Homelessness and Urban Restructuring
The Americanization of the European City?
The Contradictory Geography of Socio-spatial Injustices in Global(izing) Cities.
John F. Kennedy Institute
Freire Universität Berlin
Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin, Germany
October 10-11th, 1997
Back row, from left to right: Neil Brenner, Walther Jahn, Jens Dangschat, Roland Roth, Neil Smith. Middle row: Dominik Veith, Britta Grell, Jens Sambale, Susanne Heeg, Susan Ruddick, Ruth Becker, Talmadge Wright. Front row: Ute Lehrer, Margit Mayer, Michael Dear, Jennifer Wolch.
We would like to thank Margit Mayer, Walther Jahn, Dominik Veith, Jens Sambale and the chairs of the sessions, Susanne Heeg, Ute Lehrer, Britta Grell for their assistance in organizing this conference and the J.F. Kennedy Institute of the Freire Universität Berlin for providing the facilities for the conference. In addition to the conference (program listed below), arrangements were also made to speak with local community groups active throughout Berlin. Several of us met with members of the Innen Stadt Aktion (Inner City Action Group) and members of the Anti-Racist Initiative. Operating in more than twenty cities throughout Germany, these groups are on the front line in struggles against police brutalization of homeless and immigrant peoples.
We also noted how the rapid redevelopment of central Berlin, specifically the Potsdamer Platz, is causing housing prices to skyrocket in nearby Kreuzberg, an area populated by many poor Turkish immigrants, artists, students and working class Berliners. This has produced undue hardships and a rapid gentrification of the local area. In the pursuit of a "respectable" city image Berlin police have been consistently harassing both homeless persons and immigrant sellers within the many train stations which are sprinkled around Berlin. Local community groups are organizing to stop this and they could use your support. Contact Dominik Veith (email@example.com) for more information.
Please check out the initial Conference call for a more detailed analysis of the problems of city restructuring and homelessness.
Friday, October 10, 1997
Margit Mayer (Freie Universität Berlin)(firstname.lastname@example.org): Welcome
Session Chair: Susanne Heeg (Viadrina University, Frankfurt/Oder)
Session Chair: Ute Lehrer (University of California, Los Angeles/University of Toronto)
Saturday, October 11, 1997
Session Chair: Britta Grell (Freie Universität Berlin)
Neil Brenner (University of Chicago/Amsterdam) - The Production of New State Spaces: Cities, Citizenship and the Political Geography of Neo-Liberalism. (email@example.com), Abstract, Conference Notes
Final Discussion (discussant: Talmadge Wright)
Conference Notes were taken and assembled by Professor Wright. If you wish more information please contact the authors directly.
The Americanization of the European City?
The Contradictory Geography of Socio-spatial Injustices in Global(izing) Cities.
October 10-11th, 1997
Avoiding "ghettos," avoiding housing areas with a high amount of households belonging to "minorities" is one of the most common aims of housing politics in the FRG. In my contribution to the conference I want to show how housing politics and policies in the FRG, which pretend to avoid the formation of "ghettos," in fact discriminate against marginalized people, reduce their chance of adequate housing provision, and finally lead to what is pretended to be avoided: the formation of "ghettos" as concentrations of marginalized people in disadvantaged housing areas. Furthermore, I want to point out the undemocratic, unsocial and patriarchal impacts of the "avoid-the-ghetto" housing policy.
In the rapidly growing literatures on globalization, many authors have emphasized the apparent disembedding of social relations from their local-territorial preconditions. However, such arguments neglect the relatively fixed and immobile configurations of territorial organization upon which the current round of globalization is premised, as well as the ways in which the territorial organization of capitalism has itself been transformed in and through the globalization process on multiple spatial scales. Drawing on the work of David Harvey and Henri Lefebvre this paper begins to outline a critical approach to globalization studies focused on the endemic problem of territorial organization under capitalism and its implications for the political geography of the late 20th century.
