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  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities x
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Chapter 2 explains how the status quo maintains its grip on society through the spatial containment of social change. First, the chapter lays out three broad and interrelated concepts. Instrumental reason looks at how reason is enlisted in ever more pervasive networks of administrative discipline and control. One-dimensionality examines the slow process of quieting dissent, along with the implementation of conformity through economic and psychological means. Technological rationality goes beyond technology as an agglomeration of mere technical devices to explore the process wherein domination is rationalized. The chapter then applies these abstract concepts to concrete examples by drawing on real-world occurrences such as the geopolitics of bordering and recent US political events.

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Chapter 5 stages an encounter between Marcuse and more recent thinking framed under the broad heading of ‘post’. Geography has sometimes narrated Marxism against poststructuralism and the post-political. It is not surprising then that Marcuse’s contributions have largely been interpreted as distant and antagonistic in relation to geography’s more recent theoretical strands. Chapter 5 points to the lines of connection that could be fruitful for a revolutionary politics by arguing that Marcuse’s work is more nuanced, less totalizing, and more explicitly scalar than previously interpreted.

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How does Herbert Marcuse help us to understand contemporary geographies? In turn, what can a geographic perspective provide to Marcuse? Marcuse’s political and theoretical legacy hinges on several overlapping intellectual pursuits. Chapter 1 begins by establishing the theoretical and contextual grounding for the pairing of Herbert Marcuse with geographical concerns. Marcuse rarely wrote very explicitly about geography, thus, the chapter introduces readers to the idea of a Marcusean-inspired geography, suggesting that such an engagement provides a rich approach to space, politics, and concepts of human liberation. The chapter draws attention to the continuing relevance of his writings in these times.

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At its core, Marcusean Critical Theory emphasizes the incorporation of revolutionary politics, pushing us towards different possibilities which negate present-day power relations. Chapter 3 explores the reconstructive aspects of Marcuse’s writings through current P/politics. Using ‘Twitter politics’ (which I define as the call for social change by digital means) and the Open Borders movement as examples, I assess how and whether these instances of political action enact preconditions for liberation, which include: the uses of immanent critique; the power of negative thinking; and the politics of refusal. These three constructs enable new spaces of resistance, reflecting the quest for the production of alternative subjectivities through praxis.

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The final chapter advocates a ‘meso’ socio-spatial positionality which retains the oppositional politics so crucial to Marcuse’s own work and simultaneously diversifies the Marxist project. How, for example, can Marcuse’s adapted philosophy help us to understand the prospects of technologically driven social movements such as #metoo? In this chapter, the major tenets of the book are applied to everyday circumstances in order to evaluate the possibilities for the production of new spaces of political action.

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Critical Theory for Contemporary Times

This fresh appraisal of philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s work foregrounds the geographical aspects of one of the leading social and political theorists of the 20th century.

Margath A. Walker considers how Marcusean philosophies might challenge the way we think about space and politics and create new sensibilities. Applying them to contemporary geopolitics, digital infrastructure and issues like resistance and immigration, the book shows how social change has been stifled, and how Marcuse’s philosophies could provide the tools to overturn the status quo.

She demonstrates Marcuse’s relevance to individuals and society, and finds this important theorist of opposition can point the way to resisting oppressive forces within contemporary capitalism.

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In later years, Marcuse focused on unrealized potentialities, and the possibilities of imaginative fantasy. I expand the radical potential of Marcuse’s formulation through two concrete examples: Wikipedia and Aztlán. Chapter 4 draws on Eros and Civilization and Marcuse’s other mature works to elaborate a topological understanding of utopia. Topology, with its language of folding and openness, jolts us out of the ‘is’ into multiple planes of plenitude. The approach described in this chapter – a triadic topology – translates Marcuse’s utopia as right here, not yet, and over and has direct relevance for notions of oppositional space and prefigurative politics.

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Author: James Gregory

This chapter discusses the role of place and neighbourhood in discourses of social housing. A key theme is the assertion that concentrated social housing creates self-sustaining ‘cultures of worklessness’. This is first discussed in relation to the social scientific literature on neighbourhood effects, with the conclusion that the broader evidence base on neighbourhood effects is inconclusive. Further research on intergenerational worklessness is England is then reviewed. The evidence largely contradicts the assertion that there is persistent intergenerational worklessness. But the process of myth busting can also reinforce the politicised misrepresentation of empirical fact, giving it greater legitimacy through direct engagement. At other times problematic evidence is dismissed too quickly, on normative rather than empirical grounds. This tendency is prevalent in another social housing debate, discussed in the second half of the chapter. Discourses surrounding democratic participation in housing management are discussed, with a focus on the controversial transfer of some estates from councils to housing associations.

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Author: James Gregory

The issues raised in Chapters 1 and 2 are explored through an analysis of competing discourses of social housing and welfare dependency. The chapter starts with a theoretical discussion of the ways in which the meanings of ‘social housing’ and ‘dependency’ have been socially constructed, while articulating in greater depth the book’s key theoretical premises. A distinction is drawn between ‘social’ and social scientific facts in the context of welfare debates. Special attention is paid to the political debate around social housing and life chances in the 2000s, and in particular the role of think-tanks and the media in constructing negative narratives of worklessness. These constructions proceed by colonisation of key sociological concepts such as a culture and life chances, and by persistent misrepresentation of empirical data. They nevertheless create powerful social facts that are to be taken seriously as sociological phenomena.

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Author: James Gregory

This chapter presents the findings of two research projects conducted in the South East and South West of England. Social housing and wellbeing is discussed with reference to two notable research studies conducted in the 1980s. The concept of ontological security anchors a theoretical discussion of home and belonging, but it is argued that the concept itself has been misunderstood and misused in housing research. The survey data is based on four wellbeing items used by the Office for National Statistics. Further items on individual experiences of the home are taken from the existing housing literature. Social housing has a positive effect on anxiety, though there is an association between social renting and lower satisfaction with life in the South East. Positive experiences of neighbourhood are more important than housing tenure. The chapter closes with a renewed discussion of ontological security, property, and identity.

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