Mumford Lewis The city in History

Mumford Lewis The city in History - IOHS, .m m vi. 0.. (TI...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–11. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
Background image of page 9

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 10
Background image of page 11
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: IOHS, .m m vi. 0.. (TI 3 n a r T S R ms, and'lts Prospects lg .. .M Itéjoir’ an. 2 a. if ,5, r _. g at i l s i 542 THE MYTH or transactions- SPRAWLING GIANTISM 543 a man accoutercd in a ‘spacensuit’: outwardly a huge scaly insect. But the face inside will be incapable of expression, as incapable as that of a corpse. And who will know the difierence? and the need for its constant application has brought into existence a whole range of inventions, mechanical and electronic, from cash registers to electronic computers, which handle every operation from book-keeping to. university examinations. Interests and aptitudes that do not lend them ' selves to processing are automatically rejected. So complicated, so; elaborate, so costly are the processing mechanisms that they cannot be. employed except on a mass scale: hence they eliminate all activities a a fidul, inconsecutive, or humanly subtle nature—just as ‘yes’ or ‘11 answers eliminate those more delicate and accurate discriminations that- oiten lie at one point or another in between the spuriously ‘correct’ answe That which is local, small, personal, autonomous, must be suppresse Increasingly, he who controls the processing mechanism controls the live.st and destinies of those who must consume its products, and who on metro-'- politan terms cannot seek any others. For processing and packaging do not end on the production line: they finally malts over the human personalit : In short the monopoly of power and knowledge that was first estab» lished in the citadel has come back, in a highly magnified form, in the- final stages of metropolitan culture. In the end every aspect of life must" be brought under control: controlled weather, controlled movement, on trolled association, controlled production, controlled prices, controlled fantasy, controlled ideas. But the only purpose of control,.apart.from the: profit, power, and prestige of the controllers, is to accelerate the process of- rfiéchanical control itseih .' H I H 4' ' H ' ’ . "The priests of this regime are easy to identify: the whole system, in; its final stages, rests on the proliferation of secret, and thus controllable; knowledge; and the very division of labor that makes specialized scientific research possible also restricts the number of people capable of putting the fragments together. But where are the new gods? The nuclear reactor is the seat of their power: radio transmission and rocket flight their angels: means of communication and transportation: but beyond these minor agents of divinity the Control Room itself, with its Cybernetic Deity, giv-. ing His lightning—like decisions and His infallible answers: omniscience and omnipotence, triumphantly " monopoly of man‘s highest powers, the human can come back only at the most primitive level. Sigmund Freud detected the beginnings of creati' art in the infant’s pride over his bowel movements. We can now (let its ultimate manifestation in paintings and sculpture whose contents betray a similar pride and a similar degree of autonomy—and a similar produ One of the ancient prerogatives of the gods was to create man out oi their flesh, like Aturn, or in their own image, like Yahweh. When th accredited scientific priesthood go a little farther with their present acti ties, the new life—size homunculus will be processed, too: one can alrea see anticipatory models in our art galleries. He will look remarkably like 5: SPRAWLING GIANTISM Circle over London, Bucnos Aires, Chicago, Sydney, in an airplane or schematically by means of an urban" map and__'_bl§él{:p1an. What is {the citysth asfiss fluidisesriginal 'cShia_i§E_r'_ha_s completely—disappeared: e sharp division between city and ’ébiintry no longer exists. As the eye 't‘tret‘ches‘toward'oé "iiériptéiy one ban piclé'out no definite shapes except those formed by nature: one beholds rather a continuous shapclcss mass, here bulging or ridged with uildings, there broken by a patch of green or an unwinding ribbon of concrete. The shapelessness of the whole is reflected in the individual ..part, and the nearer the center, the less as a rule can the smaller parts he ‘stinguished. ' : Failing to divide its social chromosomes and split up into new cells, ach bearing some portion of the original inheritance, the city continues Eto grow inorganically, indeed cancerously, by a continuous breaking down i old tissues, and an overgrowth of forrnless new tissue. Here the city as absorbed villages and little towns, reducing them to place names, like iManhattanville and Harlem in New York; there it has, more happily, left e organs of local government and the vestiges of an independent life, ven assisted their revival, as in Chelsea and Kensington in London; but has nevertheless enveloped those urban areas in its physical organization and built up the open land that once served to ensure their identity and " tegrity. Sometimes the expanding street system forms an orderly pattern, ometimes it produces only a crazy network that does not even serve afic: but the dificrence between one type of order and another is merely ' difference in the degree of sprawl, contusion, dobuilding. As one moves away from the center, the urban growth becomes ever ore aimless and discontinuous, more diffuse and unfocussed, except here some surviving town has left the original imprint of a more orderly e. Old neighborhoods and precincts, the social cells of the city, still aintaining some measure of the village pattern, become vestigialeot ulnar: eye can take in metropolitan mass at a glance. No single gathhrl- ac'e'except the totalityoi its"'tirestraarrtiaasthalamus. No human Blind can comprehend more than a fragment of the complex and minutely E r‘? (0 On (‘3‘ ‘< m n 3-“ S (a (3.1 "1'1 ti re 94 E E E a '6' o F? E O 544 rue MYTH or MEGALoromsf SPRAWLING GIANTISM 545 itself: tomake itpossible the rulers of this societyresortmtg pyggy possible titties of pyramid-building. __ ‘“"“‘”"""'““ " ‘For unfortunately, once an economy is geared to expansion, the means rapidly turn into an end, and “the going becomes the goal.” Even more unfortunately, the industries that are favored by such expansion must, to maintain their output, be devoted to goods that are readily consumable, either by then nature, or because they are so shoddily fabricated that they must soon be replaced. By fashion and built—in obsolescence the economies of machine production, instead of producing leisure and durable wealth, are duly cancelled out by mandatory consumption on an ever larger scale. By the same token, the city itself becomes consumable, indeed expend- able: the container must change as rapidly as its contents. This latter imperative undermines a main function of the city as an agent of human continuity. The living memory of the city, which once bound together generations and centuries, disappears: its inhabitants live in a self-annihi— lating