Globalization is conceived here as a dynamic, highly contradictory reterritorialization of both socio-economic and political-institutional spaces that unfolds simultaneously upon multiple, superimposed geographical scales. Processes of reterritorialization--the contested reconfiguration and re-scaling of forms of territorial organization such as cities and states--must be viewed as an intrinsic moment of the current round of globalization and its politics. Following an initial section in which the broad historical-geographical contours of these arguments are summarized, this conception of globalization as a contested process of reterritorialization is elaborated in three further steps.
First, the restructuring of contemporary urban spaces and state institutional-territorial structures is analyzed at once as a medium and an outcome of the current round of global capitalist restructuring. In particular, state re-scaling is analyzed as a neo-liberal accumulation strategy to promote and regulate urban-regional economic restructuring. Second, various dimensions of urban governance in contemporary Europe are analyzed as expressions of a "politics of scale" that is emerging at the contradictory interface between processes of urban restructuring and state territorial restructuring. Finally, I suggest that this politics of scale is being expressed in and through a reterritorialization of urban civil societies in which the territorial organization of everyday social relations becomes a direct object of socio-political contestation. A brief concluding section outlines various implications of this analysis for theories of spatial scale and its social production.
Jens Dangschat - (Universität Hamburg) - Local Political Reactions on the Surplus Population of Hamburg. As modernization of the labour market in the context of the increase of competitiveness produces increasingly marginalized jobs under the existing form of regulation, working poor, unemployment and homelessness are raising in the 'developed' western cities. Hamburg, the most heterogeneous city in Germany (by G.N.P. and private wealth on the one hand and unemployment and dependency on social assistance on the other), will be briefly discussed in its statistical figures and segregation patterns, before its recent populistic local policies are analyzed. Thus, Hamburg is a good case for supporting Neil Smith's thesis of revanchist cities.
Michael Dear (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) - Attitudes Toward Homeless People. This presentation will explore the structure of community attitudes toward homeless people, relating negative perceptions to the rise of NIMBYism and the increasing criminalization of the behavior of homeless people in U.S. cities.
The current debate on citizenship offers concepts for the reintegration of social issues into the discussion on contemporary social movements. Institutionalized and guaranteed social rights of the post-war ("Fordist") welfare state have become the main target of neoliberal mobilizations and governments in the last decade(s). The citizenship debate has its focus not so much on the mere defense of once established and now minimized social standards, but on their national, ethnic and gender-related limitations. Progressive positions in the debate concentrate on the articulation of egalitarian concepts of social citizenship that respect differences in life style, gender etc. And they are asking for a social citizenship beyond the nation state responding to the problems of migration and economic globalization. Such a differentiated concept of citizenship should integrate the moral prerequisites of universal justice, local democracy and self-determined particularistic life styles. To enforce equality and justice within a democratic concept of citizenship we need to disentangle citizenship from ascriptive 'characters' and identities (ethnicity, race, gender etc.) and to disentangle democratic citizenship from state membership.
My central question is: Do contemporary social movements and protests (discussed in the context of new social movements and poor people's movements) articulate social visions ("Existenzgeld", basic income) that can make a difference in the struggle for the shaping of a post-fordist social citizenship?
Susan Ruddick (University of Toronto) - Youth/Globalization/Marginalization: Discourses of Legitimation and Resistance. My presentation will address the relationship between "youth" "globalization" and the implications of this relationship for both contesting and legitimating new forms of marginalization. I begin by arguing that just as "woman" was modernization's "other", youth is the "other" of globalization to the extent that notions of idealized youth and childhood become a social imaginary around which new infrastructures (if unexamined and uncontested) are legitimated. While feminists and anti-racists are beginning to be successful in decolonizing discourses around gender and ethnicity, in North America this has been less true (in both conceptual and practical work) for youth. In the presentation I will examine a range of new forms of youth in North America and elsewhere that legitimate marginalization of people designated socially or legally as "youth".
