironically, while these technologies are often advocated and mobilised by NGOs and other civil organizations speaking for the disempowered or socially excluded (Goonewardena and Rankin 2004), these actors often fail to see how these instruments are an integral part of the consolidation of an imposed and authoritarian neo-liberal police order, celebrating the virtues of self-managed risk, prudence, and self-responsibility (Burchell 1996; Dean 1999). In sum, a new urban police order with a new ‘partition of the sensible’ and a reworked distribution of places and functions arises (Rancière 2000a). This urban police order vitally revolves around a consensual arrangement in which all those that are named and counted can take part, can participate. While there may be conflicts of interest and opinion, there is widespread agreement over the conditions that exist (the partition of the sensible) and what needs to be done, i.e. the creation of a competitive, creative, innovative and global urbanity. These new arrangements of Governance-beyond-the-State are deeply consensual. It is exactly such consensual and

apparently inclusive (at least for those who have voice, who are counted, and named) order that is defined as the post-political condition. This is what we shall turn to next.

The Post-Political Condition

“In post-politics, the conflict of global ideological visions embodied in different parties who compete for power is replaced by a collaboration of enlightened technocrats (economists, public opinion specialists, …) and liberal multiculturalists; via the process of negotiation of interests, a compromise is reached in the guise of a more or less universal consensus. The political (the space of litigation in which the excluded can protest the wrong/injustice done to them), [is] foreclosed … It is crucial to perceive … the post-political suspension of the political in the reduction of the state to a mere police agent servicing the (consensually established) needs of the market forces and multiculturalist tolerant humanitarianisms” (Žižek 2006: 72).

In what follows, we shall argue that the late capitalist urban police order as outlined above forecloses (or at least attempts to) politicization and evacuates dissent through the formation of new forms of governmentality, of a particular partition of the sensible that revolves around consensus, participatory negotiation of different interests, and the acceptance of neo-liberal cosmopolitan globalization as the undisputable state of the situation (Badiou 2005a).

There is indeed a widespread consensus that the urban condition needs to be taken seriously, and that appropriate managerial-technological apparatuses can and should be negotiated to avoid the urban maelstrom to sink into catastrophe, economic decline, and social disintegration. At the same time, of course, there is hegemonic consensus that no alternative to liberal-global hegemony is possible. Not only is the public arena evacuated from radical dissent, critique, and fundamental conflict, but the parameters of democratic governing itself are being shifted, announcing new forms of autocratic governmentality (see Swyngedouw 2005a). Slavoj Žižek and Chantal Mouffe, among others, define the post-political as a political formation that actually forecloses the political, that prevents the politicization of particulars (Žižek 1999a: 35; 2006; Mouffe 2005): “[p]ost-politics mobilizes the vast apparatus of experts, social workers, and so on, to reduce the overall demand (complaint) of a particular group to just this demand, with its particular content – no wonder that this suffocating closure gives birth to ‘irrational’ outbursts of violence as the only way to give expression to the dimension beyond particularity” (Žižek 1999b: 204). In Europe, in particular, such post-political arrangements are largely in place. Post-politics is thus about the administration (policing) of social, economic or other issues, and they remain of course fully within the realm of the possible, of existing social relations. “The ultimate sign of post-politics in all Western countries”, Žižek (2002: 303) argues, “is the growth of a managerial approach to government: government is reconceived as a managerial function, deprived of its proper political dimension”. Postpolitics refuses politicisation in the classical Greek sense, that is, as the universalization of particular demands that aims at “more” than negotiation of interests. Politics becomes something one can do without making decisions that divide and separate (Thomson