moment—to—moment continuum. The poorest Stone Age savage never lived in such a destitute and demoralized community. New organic processes are purposeful, goal-seeking, self—limiting: in- deed all organisms have builtuin controls that serve to co-ordinate action and limit growth. The expanding economy, like the technological system on which it is so largely based, has no such limitations: its stabilization takes the form of multiplying the number of consumers and intensifying their wants. But to ensure continued productivity, it limits these wants to those that can be supplied at a profit by the machine. Thus this economy produces motor cars and refrigerators galore; but has no motive to supply durable works of art, handsome gardens, or untrammelled, nonconsuming leisure. Our economic establishment is better equipped to destroy the product outright than to give it away or to limit the output at source. The image of modern industrialism that Charlie Chaplin carried over from the past into ‘Modern Times’ is just the opposite of megalopolitan reality. He pictured the worker as an old—fashioned drudge, chained to the machine, mechanically ted while he continued to operate it. That image belongs to Coketown. The new worker, in the metropolis, has been pro» grassiveiy released from the productive process: the grinding, impovenshed toil that'rnade the nineteenth-century factory so hideous has Iiitteddby social services and security, by mechanical aids and by complete anionic? " tion. Work is no longer so brutal in the light industries; has made it even more boring. The energy and application that o into the productive process must now be addressed to" maintains. ‘ By a thousand cunning attachments and"cont'idlég'*visible'aiidwsfio liminal, the workers in an expanding economy are tied to a consumption mechanism: they are assured of a livelihood provided they devour without r specialized activities of its citizens. The loss of form, the loss of autonomy, the constant frustration and harassment of daily activities, to say nothing i of gigantic breakdowns and stoppages—all these become normal attributes ' had become adequate—and their use profitable to those who manufactured _ or employed them. The modern metropolis is, rather, an outstanding example of a peculiar cultural lag within the realm of technics itself: . namely, the continuation by highly advanced technical means of the obso- . iete forms and ends of a socially retarded civilization. The machines and _ utilities that would lend themselves to decentralization in a life-centered ._ order, here become either a means to increase congestion or afford some slight temporary palliation——at a price. i The form of the metropolis, then, is its formlessness, even as its aim j is its own aimless expansion. Those who work within the ideological limits of this regime have only a quantitative conception of improvement: they seek to make its buildings higher, its streets broader, its parking lots more _: ample: they would multiply bridges, highways, tunnels, making it ever '_ easier to get in and out of the city, but constricting the amount of space _- available within the city for any other purpose than transportation itself. .3 Frank Lloyd Wright’s project for a skyscraper a mile high was the ultimate . reduction to absurdity of this whole theory of city development. The '. ultimate form of such a city would be an acre of building to a square mile .- of expressways and parking lots. In many areas this is rapidly approaching " fulfillment. When both the evil and the remedy are indistinguishable, one may be sure that a deep~seated process is at work. An expanding economy, '. " dedicated to profit, not to the satisfaction of life—needs, necessarily creates _ a new image of the city, that of a perpetual and ever—widening maw, con- _ suming the output of expanding industrial and agricultural production, in response to the pressures of continued indoctrination and advertising. Two centuries ago the need for such an economy was indisputable, and in 1_ many poverty-stricken countries that need still remains, to lift the popula-- ' lion above the margin of starvation and helpless depression. But in the. 3 _:countries of the West, particularly in the United States, the problem of ' _' carcity has been solved, apart from distribution and relation to organic? 5 needs, only to create a new set of problems just as embarrassing: those of x surfeit and satiety. Today, accordingly, expansion has become an end in 2 w” . _. .,......l,.,...,.~...,t..u......._, 546 THE MYTH or MEGALor'otrs IKE snaoows or success 547 table, in the marketplace: a few dozen people writing in the'newspapers, :a dozen or so more broadcasting over radio and television, provide the daily interpretation of movements and happenings with slick professional i adroitness. Thus even the most spontaneous human activities come under professional surveillance and centralized control. The spread of manifoldu mg devices of every sort gives to the most ephemeral and mediocre -'Pmducts of the mind a temporary durability they do not deserve: whole books are printed to justify the loose evacuations of the tape recorder. All the major activities of the metropolis are directly connected with Paper and its plastic substitutes; and printing and packaging are among its principal industries. The activities pursued in the offices of the metropolis are directly connected with paper: the tabulating machines, the journals, the ledgers, the card~catalogs, the deeds, the contracts, the mortgages, the briefs, the trial records: so, too, the prospectuses, the advertisements, the magazines, the newspapers. As early as the eighteenth century Mercier had observed this metropolitan form of the White Plague. Modern methods of manifolding have not lessened the disease: they have only exchanged easygoing slipshod ways, which often sufficed, for a more exact record, whose elaboration and cost are out of all proportion to the value of what is recorded. What was a mere trickle in Mercier’s day has now become a ravaging flood of paper. As the day’s routine proceeds the pile of paper mounts higher: the trashbaskets are filled and emptied and filled again. The ticker tape exudes its quotation of stocks and its report of news; the students in the schools and universities fill their notebooks, digest and disgorge the contents of books, as the silkworm feeds on mulberry leaves and manufactures its cocoon, unravelling themselves on examination day. In the theater, in literature, in music, in business, reputations are made—on paper. The scholar with his degrees and publications, the actress with her newspaper clippings, and the financier with his shares and his voting proxies, measure _ their power and importance by the amount of paper they can command. No wonder the anarchists once invented the grim phrase: “Incinerate the documents!” ’Ihat would ruin this whole world quicker than universal flood or earthquake, if not as fatally as a shower of hydrogen bombs. That life is an occasion for living, and not a pretext for supplying - items to newspapers, interviews on television, or a spectacle for crowds of otherwise vacant bystanders—these notions do not occur in the metro— politan mind. For them the show is the