Wednesday, 10 December 2008

One step forward, two steps back

Isn't it always the way; you take one step forward only to be forced to take two steps back. Only I fear, this time, I may be forced to take more than two steps back. Only yeterday I was reporting the about apparent conversion of Professor Michael Parkinson who seems to have repented of property led regeneration. Alas, Professor Parkinson's wisdom does not seem to have reached into the minds of all members of the urban elite that govern Liverpool. Today I received an email which informed me that a member of this urban elite told "one of the (reliable) people I was talking to at this conference that her aspiration was to "clear all the terraced housing from Liverpool". I would, of course, like to name and shame the author of this opinion. How can someone in such a powerful position say something so stupid? But it is the sheer stupidity of what this person said that would - if I identified them - probably lead them to threaten me with legal action. (This is what these people do when someone dares to challenge them). And why? Because they would probably want to dissociate themselves with such an unspeakably stupid opinion. That won't stop them pursuing their grand project, of course. Far from it. The idea that urban elites in this city can return Liverpool to some ideal 'year zero' without working class terrace housing prevails despite the 'credit crunch' that has wreacked havoc with Mr Nevin's idea that housing should be an 'aspirational good' and thus an aspect of our portfolio of consumption. Who is seriously thinking in these terms now, when most people are simply concerned to keep their home? Perhaps that is what we should have always been thinking about - homes and not 'investments'. But the urban elites that govern this city seem incapable of learning the lesson of the credit crunch - that endemic feature of capitalism that bites us every now and again (bust, boom, bust) but which we are encouraged to forget about as quickly as possible when the crisis has passed us by. So, in spite of the credit crunch, these urban elites are persisting in their attempts to eradicate working class housing from the urban landscape in order to replace it with 'high value' housing that represents an 'investment' or part of our portfolio of consumption that will 'speak' about who we are. Here is a extract from a paper that my colleague and Lee and I will be publishing soon which explains one of the reasons why;

"Pre-1919 terraced housing, it would seem, presents the wrong image: it is too industrial, too working-class. It symbolises a by-gone era of hard lives and hard, manual labour that sits uncomfortably with contemporary self-indulgent, leisured lifestyles. It represents backwardness not progress. As Short observes 'to be seen as industrial is to be associated with the old, the polluted, the out of date. A persistent strand of urban (re)presentations has been the reconstruction of the image of the industrial city' (1999:45). For Short, urban restructuring in the US has therefore been preoccupied with working towards a position where cities can announce, “Look, no more factories! (op cit.: 45). The equivalent ambition for housing ... might be, ‘look, no more terraced houses!’"

And that is why we should never dismiss the ignorant and stupid mutterings of urban elites (about eradicating all terrace housing from Liverpool) as too 'way out' to be credible. They mean it. And there is nothing more dangerous than stupid people with power and a penchant for class hatred. More on urban elites tomorrow when the subject will be FRUMPS. FRUMPS are Formerly Radical Upwardly Mobile Professors that once spouted Marxist views but whom have since made an about face and embraced the market. Some conversion you might say and, yes, you are right. The question is why?

1 comment:

GP said...

Good blog but dont OVERestimate Liverpool now

Things that you are incredulous about are an everyday reality here!