2003). A consensual post-politics arises thus, one that either eliminates fundamental conflict or elevates it to antithetical ultra-politics. The consensual times we are currently living in have thus eliminated a genuine political space of disagreement. However, consensus does not equal peace or absence of fundamental conflict (Rancière 2005a: 8). Difficulties and problems, such as re-ordering the urban, that are generally staged and accepted as problematic need to be dealt with through compromise, managerial and technical arrangement. “Consensus means that whatever your personal commitments, interests and values may be, you perceive the same things, you give them the same name. But there is no contest on what appears, on what is given in a situation and as a situation” (Rancière 2003b: §4). The key feature of consensus is “the annulment of dissensus ….. the ‘end of politics’” (Rancière 2001: §32). Of course, this post-political world eludes choice and freedom (other than those tolerated by the consensus). The only position of real dissent is that of either the traditionalist (those stuck in the past that refuse to accept the inevitability of the new global neo-liberal order) or the fundamentalist. The only way to deal with them is by sheer violence, by suspending their ‘humanitarian’ and ‘democratic’ rights. The post-political relies, therefore, on either including all in a consensual pluralist order and/or on excluding radically those who posit themselves outside the consensus. For the latter, as Giorgio Agamben (2005) argues, the police order suspends the law; they are literally put outside the law and treated as extremists and terrorists. This form of ultra-politics pits those who ‘participate’ in the consensual order radically against those who are placed outside, like the sans-papiers or the marginalized. The riots in Paris in the fall of 2005 and the responses to this event were classic violent examples of such urban ultra-politics (see Dikeç 2007).

Late capitalist urban governance and debates over the arrangement of the city are not only perfect expressions of such a post-political order, but in fact, the making of new creative and entrepreneurial cities is one of the key arenas through which this postpolitical consensus becomes constructed, when “politics proper is progressively replaced by expert social administration” (Žižek 2005a: 117). The post-political consensus, therefore, is one that is radically reactionary, one that forestalls the articulation of divergent, conflicting, and alternative trajectories of future urban possibilities and assemblages.

Urban Populism as Symptom of Post-Democracy.

In this post-democratic post-political era, adversarial politics (of the left/right variety or of radically divergent struggles over imagining urban futures for example) are considered hopelessly out of date. Although disagreement and debate are of course still possible, they operate within an overall model of consensus and agreement. The Post-Political condition articulates, therefore, with a consensual populist political tactic as the conduit to instigate ‘desirable’ change. Urban polic(y)ing is a prime expression of the populist ploy of the post-political post-democratic condition (Crouch 2004). Put differently, a depoliticized urban populism has become a key symptom of the post-democratic institutional consensus. We shall briefly chart the characteristics of populism (see, among others, Canovan 1999; Laclau 2005; Mouffe 2005; Žižek 2005b; Swyngedouw 2007) and how this is reflected in mainstream urban concerns.

First, populism invokes ‘THE’ city and ‘THE’ people as a whole in a material and social manner. All people are affected by urban problems and the whole of urban life as we know it is under threat from potential catastrophes (like globalization, noncompetitiveness, uncontrolled immigration). As such, populism cuts across the idiosyncrasies of different forms and expressions of urban life, silences ideological and other constitutive social differences and papers over fundamental conflicts of interest by distilling a common threat or challenge. Second, urban populism is based on a politics of ‘the people know best’ (although the latter category remains often empty, unnamed), supported by an assumedly neutral scientific technocracy, and advocates a direct relationship between people and political participation. It is assumed that this will lead to a good, if not optimal, solution. Third, populism customarily invokes the specter of annihilating apocalyptic futures if no direct and immediate action is taken. If we refrain from acting (in a technocratic-managerial manner) now, our urban future is in grave danger. It instils a sense of millennial angst and existentialist urgency. Fourth, populist tactics do not identify a privileged subject of change (like the proletariat for Marx, women for feminists, or the ‘creative class’ for neo-liberal capitalism), but instead invoke a common condition or predicament, the need for common action, mutual collaboration and co-operation. There are no internal social tensions or generative internal conflicts. Instead the enemy is always externalised and objectified. Populism’s fundamental fantasy is that of a threatening Intruder, or more usually a group of intruders, who have corrupted the system. The ‘immigrant’ or ‘globalization’ stands here as classic examples of fetishised and externalised foes that require dealing with if a new urbanity is to be attained. Problems therefore are not the result of the ‘system’, of unevenly distributed