reality, and “the show must go on!” This metropolitan world, then, is a world where flesh and blood are less real than paper and ink and celluloid. It is a world where the great masses of people, unable to achieve a more full—bodied and satisfyin: - means of living, take life vicariously, as readers, spectators, listeners, pas— sive observers. Living thus, year in and year out, at second hand, remote undue selectivity all that is offered by the machine—and demand nothing that is not produced by the machine. The whole organization of the metropolitan community is designed to kill spontaneity and selfwdirectiom : You stop on the red light and go on the green. You see what you are supposed to see, think what you are supposed to think: your personal contributions, like your income and security taxes, are deductible at source. To choose, to select, to discriminate, to exercise" prudence or continence or forethought, to carry self~control to the point of abstinence, to have. standards other than those of the market, and to set limits other than those of immediate consumption—these are impious heresies that would chal- lenge the whole megalopolitau myth and deflate its economy. In such a ‘free‘ society Henry Thoreau must rank as a greater public enemy than Karl Marx. The metropolis, in its final stage of development, becomes a collective contrivance for making this irrational system work, and for giving those who are in reality its victims the illusion of power, wealth, and felicity, of standing at the very pinnacle of human achievement. But in actual fact their lives are constantly in peril, their wealth is tasteless and ephemeral, their leisure is sensationain monotonous, and their pathetic felicity is tainted by constant, well»§'ustilied anticipations of violence and sudden death. Increasingly they find themselves “strangers and afraid,” in a world- they never made: a world ever less responsive to direct human command, ever more empty of human meaning. 6: THE SHADOWS OF SUCCESS To believe, therefore, that human culture has reached a marvellous final culmination in the modern metropolis one must avert one’s eyes from the grim details of the daily routine. And that is precisely what the metro—- .. poiitan denizen schools himself to do: he lives, not in the real world, but in a shadow world projected around him at every moment by means of .- paper andrcelluloid and adroitiy manipulated lights: a world in which - he is insulated by glass, cellophane, piiofilrn from the mortifications of living. In short, a world of professional illusionists and their credulous " victims. ' I' The swish and crackle of paper is the underlying sound of the me- tropolis. What is visible and real in this world is only what has been -_ transferred to paper or has been even further ctherialized on a microfilm or a tape recorder. The essential daily gossip of the metropolis is no longer that of people meeting face to face at a cross-roads, at the dinner 548 THE MYTH on MEGALoP'oLIs CONGESTION AND DE—coNoasrmN 549 from the nature that is outside them, and no less remote from the nature '- ' parable economic advantages. Let us observe how these limitations operate. that is within, it is no wonder that they turn more and more of the func- First, the demand for water. As the metropolis becomes more crowded, tions of life, even thought itself, to the machines that their inventors have - the local springs and weiis are progressively abandoned for iarger reser~ created. In this disordered environment only machines retain some of the- voirs of water, such as the rivers from whose hefoul'ed drinking water attributes of iife, while human beings are progressively reduced to a bundle" more than one great city, including Paris, London, and Rome, poisoned 0f 11336333, Without self-starting im13111535 0r amonflflious goals: ‘behaviorist itself as late as the mid-nineteenth century. Even now, without the anti~ man.’ - -' septic administration of chlorine the drinking water of most big cities, .. particularly during winter months, would be dangerous to consume. In 1 addition to the Croton system, opened in 1842, New York little more than half a century later reached back into the Catskills, a hundred miles away. Each additional mile of tunnel and pipe, each additional reservoir, 7 : C O N GEST ION AND DE« C ONGEST ION __ adds to the unit cost; but a year of drought, such as New York experienced in 1951, can br‘mg the city very close to the danger point. Meanwhile the ._ spread of the metropolis itself not alone closes down local sources of The facts of metropolitan congestion are undeniable; they are visible " supply, but, by filling in swamps and denuding hillsides of vegetation in every phase of the city’s life. One encounters congestion in the constant; lowers the water table; while the industrial use of water, plus its widespread stoppages of traflic, resulting from the massing of vehicles in centers that utilization in the United States for air-conditioning systems, brings famine can be kept in free movement only by utilizing human legs. One en. still nearer even at existing population levels. V; counters it in the crowded office elevator or in the even more tightly packed The only prospect of relieving this chronic shortage of water in metro-— subway train, rank with the odor of human bodies. Lack of oflice room, ._ politan agglomerations would be the distillation of sea-water in wholesale lack of school room, lack of house room, even lack of space in the ceme- quantities; but even if that were possible through utilizing cheap solar or teries for the dead. Such form as the metropolis achieves is crowd—Eorm- nuclear energy it would probably be no more potable than that which is “116 swarming bathing bBaCh by $136 563 0" the may 0f SPCCtatorS in the j_ now manufactured aboard ship; and no matter how inexpensive the energy . boxing arena or the football stadium. With the increase of private motdr. used to effect this conversion, the cost of the process would he one further..- cars, the streets and avenues become parking lots, and to move traffic a addition to the mounting cost of water. ‘- ali, vast expressways gouge through the city and increase the demand for '- The cost of the internal transportation system in a big city is equally further parking lots and garages. In the act of making the Gore 0? 