Neil Smith (Rutgers University, New Jersey) - Gentrification, Homelessness and the Revanchist City. Since the late 1980s, a "revanchist city" has emerged in the US and I would like to think through some of the evidence and trends of the last two years or so, speculating a bit about the Americanization of the European City in this respect. This obviously begins from but extends the argument in The New Urban Frontier.
Please see the Conference call.
I think it might be a good idea for me to provide an overview framework for understanding homelessness in the US (looking at structural, institutional, and individual-level dynamics in particular places), and an assessment of the implications of welfare reform for homelessness, since similar measures are apt to unfold in Europe.
Talmadge Wright (Loyola University Chicago) - New City Spaces, Social Exclusions, and Cultural Representations: Connecting Theory and Practice. This presentation will explore the integration of Castoriadi's concept of the social imaginary with Lefebvre's notion of representations of space as this applies to homelessness and social exclusion. The work of Bourdieu and Giddens will be discussed as a bridge to forming a research agenda that could be used to inform community based activists working to end homelessness and social exclusion.
I would like to give an insight into Hamburg s efforts in the field of hopelessness, including private initiatives as well as local policy programs. In both areas various ideas were developed and translated into action during the past years. Some experiences will be described and investigated critically.
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The Americanization of the European City?
The Contradictory Geography of Socio-spatial Injustices in Global(izing) Cities.
John F. Kennedy Institute
Freire Universität Berlin
Lansstr. 7-9, 14195 Berlin
October 10-11th, 1997
The general perception of poverty in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) until the end-70s was influenced by the experience of the "Wirtschaftswunder", implying the assumption of at least moderate wealth for everybody and the gradual disappearance of poverty altogether. Research on the subject within Germany until recently hardly went beyond that notion. A lot of contemporary research in Germany still approaches poverty with samples and theories focusing on national scale questions and de-emphasizes the local level and the question of space. However, new forms of poverty have emerged since the mid-70s which are scattered in a socio-geographically heterogeneous manner and are above urban problems.
Between 1988 and 1993 West Berlin experienced a doubling in the figures of officially registered homeless people. This trend does not continue on the same scale, but there is still no prospect of a reversal to this trend. These trends are due to the general restructuring of the city's economic base and the fundamental reorientation of the political elites. But while the situation is exacerbated by essential decisions taken by local elites, the hegemonic discourse refers to national and global circumstances as crucial and unalterable constraints.
Unification of the former enclave of West- and the former capital of East-Berlin and the decision to make these two cities the new capital of the Federal Republic of Germany intensified the structural crisis, but should not to be viewed as its cause. Focusing exclusively on Berlin's undoubtedly specific historical and political particularities runs the risk of obfuscating the perception of similarities with other metropoles, e. g. the decline of large parts of the fordist industrial basis, the rise of a highly polarized service-economy, developments of new patterns of local governance, polarization processes within the urban society, gentrification of residential areas and the remodeling of the city's downtown in order to transform it into a zone of high-scale services and conspicuous consumption leading to the dispersion of poorer population groups and other 'undesirables' out of the central city etc.
To see these processes as an immediate effect of globalized markets fails to consider that globalization is a complex relation of articulations. Since "the global" is based on the very heterogeneity of local conditions, every city is integrated differently and unevenly into the new global order. Thus its shape depends essentially on the particular constellations of local actors and the specific circumstances they have to deal with.
Berlin - going normal?
At first Berlin seems to be completely exceptional, hardly comparable to any other city: The unified Berlin in 1990 in fact consisted of two entire cities, both with virtually no suburban growth anda high percentage of socially diverse residents in the inner city, clearly set off from the depopulated surrounding province. Traditionally and for historic reasons the housing market (we are putting the emphasis on the housing conditions, since we regard them to be one of the crucial determinants of the homelessness issue) was characterized by high levels of public housing with relatively low rents and by small numbers of owner-occupied housing stock.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall , former East-Berlin has experienced a drastic restructuring of the housing market, particularly in the inner city districts (but not restricted to them). While in 1990 more than 80 percent of Mitte's (a district in former East Berlin) housing stock was controlled by the public housing authority , a mere 15 percent at most is expected to remain under public control (Vetter 1996). Since the 1980s former West-Berlin decision-makers have sought to attract investors by deregulating the housing market and by conducting diverse marketing-campaigns. Due to measures like high levels of condo-conversion, abolition of rent-control, subsidizing luxury attic-loft-construction, ending rent restrictions in public housing etc., the stock of affordable and low-cost housing is rapidly dwindling.
