Sunday, February 25, 2007
PC & NU
OVER on the Urbanists internet list, there's been a long discussion about the Harvard faculty censuring (former) Harvard President Larry Summers, who was later forced to resign. This led to a discussion on political correctness, and what role it plays in the Academy.
Marxism is dead everywhere but in academia and a few Central American countries, but in the Academy some of the attitudes live on as trickle-down behaviors among misanthropic, politically correct professors who are quick to call those they think are to the right of them classist, sexist, elitist, racist or even Fordist — regardless of what the truth is.
New Urbanism is a progressive architecture movements that promotes the social goals "avant garde" and experimental architecture have abandoned, but following the success of the New Urban Mississippi charrette, the Deans and Directors of three architecture schools — Tulane, Louisiana State, and SciArc — tried to paint the New Urbanists as paleo-cons:
Here were the poor New Urbanists staying up all hours of the night, gulping all the coffee and Red Bull they could take, and planning an entire region in seven days. And what did they get in response? They got a kick in the keister from Eric Owen Moss, director of SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture). He told the Post's Linda Hales that the New Urbanists' traditional town planning "would appeal to a kind of anachronistic Mississippi that yearns for the good old days of the Old South as slow and balanced and pleasing and breezy, and each person knew his or her role." Moss didn't say that Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk wanted to bring back the Jim Crow laws, but he might as well have. (Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune)
Plain and simple, this is a power move. The New Urbanists are succeeding in Mississippi and Louisiana? Better call them classist and racist. Let the victims of Katrina eat cake, until they embrace Starchitecture.
Universities are supposed to be places of open-minded discovery and debate, but many of the dominant voices in architecture schools are ideologues saying whatever it takes to maintain control of the schools. Why don't their more reasonable colleagues speak out?
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Marxism isn't dead. Marxism is an attitude towards civilization: hating it. It only reinvented itself into a cultural movement after the collapse of the materialist Marxism.
See The New Totalitarianism (http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/preston1.html) and Culture Wars (http://www.tomvalentine.com/html/culture_wars.html)
New Urbanism is trying to improve civilization, therefore Marxists hate it. They want civilization to come down and people to suffer.
Posted by: Stranger at Feb 26, 2007 11:57:47 AM
Posted by: john at Feb 26, 2007 12:03:16 PM
I agree that it is power move, but it is also more than a power move. Among progressive architects - including many otherwise rational, unpretentious individuals you might meet at a dinner party - there is a deep-seated, intense loathing of any resembling traditional architecture. As far as I can tell, this reflects an emotional investment in the modernist revolution of the early 20th century. For many of them, modernism remains a repository of their youthful idealism, and moving on from it, or concluding that it was a mistake, amounts almost to an emotional suicide.
Maybe that's a bit overwrought, but I think there's something to it. And frankly, I feel a bit of it myself.
Posted by: Intellectual Pariah at Feb 26, 2007 7:01:05 PM
What "progressive" architects are you talking about — and what work have they done that's progressive?
Posted by: john at Feb 26, 2007 9:56:26 PM
How does one get on the Urbanist mailing list?
Posted by: Paleobiology at Feb 28, 2007 11:23:11 AM
I cannot resist posting an extract from my book "Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction" (Umbau-Verlag, Solingen, 2nd Edition, 2007):
"In general, an institution will not resort to manipulations and deceits in order to further itself. Those that do are parasitic on society. Here I have raised the possibility that contemporary architecture is lying about its aims, and disguising them by claiming a separate reality. Institutions do use power plays and make deals as a matter of course, so those are not distinguishing features; yet what clinches the argument in my mind is the hostility of the architectural avant-garde to all other forms of architectural expression.
Here, we sense an absolute, moral conviction of right. Architects talk as if there is no possibility of being wrong, so the intensity of their attack makes it more of a religious (i. e. cult) phenomenon. This type of institution rests on irrational dogma and a strong emotional appeal. In the absence of verifiable precepts, the dogma is supported only by the fervor with which followers embrace it. It is a self-feeding cycle leading to fanaticism."
Best wishes to all,
Posted by: Nikos Salingaros at Mar 1, 2007 1:23:45 PM
Just curious: on what basis was NewUrb called "racist"? That's a new one on me.
Posted by: MIchael Blowhard at Mar 1, 2007 7:45:18 PM
Well, first, "experimental architects" ignore that it's the Congress for the New URBANISM, and always talk about architectural style. Then, Classicism is racist, traditional southern architecture is racist, Katrina Cottages are the size of slave cabins, and therefore racist.
Take your pick.
But second, it's a power thing. Throw everything you can think of against the wall and see what sticks.
Posted by: john at Mar 1, 2007 7:53:45 PM