1‘11 massive; yet some of the most important factors elude exact calculation. metropolis accessible, the planners of congestion hava already atmost mad The initial capital cost for underground systems, for tunnels, bridges, and it uninhabitabie. _ accessory highways, with their difficult excavation and boring, is neces- The costs of congestion itself, in impeding the essential economic sarily high; but this is only a part of the total burden. Year by year one activities of the metropolitan area, are augmented by the costs of the purely: must add the cost of the can and stem-icky consumed in the haulage of mechanical methods overcoming this congestion. These costs, even if they; human bodies: above all, one must add on the human cost, in physiological were humanly tolerable, would long ago have been rejected because of. :wear and tear, the boredom and harassment and depression, brought about their financial extravagance, if rational economic standards had played any, by this daily shuttling between dormitory and work—place: minutes and part in forming the metropolitan myth. _ hours which at the peak of traffic cannot even be utilized in achieving The purely physical limits to metropolitan expansion are set mainly the anesthesia of the daily newspaper. Add to this the fatigue of the by three conditions: the amount of water that can be tapped by one popu—'_; ourney, the exposure to infectious diseases in overcrowded cars, the dis- Iation mass without encroaching on a competing neighbor: the amount oi] ;turbance to the gastro—intestinal functions caused by the strain and anxiety land available before one metropolis mingles and merges with the nex _ :of having to reach the office or factory on time. Certainly any plan for finally, the costs of transportation in both time and money, since with girnproving the quality of life in metropolitan areas would, as a minimum mere increase of distance from the center there comes a point at which th reguirement, demand a lessening of the time and distance needed for daily gravitational pull of the metropolis will weaken to a stage that will fave transportation. transportation to other more accessibie centers, provided they ofier com _ Emerson said that life was a matter of having good days; but it is a THE MYTH 0F MEGALOIPOLIS HE uuusrrNG CONTAINER 551 matter of having good minutes, too. Who shall say what compensations are not necessary to the metropolitan worker to make up for the strain and depression of the twenty, forty, sixty, or more minutes he spends each night and morning passing through these metropolitan man—sewersmev' if they are as efficient as those in London or Paris, as luxurious as that. [in Moscow? By contrast a walk to work, as much as a mile each day, is at most seasons a tonic, especially for the sedentary worker, who plays , such a part in metropolitan offices and factories, at the typewriter, the '2‘ Linotype machine, the sewing machine, the filing cabinet. ' By building up suhucenters, based on pedestrian circulation, within t . metropolitan region, a good part of urban transportation ‘difllciilt'iescofiid assesses obviated. (In cities that are multi~centered and'have been sassy decentralized, such as London, by political regrouping into semi~auton-i' omous boroughs, some forty per cent of the night population, according to. Westergaard, had jobs within their own local authorities.) To ke t necessary journeys about the metropolis swift andwejlicientmthek f unnecessary journeys—and the-amount 'of their unnecessary length—must "b'e'd'e'c'reased. Only by bringing work and home closer togethermcfin'th be achieved. Toward that'end the'Barbican scheme in London is a neces- - sary complement to the New Towns policy—though unfortunately con: ceived at a density that may defeat its purpose. What applies to the daily shuttling of people to and from the center of the metropolis applies equally to the transportation of goods; for con- gestion not merely slowe down the passage of goods through the streets- but also increases the time needed for unloading: and both raise the co The multiplication of motor vehicles capable of high speeds has in fact resulted in the progressive retarding of transportation and the piling of costs. Horsedrawn vehicles in New York, according to a traflic study made in 1907, moved at an average speed of 11.5 miles an hour: today automobiles crawl at the average daytime rate of some six miles an hou and as the density of building per acre increases in both business and res dential areas, even this speed will slow down further. As for the costs such congestion, during the nineteen-twenties a conservative estimate p it at $150,000,000 a year. By now goods shipped from one borough to another in New York must pay an extra cartage charge; and the total figures —augmented by the toll to the gangster—aided unions that dominate; the trucking business and the waterfront—have reached astronomical dimensions. ' " ' But if the costs of metropolitan congestion are appalling the costs of: tie-«congestion are equally formidable. In the United States, with the eager conuivance of municipal authorities, an ever-larger part of the population: is spreading over the countryside, seeking, as we have seen, the conditions for homelife, the space, the freedom of movement, that have become impos- Ie within the centralppgre, hoping; too, but vainly, that the lower land “illi§$,..§?§§§.,.‘llfl W m “awn—“yams cc, .__.... _____________ 4 -m-«_ _ permanent even after he world F‘xiéiii‘a‘iiiit'hae. at e 'asssléfé'iifia . _ mpting to overcome congestion, the _._lea_d_ers___of_ his dispierhal ave acted as___if unlimited space were auefiective substituteufora sen— eighties and wellwdesigned community. The chief factor "that keeps thisndispersal from being of an entirer : random nature are the expressways and connecting roads that have made t possible: funnels that help to blow the urban dust farther from the fcenter, once the top soil of a common life has been removed. “The thrust “conifers-grannies "i ' bis“%¥.i9lliél§ §P¢¢Fl .filCiiifi9? which will drive usever-th—r—the‘r‘ : a ward? This opinion is so widely shared that the writer does not bother tesagihh it. So he does not explain why the thrust of technology should y itself determine human needs and he treated as a final end before which _ all other human purposes must how. To attempt such an explanation would _'be to question the premises, indeed the sacred dogmas, upon which the economy of the metropolis has been built. 3: THE BURSTING CONTAINER "By now it should be plain that congestion and expansion in the metropolis ' to in fact complementary movements, though they represent the beginning _ nd and of the megalopolitan cycle. The dominant world metropolises -- represented huge concentrations of political, financial, and technological H ower, developing mainly in this’very order: in time they were abetted by religious and educational concentrations of the same magnitude. So efiec— Itive was this monopoly, so firm this mode of control, so rich its rewards, that they obscured for a time the human penalties of urban congestion: Ionditions that should have been a badge of shame became almost a ' mark of honor. passed almost unnoticed. Through the operation of these forces the big city, in the nineteenth century, served by the very size and variety of its ..population to foster functions that had never been sustained on anything '_ke the same scale before: corporate associations and societies of like ' inded persons, pursuing special interests that»covered every aspect of "human life. Up to this time, the church, the university, the school, the of technology; a "recentuobs‘erver of ‘The Deserted City?_notets,"'4“seems- Strangely the greatest justification for metropolitan congestion has " a was actually more significantbééai‘l'se‘ or the range aid sanctuaries I of a big American city under its listing of clubs and associations: the ,, immense number of purposeful associations you will find there are in par 2:2, wider organizations of national and international range became possible- tion of cities and regions. 