Whereas there was almost zero building activity outside of the city limits immediately after and prior to unification, nowadays the region right next to Berlin's fringes (Verflechtungsraum) accounts for up to 50 percent of the overall construction-volume. To prevent the loss of the local tax base and to maintain a green belt around the city, the Senate of Housing launched a 'property offensive' aimed at suburbanites, explicitly favoring middle-class households in order to prevent them from suburbanizing outside of the city limits, by providing them with reduced land prices along the periphery and cheap credit. However, in spite of these political measures taken, the growth of the region follows the law of the market and not the ideas of the planning administration.
Massive public housing high-rises built in the 1960s and the 1970s are to be found at the eastern city fringe. Contrary to western perception, the residents there are better off (in socio-economic terms) than average Berliners - East or West. Although the housing complexes are not an option for all parts of the poor population (e.g. the percentage of migrants is quite low), the tendency to force the destitute towards the periphery is as noticeable as the trend of well situated households to move into the new adjacent neighborhoods with their single family dwelling-structure.
Deindustrialization, out-migration, inner city segregation and centralization of capital and global city functions are not mere adaptation processes, but an actively enforced effort to make the city competitive in the global economy. The reproductive needs of the residential population and the profit interests of landlords, developers and investors are increasingly in conflict (cf. Schmid). We would like to argue, the periphery becomes increasingly important as regulative space for the contradictions of globalized urbanization. If the inner city is the place to analyze the world city formation, then the periphery becomes the place of world city regulation. We would therefore suggest that Berlin be regarded not merely as a city, but as an urban region that extends beyond city limits with links to the home counties of commuters and home countries of immigrants.
Homelessness and the politics of exclusion
As mentioned above, a comparison with the North American situation might be insightful, as certain processes, which were noticed in Germany since the 1980s, have also been prevalent in North American cities for a much longer time and have since been the subject of elaborate research programs. Of course, this is not to overlook the differences, as a glance at the rather unequal traditions of the welfare state or the local state acting as planning agency with the aim to secure the constitutionally demanded equalized living conditions all over Germany may reveal. In some cases one will even notice an explicit rejection of "American" urban planning and development - as in the discourse about the "Planwerk Innenstadt", an attempt to create a huge inner-city of homogenized prime space, a concept referring to the tradition of what is said to be the "European City."
Nevertheless the modes of production and regulation of homelessness or, even more generally, the marginalization of certain parts of the population reveals various analogies. This is what we would like the conference to focus on. We are especially interested in new forms of homelessness emerging in the context of urban restructuring (cf. Wolch/Dear 1993). Recently other groups increasingly seem to be affected, not fitting the common sense notion of a homeless person: youths, women, migrants. While the youths are - at least partly - visible (and as consequence harassed) at some places, women often seek to prevent the loss of their lodging by remaining in abusive relationships. Immigrant and frequently illegalized people have to stay in over-occupied apartments, or worse dwellings. The differences in the living conditions of members of these groups are, as diverse are the factors determining their situation. Following Peter Marcuse's argument, that homelessness comprises much more than living in the streets, we have to cope with the difficulty that many of our methods or theories might not apply to a growing number of homeless people.
