Rene — Trashing the Neoliberal City

Topic(s): Neoliberalism | Comments Off on Rene — Trashing the Neoliberal City

Some friends in Chicago put this together about their activities in the last
years. Thought it would be useful. It documents Autonomous Cultural
Practices in Chicago From 2000-2005.
As the territorial boundaries of the international ‘own- ership society’
expand, we witness our last public square being wired for surveillance and
renamed af- ter a corporation. With this sweeping expansion, we (the
editors) feel an urgent need to reclaim, rebuild, and redefine public space
as not only an essential component of democratic participation, but also as
an open field for play, hope, and critical reinvention. Towards the ends of
that reinvention, this publication will take a look at a unique period of
cul- tural activism that took place in Chicago from 2000 to 2005. At that
time a wide range of activists, artists and hybrid coalitions responded to
the spatial shifts in power created by neoliberal economic restructur- ing.
Using a diverse range of methodologies, as you will see, these groups and
projects address some of the most fundemental and urgent challenges of
contemporary urban life. The term ‘neoliberalism’ refers to the histori- cal
transformation and recent extension of capitalist market domination into
every corner of the globe and into every moment of our waking lives. Its
dominating logic of free-market fundamentalism corrodes social solidarity as
it rejects social justice in favor of indi- vidual ‘freedom’ to compete and
consume. Neoliberal policies of corporate governmen- tality, structural
adjustment, privatization, financial- ization, and deregulation of labor and
markets have amounted to a complete dismantling of the Keynes- ian welfare
state (public spending to stimulate the economy) as well as an erosion of
the democratic protections and political gains fought for by hundreds of
years of peoples’ struggle. The practical effects of this global policy of
accumulation through disposses- sion have been the rapid, and geographically
uneven distribution of poverty and structural inequality. In the US, the
dissolution of most aspects of the social state (such as public education
and public housing) are concomitant with the development of a massive market
for, and public financing of, the prison and military. In Chicago this has
meant the imposition of new surveillance and policing infrastruc- tures in
increasingly disenfranchised and abandoned low-income neighborhoods at the
edges of the city, while the majority of transportation renovations, new libraries, parks and capital investments have been centralized in the ever-expanding core of downtown gentrification.
While the increasingly speculative nature of real
estate has made the pattern of gentrification a dominant one in every city,
Chicago has experienced particularly violent waves of residential
regeneration. Public spaces and social institutions for the provision of
common needs such as food, shelter, and educa- tion have been thrown into
the private market, forcing Chicago’s residents to become
citizen-entrepreneurs; competing with each other for extremely scarce em-
ployment opportunities and public resources. The projects in this
publication raise funda- mental questions about our right to the city and
the possible uses of culture in the struggle for community
self-determination: How should we interact with our neighbors? What kinds
of reforms do we want from the state and what kinds of collective
infrastructures should we be building ourselves instead? What kinds of
spaces encourage resistance, free move- ment, and the well being of the
whole population? What would it take to denormalize capitalism in the
‘global’ city of Chicago? Much of the work presented here reflects temporary
organizations and events. In cases where it was possible, the projects and
groups are described by their participants or initiators and are accompain-
ied by press releases and promotional ephemera that were used at the time of
the project’s initiation. The first section of this publication, “Right to
the City”, looks at contestations of the planning of housing and land use in
the city. Projects that respond to the gentrification of various
neighborhoods will be shared alongside campaigns that critique
tourist-centric economic development plans, and the corresponding
privatization of public housing and public space. In the other sections
“Protest Experiments” and “Social Reorganization” we will look at self-orga-
nized attempts to create alternative public spheres through the reinvention
of protest and the creation of other spaces for democratic convergence. The
pre- sentation of independent media projects alongside space reclamations
and interventions offer examples of exciting ways of democratically sharing
ideas and writing alternative histories while resisting the consol- idation
of media, communication, and social life under the control of fewer and
fewer corporations. These alternative models of resource sharing and
coopera- tion counter the hyperindividualism and competition that has taken
hold of our minds, and instead build coalitions and creative communities of
resistance that are building the capacity for a radical and imaginative new