552 THE BURSTING CONTAINER 553 THE MYTH 0F MEGALOPOLIS areas, accompanied by an even sharper upward movement in more primitive economies. This has been abetted, in technically more advanced countries, by the general shift in employment from agricultural and industrial occupa- tions to the services and professions. D1 certain cases, like London, the increased employment ofiered by administrative activities has heightened me fashionable attractions of the center, with its opportunities for competi- tive spending and titillating forms of consumption. This has edectively counteracted the tendency of many industries to move out to the country: indeed, it has even served in England to draw industry away from the murlder industrial centers of Lancasltire and West Riding, if only to pleasure the managerial and technical staffs—and their wives. ésaresult, there has been no substantial decrease‘inthe metropolitan population, apart from the temporary annihilation or evacuation of war- time: rather the contrary.'But the fastest'rate'of growth has "b'ee‘fi'in' the outlying areas; and, to enlarge the whole scope of the-urban pi'dbl'er'rr, pie." "vincialltowns and regional centers, which could often boast better-housing, “more ample park space, and more accessible recreation areas-thanthe bity have themselves become the focus for still further metropolitan growth. 7 These towns begin to display the same environmental deficiencies, the same unbalanced budget, the same expenditure on glib mechanical planning remedies instead of on positive human improvements, that their larger his- toric rivals boast. Thus the new megalopolltan form is fast becoming a universal one. The important thing to recognize about this whole process is that although rapid transportation and instant communication have altered the scale of urban development they have not so far altered the pattern. This whole vast change has in fact been taking place within an obsolete urban tramework. Rapid technological advances in pursuit of obsolete or humanly primitive goals—mthis is the very nature of the final stage of megalopolitan disintegration, as visible in its day-to-day city planning as in its ultimate ‘ plans for atomic, bacterial, and chemical genocide. Even the excessive birth— rate may be a symptom of this deterioration: for, as W. M. Wheeler noted of insect societies, inordinate reproduction accompanies an arrest of other forms of biological development. _ Yet the continued expansion of the metropolis into the formless megalm politan conurbation, and the multiplication and extension of these conurba— tions reveal the depth of the plight every society now faces. Hence it is hopeless to think that this problem is one than can be solved by local authorities, even by one as colossal and competent as the London County Council. Nor is it a problem that can be successfully attacked by amere extension of the scope of political action, through creating metropolitan governments. Philadelphia brought such an administrative unit into exist— _ ence as early as the middle of the nineteenth century, fuming a great county guild, had been the main foci of associated activities, apart from the city itself. But from the early Renascencc onward, these new associations began to flourish and took a thousand different forms: scientific societies, mu. seums, sociable clubs, insurance associations, political parties, economic groups, historic societies, fellowships of all kinds. " :‘lfihough the nineteenth—century metropolis boasted of its individualism-- ypluntary corporate associations. __Consult_th_e classified telephone directory the byproduct of metropolitan concentration, and theyflourished as long as a large part of their members could conveniently come together least weekly or monthly meetings. With that solid core of participatro Just as the concentration of political and economic power in the citadel produced urban institutions and social benefits not directly intended by the rulers, so did this proliferation of clubs and societies. However vast the. metropolis, within it one could find at least a handful of likemminded people, to enhance and sustain any conceivable interest. This was a precious con- tribution to human development; and not a little of the credit for creativity and productivity that has gone to our technological inventions and our industrial organizations could be traced in the first place to these muitle tudlnous organs of association. In short, though the congestion of the metropolis has tended to sup- press or destroy the organic tissue of neighborhoods and smaller com munities, it has helped to create new organs of a more specialized and more selective nature, made possible by their accessibility to an unusually} large population. This has an important bearing on the future reconstruc- ' We are now faced with a condition for which, so far as I know, there is no precedent in history. Though the metropolitan container has burst, the institutional magnets still maintain to a large degree their original- attractive power. In every metropolitan area the population is spilling over new suburban, exurban, and rural areas much faster than it is being accumulated in the reservoir at the center. But the reservoir itself, the 53' metropolitan core, is not becoming empty. Now up to 1940 the prospect of a lowered rate of population growth, approaching stability by 1980 in more than one country, seemed definite: so steady and sure had been the decline in England, for example, that the best plans for posh-war building took a" 3_ lower urban population as a fundamental—and helpful—condition for re- .- building on a less congested pattern. ' But both the general and the urban rates of growth have undergone a sudden reversal during the last twenty years, even in highly industrialized THE MYTH or MEGALOI’OLIS~ DESTINY or MEGALOFOLIS 555 into a city long before most of its component towns were more than little _. plans. The controllers themselves have, with exquisite irony, produced a villages. This metropolitan government area cannot now be distinguished -. collective mechanism that is not, in fact, under control, and once set in from those that remained tin—unified, except where the independence of motion is not capable of being brought under control by the kind of mind the latter has happily preserved some greater measure of individuality and _' that has devised it. They console themselves over their helplessness with self-government. The internal problems of the metropolis and its subsidiary} the quaint notion that “you cannot put the hands of the clock back.” But areas are reflections of a whole civilization geared to expansion by strictly I that ill—chosen metaphor reveals the basic error. Who would mast a, stock rational and scientific means for purposes that have become progressively _. _ to keep time accurately if its hands could not be put back: a clock subject more empty and trivial, more infantile and primitive, more barbarous and-j . to only one form of regulationwthat for going faster? massively irrational. ' The more automatic our organizations become, the more necessity there This is a matter that must be attacked at the source; whereas most of . . is for a system of regulation; and that system, like the clock’s, must be our present plans, including those that would impose some wholesale adjusted in terms of an external standard, independent of the mechanism. scheme of political administration upon even vaster urban areas, are the '- In the case of a clock—the revolution of the earth: in the case of human equivalent of turning the contents of Vesuvius back into the crater once it - institutions—the whole nature of man, not just that portion of it which has has erupted, or, no less unrealistically, of pretending that the lava-seared . . been fascinated by the machine and become submissive to its needs. 