power relations, of implicit or explicit silences and marginalization, of the networks of control and influence, of rampant injustices, or of a fatal flow inscribed in the system, but are blamed on an outsider, a ‘pathological’ syndrome that can be cut out without affecting the functioning of the system. Fifth, populist demands are always addressed to the elites. Urban populism as a project always expresses demands to the ruling elites; it is not about changing the elites, but calling on the elites to undertake action. A non-populist politics is exactly about obliterating the elite, imagining the impossible, nicely formulated in the following Žižekian joke: “An IRA man in a balaclava is at the gates of heaven when St Peter comes to him and says, 'I'm afraid I can't let you in'. 'Who wants to get in?' the IRA man retorts, 'You've got twenty minutes to get the fuck out.'” Sixth, no proper names are assigned to a post-political populist politics (Badiou 2005b). Post-political populism is associated with a politics of not naming in the sense of giving a definite or proper name to its domain or field of action. Only vague concepts like the creative city, the competitive city, the inclusive city, the global city, the sustainable city replace the proper names of politics. These proper names, according to Rancière (1995) are what constitutes a genuine democracy, that is a space where the unnamed, the uncounted, and, consequently, un-symbolised become named and counted. Seventh, populism becomes expressed in particular demands (get rid of immigrants, lower taxes, increased ‘participation’) that remain particular and foreclose universalisation as a positive urban project. In other words, the urban problem does not posit a positive and named socioenvironmental situation, an embodied vision, a desire that awaits its realisation, a fiction to be realised.

Democracy’s Location: the Return of the Polis

In light of the above discussion, what would constitute a proper political democratic sequence? For Jacques Rancière a proper political gesture is about enunciating dissent and rupture, literally voicing speech that claims, in the name of equality, a place in the order of things, demanding “the part for those who have no-part” (Rancière 2001: 6); politics disrupts the police order -- “a refusal to observe the ‘place’ allocated to people and things (or at least, to particular people and things)” (Robson 2005: 5). ‘Politics’ is juxtaposed here to ‘the police’. The latter refers to the existing order of things and is, in Rancière’s words, ‘a partition of the sensible’ (Rancière 2001: 8). In this sense, the police refers to “all the activities which create order by distributing places, names, functions” (Rancière 1994: 173); it “refers to an established order of governance with everyone in their ‘proper’ place in the seemingly natural order of things” (Dikeç 2005: 174)). For the police order, “society consists of groups dedicated to specific modes of action, in places where these occupations are exercised, in modes of being corresponding to these occupations and these places” (Rancière 2000a: 21). As Mustafa Dikeç (2007: ch. 2: 5) maintains, “[t]he police, therefore, is both a principle of distribution and an apparatus of administration, which relies on a symbolically constituted organization of social space, an organization that becomes the basis of and for governance. Thus, the essence of the police is not repression but distribution – distribution of places, peoples, names, functions, authorities, activities and so on – and the normalization of this distribution”. If the supervision of places and functions is defined as the ‘police’, “a proper political sequence begins, then, when this supervision is interrupted so as to allow a properly

anarchic disruption of function and place, a sweeping de-classification of speech. The democratic voice is the voice of those who reject the prevailing social distribution of roles, who refuse the way a society shares out power and authority”. (Hallward 2003: 192). It is, Rancière maintains, the voice of “floating subjects that deregulate all respresentations of places and portions” (Rancière 1998: 99-100):

“In the end everything in politics turns on the distribution of spaces. What are these places? How do they function? Why are they there? Who can occupy them? For me, political action always acts upon the social as the litigious distribution of places and roles. It is always a matter of knowing who is qualified to say what a particular place is and what is done to it” (Rancière 2003a: 201).

Both police and politics are eminently spatial, revolve around spatiality and temporality. As Rancière maintains:

“Political activity is whatever shifts a body from the place assigned to it or changes a place’s destination. It makes visible what had no business being seen, and makes heard a discourse where once there was only place for noise; it makes understood as discourse what was once only heard as noise” (Rancière 1998: 30). “Politics acts on the police” (Rancière 1998: 33) and “… revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time” (Rancière 2006: 13).