Although a certain diversity of social services for homeless citizens has developed in the meantime, the social state does take the heterogeneity of its clientele into account. The hegemonic notion of a 'normal' (in the Fordist sense) biography not only implies that there is a noticeable paucity of appropriate service facilities for certain groups, but, moreover, imposes a conception of white-adult-male-'normality' on them (cf. Becker) - blaming them for their homelessness and, furthermore, for their rejection of an (alleged) normality. That is to say that their ascription as 'deviant' finally leads to a reinforcement of their marginal situation.
Of course, the constraint of 'normalcy' affects homeless people in general, white males included, in a double-binded process: While they are excluded from certain resources due to their marginalized position, they are forced into a stereotyped 'homeless-normalcy', often imposing on them the precise behavior which leads to their exclusion (e. g.: forced mobility).
This points towards a basic problem not only concerning social services but also scientific or every day perceptions of homeless citizens: To define them as not conforming to societal standards runs the risk of relegating them to the fringes. A view, however, which tries to overcome this mechanism by acknowledging their situation renders their situation 'normal' and therefore to some extent supposedly acceptable. The homeless vehicle, designed by the artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and described by Neil Smith tries to deal with this dilemma: It is "more than simply a critical artwork heavy with symbolic irony, ... [but] is deliberately practical: indeed, it works as critical art only to the extent that it is simultaneously functional." (Smith 1993). Obviously it is not meant to be a solution to the problem of homelessness but nevertheless it enables homeless people to partly overcome one of their major constraints: their social dislocation and their being trapped in space.
As argued above, the periphery becomes a central space of regulating the contradictions of globalized urbanization. The recent suburbanization of Berlin clashes with attempts to marginalize homeless and poor citizens in a socio-spatial sense. Conflicts around siting of unwanted uses like homeless shelters and services for the poor and marginalized are researched in North-America (e.g. Dear/Mahs 1997, Ruddick 1996a) but are hardly acknowledged in Berlin.
As shown before, homeless people are not just poor in the sense of being deprived of major resources, but they are rather made poor, in a context of an escalating process of social, economic and civic polarization, dealing with exclusion as main category. To avoid an analysis stuck in description we have to question the ways homeless citizens come to be represented as poor or marginalized. To take definitions for granted means to reproduce homeless people's material and discursive marginalization on a scientific level. The depiction of marginalized people has differed tremendously over time. Nowadays we witness a certain shift in public representation, alluding to the 19th century-picture of the 'dangerous classes' but nonetheless decidedly up to date.
These discourses are flanking the gradual transition of the (local) state from social welfare to warfare. Berlin politicians have developed an amazing array of flexible means and a mean flexibility in order to control and exclude the undesirables from central city public space, where they are perceived as a menace to society and therefore entitled to be driven out. Privatization of public spaces, banning groups from public squares, public transportation infrastructure and train stations, deportations of homeless people and drug users are means explicitly transferred from US cases, especially cities like New York. (Indeed the former NYPD boss William Bratton was invited to Berlin and given a big cheer). But the most advanced tool used to territorialize behavioral standards is the police option to declare 'dangerous zones' throughout the city. Patrolling theses arbitrarily constructed "spaces of deviance" a single police(wo)man can repeal basic civic rights and frisk people on the spot if s/he defines the behavior of the controlled as inappropriate (based on his or her normative standards). Policing the poor, evicting the squatters and deporting homeless to the local and immigrants to the global periphery have become local modes of regulating poverty and socio-spatial polarization.
So far, we mentioned two major motives for the eviction of undesirables out of the central cities: 1) the local strategies seek to make them invisible in order to suppress a disordering factor in inner cities costly remodeled for high-scale consumption purposes, 2) policing the poor as a consequence of and as an 'alternative' to the cutback of social services that affects unequal groups disproportionally (Wolch/Sommer 1997). Even with a critical intention this perspective tends easily to reproduce the hegemonic focus on the marginalized, de-emphasizing the significance of these processes for the "majority society" (Ronneberger 1997). Homeless people are not just 'in the way' or a 'burden to the society'. Their exclusion is part of a process designed to organize consent for the local growth strategy, or, even more generally, the repression of the poor can be seen as an element and means of the attempt to establish a new citizenship regime replacing the old Fordist one (Roth 1997).