80 earth need only be united into larger fields to make profitable a new scheme with cities: to correct the deficiencies of our over—mechanized civilization, of cultivation. - we shall have to build up a mold-centered system of control, with a sufii- One cannot bring about the renewal of the city by replacing old struc ' cient development or morality, intelligence, and sel£~respect to be able to lures with new buildings that only confirm the obsolete pattern of city _ arrest the automatic processes—mechanical, bureaucratic, organizational—— growth and that rest solely on the equally obsolete ideological foundations at any point where human life is in danger or the human personality is of ‘mechanical progress.’ As long as the present forces remain in operation 1 threatened with loss of values and choices. the area of urban disorganization will widen; and in the act of expanding._ indefinitely, in response to the ‘thnrst of technology’ and the desire for - immediate profit, one metropolis will merge physically with its neighbor. In that merging each metropolis will lose the neighboring landscape that -' served it for education and recreation, along with its residue of urban" 9; DESTINY OF MEG ALOPOLIS individuality. Thus the very effort to escape from Megalopolis blocks all its roads. -' Nothing can happen in this new type of infra-urban society unless it can 5 In following the growth of megalopolitan culture to its conclusion we be done by a mass organization, working through a uniform apparatu reach a whole series of terminal processes, and it would be simple—minded controlled by central headquarters. Since it will no longer matter wher to believe that they have any prospect of continuingin existence indefinitely. this remote control center is, the last reason for the great city’s existenc A life that lacks any meaning, value, or purpose, except that of keeping the will vanish at the very moment that it takes the form of a boundless mechanism of breathing and ingestion going, is little better than life in an conurbation. At that point the stage will be set for Test—historic Man.’ iron lung, which is only supportable because the patient still has hope of Those who think that there are no alternatives to this urban fate, and recovery and escape. no human way out, may prove correct in their estimate of probabilities . The metropolitan regime now threatens to reach its climax in a mean» But if this is so, it will be because our contemporaries have a limited insight; ingless war, one of total extermination, whose only purpose would be to into the forces of: history, a poor understanding of the functions of the city, ' relieve the anxieties and fears produced by the citadels’ wholesale commit- and a naive tendency to overvalue the instruments of technology, considered '_ meat to weapons of annihilation and extermination. Thus absolute power apart from any relevance to human ends. At bottom they are the victim's-- has become in fact absolute nihilism. Scientific and technological over- of a quasi~scientific metaphysics incapable of interpreting organic processes._ laboratlon, unmodified by human values and aims, has committed coun— or furthering the development of human Hie. . ' tries like the United States and Russia to collective mechanisms of The very defects of the prevailing ideology of our leaders will tend to . destruction so rigid that they cannot be modified or brought under control bring about a fulfillment of their prophecies, and thus justify their dismal -.; without being completely dismantled. liven instinctual animal intelligence 556 rue MYTH on MEGALOPOLIS' DESTINY on MBGALOPOLIS 557 and that of the center of Rotterdam in 1940. In five years far vaster urban areas were totally destroyed, and large populations were extermi~ gated from London to Tokyo, from Hamburg to Hiroshima. Besides the millions of people—six million Jervs alone-—lcilied by the Germans in their suburban extermination camps, by starvation and cremation, whole cities were turned into extermination camps by the demoralized strategists of democracy. Random killing and limitless death gave their final stamp to the realities of megalopolitan expansion. Though the min was widespread, large patches of healthy tissue for- tunateiy remained. By an immense gathering together of resources, helped in many countries by the generous irdtiatives of the Marshall Plan, the enormous task of rebuilding cities and transportation systems was suc- cessfully undertaken. Sometimes this constituted a sentimental task of imitative restoration, of “Bilder aus der Vergangenheit,” as in so many towns in Germany: sometimes it produced a bold effort at old-fashioned rationalization, as in the reconstruction of Cherbourg: sometimes, as in Rotterdam or in Coventry, it became an energetic efiort to achieve a fresh form for the urban core, which would do instice in wholly con- temporary architectural terms to traditional values neglected in the nine teenth century. In two countries, Sweden and England, an even larger etlort was made to conceive a new urban pattern that would break away from the automatic concentration and the equally automatic spread of the big city. In the case of Englandis New Towns, the -feasibility of di~ recting and controlling urban growth in relatively self-contained and bal- anced communities, with a sound industrial base, was amply demonstrated. Remarkably, the wholesale rehabilitation of the cities of Europe at a higher level than they had achieved in the past, took place in less than a dozen years. That almost superhuman mobilization of energies demon— strated that urban reconstruction and renewal on a far greater scale might be accomplished, within a single generation, provided the economy was directly oriented to human needs, and that the major part of the national income was not diverted to the studious consumptive dissipations and planned destructions demanded by the expanding metropolitan economy: above all, by ceaseless preparations for collective genocide and suicide. Unfortunately, as soon as the economy recovered and returned to the pursuit of its original ends, all its irrational features likewise came back: to keep going, an ever larger part of its energies must be dissipated in pyramid-building. Nowhere have the irrationalities of the current metro— politan myth been more fully exposed than in the development of so—called ‘absolute’ weapons for limitless nuclear, bacterial, and chemical genocide. The building up of these weapons among the ‘Nuclear Powers’ has given the ‘death—wish’ the status of a fixed national policy, and made a universal extermination camp the ideal terminus of this whole civilization. remains inoperative in this system: the commitment to the machine over; throws ail the safeguards to life, including the ancient law of selfvpreserva. tion. For the sake of rapid iocomotiorl, we in the United States kill some 40,000 people outright every year and fatally mairn hundreds of thousands of others. For the sake of wielding absolute nuclear power our leaders are brazenly prepared to sacrifice from fifty to seventy~five million of their own citizens on the first day of an all-out nuclear war, and mutilate, or even possibly in the end eliminate the human race. The illusionist phrase to cover these psychotic plans is ‘national security,’ or even, more absurdly, ‘uational survival.’ _' Now, in every organism, the anabolic and the catabolic processes, the creative and the destructive, are constantly at work. life and growth depend, not on the absence of negative conditions, but on a sufllcient degree of equilibrium, and a suflicient surplus of constructive energy to '. permit continued repair, to absorb novelties, to regulate quantities, and to " establish give~and~talte relations with all the other organisms and communi- ties needed to maintain balance. The negative factors in metropolitan _- existence might have provided the conditions for a higher development if the very terms of expansion had not given them the upper hand and ' tended to make their domination permanent, in ever more destructive processes. When.,fflfhe_,§glture of Cities’ was written in the mid-nineteenjthirties, I the external forces tha?"threatenedmetropolitan"civiliiation were clearly " visible; so'much so that at this'stage of the analysis I laid them-911.1 in t fprm'pfmai‘Brief estimator Hell?” I'then'f's'ought’to‘blarify” the picture fur r by givinga resume of Patrick Geddes’sinterpretation of the urban. '- Wbycle of growth, from village (eopolis) to megaiopolis and necropolis. That cycle-has"- described the course of all the historic metropolises, including those that arose again out of their own ruins and graveyards. Even in - 1938, when the book was published, this characterization seemed to more . critic unduly pessimistic, indeed perverser exaggeratedhand I morbidly-unrealistic. Many were sure, then, that no dangers worse than '- h chronic unemployment threatened the Western World; above all they were certain that war and the total destruction of cities were both highly improbable. But today the one section of my original chapter on the metropohs '_ that could not be res-published except as an historic curiosity is precisely this ‘Brief Outline of Hell,’ just because all its anticipations were abun— ' dautly verified. Though a prediction that is fulfilled naturally no longer concerns us, I recall this fair accomplz‘, lest the reader dismiss with equal '- confidence in its unreality the present portrayal of our even more dire condition. I would remind him that, all too soon, the tensions increased _ and the war came, with the large—scale destruction of Warsaw in 1939 558 run MYTH or MBGALOPOLIS Even if the nations take timely measures to eliminate the stock of such weapons, it Will be long before the vicious moral effects of this policy ' are dissipated: adult delinquency, on the scale not merely contemplated'.. but actually prepared for in detail, requires therapeutic counter—measures that may take a full century to show any positive efiect. This is the last and worst bequest of the citadel (read ‘Pentagon’ and ‘Kremlin’) to the : culture of cities. In a few short years our civilization has reached the point that Henry _ Adams, with uncanny prescicnce, foresaw more than half a century ago. “At the present rate of progression, since 1600,” he wrote, “it will not - need another century or half a century to tip thought upside down. Law,- : in that case would disappear as theory or a priori principle and give place -_: to force. Morality would become police. Explosives would reach cosmic violence. Disintegration would overcome integration.” Every part of this prophecy has already been fulfilled; and it is useless to speculate abouth the future of cities until we have reckoned with the forces of annihilation '; and extermination that now, almost automatically, and at an even accelerating rate, are working to bring about a more general breakdown Metropolitan civilization thus embodies and carries to its conclusion" the radical contradiction we found already embedded in the life course .- of the city from the moment of its foundation: a contradiction that comes .33 out of the dual origin of the city, and the perpetual ambivalence of its ' goals. From the village, the city derives its nature as a mothering and ' Iiie~promoting environment, stable and secure, rooted in man’s reciprocal .: relations with other organisms and communities. From the village, too, _ it derives the ways and values of an ungraded democracy in which each member plays his appropriate role at each stage in the life cycle. On the other hand, the city owed its existence, and even more its en? u largement, to concentrated attempts at mastering other men and dominat— . ing, with collective force, the whole environment. Thus the city became a -_ power—trapping utility, designed by royal agents gathering the dispersed. energies of little communities into a mighty reservoir, collectively regu— I iating their accumulation and flow, and directing them into new channels ~—now favoring the smaller units by beneficently re—molding the land'- scape, but eventually hurling its energies outward in destructive assaults against other cities. Release and enslavement, freedom and compulsion, have been present from the beginning in urban culture. Out of this inner tension some of the creative expressions of urban_-_ life have come forth: yet only in scattered and occasional instances do we discover political power well distributed in small communities, as in seventeenth-century idoliand or Switzerland, or the ideals of life constantly 3 regulathag the eccentric manifestations of power. Our present civiliza— tion is a gigantic motor car moving along a one—way road at an even DESTINY on MEGALOP-OLIS 559 accelerating speed. Unfortunately as now constructed the car lacks both steering wheel and brakes, and the only form of control the driver ex— ercises consists in making the car go faster, though in his fascination with ' the machine itself and his commitment to achieving the highest speed possible, he has quite forgotten the purpose of the journey. This state of helpless submission to the economic and technological mechanisms mod~ em man has created is curiously disguised as progress, freedom, and the mastery of man over nature. As a result, every permission has become a morbid compulsion. Modern man has mastered every creature above the level of the viruses and bacteria—except himself. Never before has the ‘citadel’ exercised such atrocious power over the rest of the human race. Over the greater part of history, the village and the countryside remained a constant reservoir of fresh tile, constrained indeed by the ancestral patterns of behavior that had helped make man human, but with a sense of both human limitations and human possibili- tics. No matter what the errors and aberrations of the rulers of the city, they were still correctible. Even