By Zygmunt Bauman
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What follows is that the troubles that afflict contemporary cities cannot be resolved by reforming the city itself – however radical such a reform may be. There are, let me repeat again, no local solutions to globally generated problems. The kind of ‘security’ urban developers offer is impotent to relieve, let alone eradicate, the existential insecurity replenished daily by the fluidity of labour markets, the fragility of the value ascribed to the acquired, or currently pursued, skills and competences, or the frailty and assumed transience of human bonds and partnerships.
Uncertainty of the future, the frailty of social position and existential insecurity, ubiquitous accompaniments of life in the ‘liquid modern’ world, rooted notoriously in remote places and so staying beyond individual control, tend to be focused on the nearest targets and channelled into concerns with personal safety; the kind of concerns that are condensed in turn into segregationist/exclusionist urges, inexorably leading to urban space wars. As we can learn from the perceptive study of young American architectural/urbanist critic, Steven Flusty30, servicing that war and, particularly, designing the ways to deny the adversaries – current and potential – access to the claimed space and to keep them at a safe distance from it, constitute the most visible and rapidly expanding concerns of architectural innovation and urban development in American cities.
Mixophobia, though, is not the sole combatant on the urban battlefield. City living is a notoriously ambivalent experience. It attracts and repels, but to make the plight of the city dweller more complex yet, it is the same aspects of city life that, intermittently or simultaneously, attract and repel… The confusing variety of urban environment is a source of fear (particularly for such people among us who have already ‘lost the familiar ways’, having been cast in a state of acute uncertainty by the destabilising processes of globalisation).