The ongoing division of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor, for instance, not only points toward people living in poverty in order to punish, to marginalize or to force them back into the wage labor system (possibly pushing towards the informal one), but aims also at the job-holding part of the population. It enhances the spread of a particular work ethic and ways to conceive of oneself in relation to others or the encompassing society in general. Thus, the analysis of the representation of marginalized people as the 'other' comprises the question of the implicit (self-)representation by the one who ascribes, conveyed by the process of 'othering' (Ruddick 1996b).
Sue Ruddick has demonstrated the crucial significance of public space for this process of identity construction. Space, in this context, operates both as structuring constraint and as "medium through which ... identities are constructed or contested" (1996b: 147 and 1996a). Such an approach avoids the wrong juxtaposition of homelessness as a result of (unalterable) structural constraints or as product of individual (mis-)behavior and it is aware of the spatial aspects. It implies that every use of public space transforms it. The attempt to keep homeless people out of the inner city seeks to prevent that transformation through 'unintended' uses of public space (sleeping, eating, loitering, panhandling, etc). Conversely, the persistence of the unwanted challenges of the hegemonic notions of public space and the identities connected to them. We do not want to overestimate the possibilities and the power of homeless people but want to highlight that their fight for space is also a fight about the representation of certain places and directly related to the construction of identities. In our discussions we would be very interested in not scandalizing but to hear more about ways to counteract marginalization and socio-spatial segregation (Wright 1997).
Becker, Ruth.1992. Hauptsache die Mischung stimmt - Wohnungsvergabe und soziale Dringlichkeit. Referat beim Hearing "Wenn die Not am größten ist - Wohnungsnot und die Vergabe von Sozialwohnungen" am 16.6.1992 in Bremen.
Becker, Ruth. 1993. Wohnungspolitik aus feministischer Sicht. In, Gefährdetenhilfe 4. S. 131-135.
Becker, Ruth. 1997. Im, Labyrinth der Wohnungspolitik. Anmerkungen zu Mieten, Belastungen, Förderungsmodellen und Subventionsformen. Ist der soziale Wohnungsbau obsolet geworden? (MS. Beitrag für einen Austellungskatalog des BDA in Hamburg, 32 Seiten).
Dear, Michael and Mahs, Jürgen von. 1997. Housing for the Homeless, By the Homeless, And of the Homeless. In, Nan Ellin, The Architecture of Fear. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.
Ronneberger, Klaus. 1997. Bronx in Deutschland. (Vortragsmanuskript für die Konferenz: Peripherie oder neue Stadt? zur Amerikanisierung der Stadtentwicklung, Bauhaus Dessau, Mai).
Roth, Roland. 1997. Die Rückkehr des Sozialen: Neue soziale Bewegungen, poor people's movements und der Kampf um soziale Bürgerrechte. In, Forschungsjournal Neue Soziale Bewegungen 2. S. 38-50.
Ruddick, Susan, 1996a. Young and Homeless in Hollywood: Mapping the Social Imaginary. London: Routledge.
Ruddick, Susan. 1996b. Constructing Difference in Public Spaces: Race, Class, and Gender as Interlocking Systems. Urban Geography 2. S. 132-151.
Schmid, Christian. 1996. Urbane Region und Territorialverhältnis - Zur Regulation des Urbanisierungsprozesses. In, Michael Bruch and Hans-Peter Krebs (eds.), Unternehmen Globus. Facetten nachfordistischer Regulation. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot. S. 224-254.
Smith, Neil. 1993. Homeless/global: Scaling Places. In, John Bird, et al. (eds.), Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change. London/New York: Routledge. S. 87-119.
Smith, Neil. 1996. The New Urban Frontier. Gentrification and the Revanchist City. London: Routledge.
Vetter, Martina. 1996. Berlin Mitte: Noch regiert nur die Hoffnung. In: Skyline 2: 32ff.