it whole urban populations were de- stroyed, more than nine—tenths of the human race still remained outside the circle of destruction. Today this factor of safety has gone: the metro poiitan explosion has carried both the ideological and the chemical poisons of the metropolis to every part of the earth; and the final damage may be irretrievable. These terminal possibilities did not, I repeat, first become visible with the use of nuclear weapons: they were plain to alert and able minds, like Burckhardt in the eighteen—sixties, and like Henry Adams at the be— ginning of the present century. Adams’ contemporary, Henry James, put the human situation in an image that curiously holds today: that of: the Happy Family and the Infernal Machine. “The machine so rooted as to defy removal, and the family still so indifferent, while it carries on the family business of buying and selling, of chattering and dancing, to the danger of being blown up.” The machine fairies referred to was the political machine of Philadelphia, then the classic embodiment of corruption and criminaiity; but only a toouguileless observer can fail to see that it applies to other demoralized mechanisms in our expanding metropolitan civilization. Once-local mani— festations of criminality and irrationality now threaten our whole planet, smueg disguised as sound business enterprise, technological progress, communist etficiency, or democratic statesmanship. No wonder the pop— ular existentialists, mirroring our time, equate ‘reality’ with the ‘absurd.’ A large portion of the painting and sculpture of the past generation syru- boiically anticipates the catastrophic end products of this death—oriented culture: total dismemberment and dehumanization in a lifeless, feature- less void. Some of the best of this art, iike Henry Moore’s archaic 560 rue MYTH or MEGALOPOLIS pinheaded figures, foretells a new beginning at a level so primitive that the mind has hardly yet begun to operate. Now, if the total picture were as grim as that I have painted in the present chapter, there would be no excuse for writing this book; or rather, it would be just as irrational a contribution as the many other irrationalities and futilities I have touched on. If I have duly emphasized the disintegrations of the metropolitan stage, it has been for but one rea~ son: only those who are aware of them will be capable of directing our collective energies into more constructive processes. It was not the die- hard Romans of the fifth century an, still boasting of Rome’s achieve— ments and looking forward to another thousand years of them, who under« stood what the situation required: on the contrary, it was these who rejected the Roman premises and set their lives on a new foundation who built up a new civilization that in the end surpassed Rome’s best achievements, even in engineering and government. And so today: those who work within the metropolitan myth, treat— ing its cancerous tumors as normal manifestations of growth, will continue to apply poultices, selves, advertising incarnations, public relations magic, and quack mechanical remedies until the patient dies before their own failing eyes. No small part of the urban reform and correction that has gone on these last hundred years, and not least this last generationm slum demolition, model housing, civic architectural embellishment, subur— ban extension, ‘urban renewal’~—has only continued in superficially new forms the same purposeless concentration and organic deubuilding that prompted the remedy. Yet in the midst of all this disintegration fresh nodules of growth have appeared and, even more significantly, 3. new pattern of life has begun to emerge. This pattern necessarily is based on radically different premises from those of the ancient citadel builders or those of their mod- ern counterparts, the rocket~constructors and nuclear exterminators. If we can distinguish the main outlines of this multi~dimensionaL life—oriented economy we should also be able to describe the nature and the func— tions of the emerging city and the future pattern of human settlement. Above all, we should anticipate the next act in the human drama, pro» vided mankind escapes the death-trap our blind commitment to a lop- sided, power-oriented, anti~organic technology has set for it. CULTURAL Funcrrou on THE WORLD CITY 561 10: CULTURAL FUNCTION OF THE WORLD CITY Having faced the worst we are at last in position to understand the positive function of the historic metropolis, not as the focus of a national or imperial economy, but in its far more important potential role, as world center. Blindiy moving to fulfill this essential but still-unrealized role, it has attempted to achieve by a mere massing together of forces and functions and institutions what can only be accomplished by a radical reorganization. The conscious motives that concentrated so much power in a few great centers would not be sufficient to account for their immense powers of attraction or for the part they play in the culture of our time. And the fact is that metropolitan massiveness and congestion has actually a deeper justification, though it is not fully recognized: it is a focus of those activi~ ties that, for the first time, are bringing all the tribes and nations of man- kind into a common sphere of covopcration and interplay. What Henry James said of London may be said equally of its great rivals: it “is the biggest aggregation of human life, the most complete compendium of the world. The human race is better represented there than anywhere else.” Its new mission is to hand on to the smallest urban unit the cultural re— sources that make for world unity and covoperation. Thus the very traits that have madethe metropolis always seem at once alien and hostile to the folk in the hinterland are an essential part of the big city’s function: it has brought together, within relativer narrow corn- pass, the diversity and variety of special cultures: at least in token quark titles all races and cultures can be found here, along with their languages, their customs, their costumes, their typical cuisines: here the represen~ tatives of mankind first met face to face on neutral ground. The com» plexity and the cultural inclusiveness of the metropolis embody the com- plexity and variety of the world as a whole. Unconscrously the great capitals have been preparing mankind for the wider assocrations and unitications which the modern conquest of time and space has made prob» able, if not inevitable. ‘ I Here we have, too, the essential reason for the most typical institution of the metropolis, as characteristic of its ideal life as the gymnasium was of the Hellenic city or the hospital of the medieval city—the Museum. This institution sprang out of the very necessities of its own excessrve growth. I Inevitably the museum has taken on many of the negative character- ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 10/18/2011 for the course IDS 2935 taught by Professor B.smith,v.rovine,f.lewis during the Spring '11 term at University of Florida.

Page1 / 11

Mumford Lewis The city in History - IOHS, .m m vi. 0.. (TI...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 11. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online