Proper politics then is about reconfiguring space; to produce spaces of enunciation and speech which hitherto were only heard as noise: “The principle function of politics is the configuration of its proper space. It is to disclose the world of its subjects and its operations. The essence of politics is the manifestation of dissensus, as the presence of two worlds in one” (Rancière 2001: Thesis 8). Of course, a political sequence takes place in the space of the police, by “rephrasing and restaging social issues, police problems and so on”, it is the disruption of the police order (Rancière 2003c: 7). Space becomes “political in that it … becomes an integral element of the interruption of the ‘natural’ (or, better yet, naturalized) order of domination through the constitution of a place of encounter by those that have no part in that order. The political, in this account, is signaled by this encounter as a moment of interruption, and not by the mere presence of power relations and competing interests” (Dikeç 2005: 172). Of course, “… the police and politics are enmeshed. In other words, the spaces of politics are enmeshed with the space of the police. If politics puts the police ordering of space to an egalitarian test, then politics is possible not despite the police, but because of it. ‘Politics acts on the police’, Rancière (1998: 33) writes, “[i]t acts in the places and with the words that are common to both, even if it means reshaping those places and changing the status of those words.” Politics proper acts on the police space, from the police space, and through the police space. It, however, acts not in the police space, but in between spaces that are not determined by the police, that have no place in the police space. Politics consists in a reconfiguration, in a “series of actions that reconfigure the space where parties, parts, or lack of any parts have been defined” (Rancière 1998: 30). These

in-between spaces are the “intervals of subjectification: intervals constructed between identities, between places and locations” (Dikeç 2005: 181-182).

Governance-beyond-the-State as the late capitalist urban police order evacuates proper democratic politics from the places of public encounter; it sanitizes spaces by placing discontent outside the police order and locating it in its proper space – suspended and silenced. Proper democracy, in contrast, is “the symbolic institution of the political in the form of the power of those who are not entitled to exercise power – a rupture in the order of legitimacy and domination. Democracy is the paradoxical power of those who do not count: the count of the ‘unaccounted for’” (Rancière 2000b: 124). The consensual techno-managerial urbanity “is thus not another manner of exercising democracy … [It] is the negation of democratic basis for politics: it desires to have well-identifiable groups with specific interests, aspirations, values and ‘culture’ … Consensualist centrism flourishes with the multiplication of differences and identities … [T]he larger the number of groups and identities that need to be taken into account in society, the greater the need for arbitration. The ‘one’ of consensus nourishes itself with the multiple” (Rancière 2000b: 125). A genuine egalitarian and democratic political sequence necessitates an intervention in the police order:

“[T]he political act (intervention) proper is not simply something that works well within the framework of existing relations, but something that changes the very framework that determines how things work …. [A]uthentic politics … is the art

of the impossible – it changes the very parameters of what is considered ‘possible’ in the existing constellation (emphasis in original)” (Žižek 1999b: 199).

A genuine politics, therefore, is “the moment in which a particular demand is not simply part of the negotiation of interests but aims at something more, and starts to function as the metaphoric condensation of the global restructuring of the entire social space” (Žižek 1999b: 208). It is about the recognition of conflict as constitutive of the social condition, and the naming of the urban spaces that can become. It is literally about demanding the impossible, making the impossible happen. The political becomes the space of litigation (Žižek 1998), the space for those who are not-All, who are uncounted and unnamed, disagree with the part assigned by the ‘police’ (symbolic, social and state) order. As Diken and Laustsen (2004: 9) put it: “[p]olitics in this sense is the ability to debate, question and renew the fundament on which political struggle unfolds, the ability to radically criticise a given order and to fight for a new and better one. In a nutshell, then, politics necessitates accepting conflict”. A radical-progressive position “should insist on the unconditional primacy of the inherent antagonism as constitutive of the political” (Žižek 1999a: 29). A true politics is a democratic political community conceived as “[a] community of interruptions, fractures, irregular and local, through with egalitarian logic comes and divides the police community from itself. It is a community of worlds in community that are intervals of subjectification: intervals constructed between identities, between spaces and places. Political being-together is a being-between: between identities, between worlds …. Between several names, several identities, several statuses” (Rancière 1998:

137-138). Rancière’s notion of the political is characterised in terms of division, conflict, and polemic (Valentine 2005: 46). Therefore, “democracy always works against the pacification of social disruption, against the management of consensus and ‘stability’ …. The concern of democracy is not with the formulation of agreement or the preservation of order but with the invention of new and hitherto unauthorised modes of disaggregation, disagreement and disorder” (Hallward 2005: 34-35). The new urban governmentality in its populist post-political guise is the antithesis of democracy, and contributes to a further hollowing out of what for Rancière and others constitute the very horizon of egalitarian democracy as a radically heterogeneous and conflicting one. Therefore, as Badiou (2005a) argues, a new radical politics must revolve around the construction of great new fictions that create real possibilities for constructing different urban futures. To the extent that the current post-political condition, which combines dystopian urban visions with a hegemonic consensual neo-liberal view of social ordering, constitutes one particular fiction (one that in fact forecloses dissent, conflict, and the possibility of a different future), there is an urgent need for different stories and fictions that can be mobilized for realization. This requires foregrounding and naming different urban futures, making the new and impossible enter the realm of politics and of democracy, and recognizing conflict, difference, and struggle over the naming and trajectories of these futures. Urban conflict, therefore, should not be subsumed under the homogenizing mantle of a populist globalization/creative city discourse, but should be legitimized as constitutive of a democratic order. The post-political ‘glocal’ city is fragmented and kaleidoscopic. Mundial integration unfolds hand in glove with increasing local differentiations, inequalities and combined

but uneven development. Within the tensions, inconsistencies and exclusions forged through these kaleidoscopic yet incoherent transformations, all manner of frictions, cracks, fissures, gaps, and ‘vacant’ spaces arise (Swyngedouw 2000); spaces that, although an integral part of the ‘police’ order, of the existing state of the situation, are simultaneously outside of it. These fissures, cracks, and ‘free’ spaces form ‘quilting’ points, nodes for experimentation with new urban possibilities. It is indeed precisely in these in-between spaces -- the fragments left unoccupied by the ‘glocal’ urban police order that regulates, assigns, and distributes -- that all manner of new urban social and cultural practices emergence; where new forms of urbanity come to life (Swyngedouw and Kaika 2003). While transnational capital flows impose their totalising logic on the city and on urban polic(y)ing, the contours of and possibilities for a new and more humane urban form and live germinate in these urban ‘free’ spaces. These are the sort of spaces where alternative forms of living, working, and expressing are experimented with, where new forms of social and political action are staged, where affective economies are reworked, and creative living is not measured by the rise of the stock market and pension fund indices. Ed Soja (1996) defines these spaces as Thirdspace, the living in-between space that emerges through perception and imagination; a space that is simultaneously real and imagined, material and metaphorical, an ordered and disordered space. Of course, for the elites, such ‘thirdspaces’, spaces of unchecked and unregulated experimentation, re-enforce the dystopian imaginary of cities as places of chaos, disintegration and moral decay; excesses that need containment or from which one flees (Baeten 2001). But of course, it is exactly these spaces where hope, new promises, freedom and desires are actively lived. In these cracks, corners, and fissures of the

contemporary fragmented networked city looms and ferments a new hybrid conglomerate of practices, often in the midst of deepening political exclusion and social disempowerment. These are the radical margins that are an essential part of twenty-first century democratic urbanity. And it is exactly these practices that urgently require attention, nurturing, recognition, and valorisation. They demand their own space; they require the creation of their own material and cultural landscapes, their own emblematic geographies. These are the spaces were the post-political condition is questioned and practices of radical democratization experimented with. Such experimentations “modify the map of what can be thought, what can be named and perceived, and therefore also of what is possible” (Rancière, in Lévi et al. 2007: 4). They contribute to the making of alternative mappings and cartographies of the thinkable, the perceptible, and, consequently, the possible and doable. Their realization requires considerable urban and architectural imagination and creativity. Most importantly, this demands a rethinking of the meaning of citizenship in the direction of the recognition of the multiplicity of identities, the rhizomatic meanderings of meanings, practices, and lives. It also demands the development of visionary urban programs by and for these new ‘glocal’ citizens of the polis, those that are simultaneously decidedly local and shamelessly global; those that too often are excluded from the post-political and post-democratic consensus that governs our contemporary cities. This re-centring of the polis as the space of dissensus and disagreement, with its places for enunciating the different and the staging of the voices of those unheard or unnoticed, is exactly the site from where proper urban democratic politics emerge.

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