Wolch, Jennifer and Michael Dear. 1993. Malign Neglect - Homelessness in an American City. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Pubs.
Wolch, Jennifer and Heidi Sommer. 1997. Los Angeles in an Era of Welfare Reform: Implications for Poor People and Community Well-Being. Los Angeles: Intercity Consortium on Homelessness and Poverty.
Wright, Talmadge 1997. Out of Place: Homeless Mobilizations, Subcities, and Contested Landscapes. New York: State University of New York Press.
Conference Call issued September 9, 1997
Margit Mayer, Jens Sambala and Dominik Veith
Stadtenwicklung & Obdachlosigkeit in Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin
Return to Conference Home Page.
The Americanization of the European City?
The Contradictory Geography of Socio-spatial Injustices in Global(izing) Cities.
October 10-11th, 1997
The conference was opened by Professor Margit Mayer (Freie Universität Berlin) and Susanne Heeg (Viadrina University, Frankfurt/Oder) chaired the first session. Professor Mayer discussed the possibilities of closer collaboration between American and European scholars on the subject of homelessness and social exclusion in the future and welcomed the conference participants.
Dominik Veith began his talk by pointing out that the decline in poverty was related to the ideology of progress and that homelessness indicates a failure of the Welfare State ("new poverty"). Homelessness is a consequence of economic restructuring, an urban problem. Part of this problem is related to the privatization of housing stock. While much of the housing stock in central Berlin has been under public control that is being reversed as control is ceded to private interests. Economic growth is following the market and not the desires of planners as evidenced in the expansion of the city at the edges, even with a planned greenbelt. The destitute are increasingly forced to the periphery of the city as a result of the restructuring of social space and the production of new hierarchies, especially the pressure to make Berlin the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The downtown is being refashioned for increased cultural consumption to compete in a global economy.
Globalization is built on the heterogeneous nature of local circumstances (uneven development). However, does the creation of increased numbers of spatial hierarchies lead to homogenization instead, a homogenization which can decrease competition? As a result of these dynamics forced mobility of the poor creates new identities for both the homeless and the housed - "nomadic" identities are imposed.
In order to deal with the expanding population of Berlin's homelessness, Berlin looked to the New York City police force for examples of how to deal with homeless persons. Berlin's growth coalition supports these police plans in asserting the need for "behavioral standards" as constituting the realm of law enforcement. In Berlin this mandate is translated into the creation of "dangerous zones" (Gefährliche Orte), areas where police can stop and frisk people arbitrarily, if they deem it desirable, for no probable cause. Twenty such areas were discussed in the presentation. These repressive police measures are also targeted in order to gain support from the working class and encourages "othering" by working people against marginal sectors of the population- immigrants and homeless persons. The presentation also discussed the role of identity construction through space and the relationship between marginalization and social spatial segregation. People are made poor as a result of economic polarizations. While the official figure for homelessness in Berlin stands at 10,000 (in shelters), social science estimates are 30,000. Hamburg is thought to have about 60,000 homeless with 2,000 living on the streets. As another example of the refashioning of downtown areas they also mentioned the closing of public toilets and their replacement by paid private toilets to cater to tourists.
During the 1890s in Paris, the Revanchists reacted against both the monarchy and liberal reformers by their embrace of nationalism and right wing reactionary dogmas. After discussing this brief historical example Professor Smith mentioned the terror of the recent Haitian immigrant who had been sodomized by members of the New York police force while in custody. This was the logical outcome of the Mayor's attempt to "reverse the decline of public disorder" through the criminalization of homelessness. The vehicle for doing this was the creation of Police Strategy #5 (1994) which is aimed at reclaiming public space in New York and a variant of that which has now made its way to Berlin.
With the City of New York's 8.4 percent unemployment rate and increased levels of racism, visible indicators of disorder are viewed as tropes of crime - the "broken window" thesis. The reliance upon visual signs of "disorder" conflates differences in comportment. The dominant police strategy is pro-active which in the example of the terrorization of homeless individuals and immigrants borders on state terrorism. Police, for example, are now assembling data bases on individual homeless individuals, about 80-100,000 in New York alone. Physical removal and geographic dispersion is the favored method of dealing with homelessness by the police. More than 40 U.S. cities now have intentionally dispersed their homeless populations. In addition, the level of evictions is increasing in New York caused by regentrification of particular areas unencumbered by the liberal defense of homeless people. This is a new form a neo-liberal revanchism.
Reproduction of capital now means a massive globalization with cities pursuing a policy of appearing respectable. This means the discarding of their surplus populations. Coherent production is now moved to regions beyond those which have been dismantled (the cities), even as other cities become urban regional production platforms (city-state?). The creation of the ideology of revanchism is a response to this crisis of restructuring and includes both a punishment and reaction against restructuring that leads to displacement. With the accelerated decline of white male incomes, people of color are increasingly viewed as objects of "filth" in the New World Order. However, these economic changes do not make male revanchism necessary by any means. Criminalization is also not necessary. The question of what is our vision of the city? With the urban scale delinked from respectability, social movements may find the space to grow and flourish.
Professor Wolch discussed the implications of Welfare Reform in the United States on the production of homelessness. Homelessness is most often a periodic event for people, a period of residential instability. For those who are homeless life expectancy is 45 years. What the new welfare reform legislation means is the creation of a new urban policy. What has changed? The new legislation eliminated entitlements to welfare, targeted immigrants, and devolved power to the states for enforcement and implementation. AFDC has been replaced by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TNF) with a five year maximum time limit. Food stamps are eliminated for illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants were initially barred from receiving SSI until reversed this year. However, all new immigrants will not be eligible for SSI. States can enforce their own limits. California, for example, is asking for more stringent requirements than the Federal government. Welfare caseloads are linked to employment. With a growing economy case loads will decline. But, what happens when the economy shrinks, especially for those who have exhausted the time limits? In addition, welfare reform does not address childcare issues.
If the states do not put people to work they will loose federal aid. Many, if not most, states cannot meet the federal deadlines for putting a set number of people to work for a variety of reasons. But, what this does demonstrate is the place specific geography inherent in the new form of welfare "space." Many states are now worrying about being a "welfare magnet" in their race to the bottom. This puts pressure on the creation of a "just-in-time" labor force. Welfare cuts play on middle class fears of "welfare bums" by imposing hard work as a disciplinary measure.
These developments are now stimulating and expansion of state surveillance designed to track people for life. Those people who use single room occupancy units will be forced into the streets as the numbers of single-room occupancy units (SROs) decline and those remaining raise their rates. This will produce more homelessness and more overcrowding. In this context, displacement becomes a state strategy, a nomadic strategy to shift the marginalized out of sight, out of mind. The result will be an accelerated criminalization of the population. Given these changes the local state could actually become an ally in the fight against welfare reform in so far it stands to loose federal dollars and faces increased costs related to surveillance. It is necessary therefore to organize coalitions to oppose welfare reform.
Professor Roth introduced his presentation with three questions: 1) What do we know about poor people's movements?, 2) will neo-liberal policies be successful in Germany? And 3) what is at stake? Contemporary social movements of the poor need to find a common ground with their audience. There is a strong tradition in the literature of "normalizing" poor people. Assimilation or the notion that poor people want to be "just like us" has influenced research and was instrumental in establishing the field of deviancy. Protests from the margins (Marcuse) are treated as negative and marginal and thought of, even by Marxists critics as ineffective. What this ignores is the "cracks in the system" within which such movements may exert an influence far beyond their actual numbers. Poor people's movements remained buried in the literature with the rise in interest of the New Social Movements (NSMs) whose base was located in the middle class. However, radical, feminist and ecological work emerged out of the NSMs often focusing on consciousness raising strategies. Poor people are working with NSM groups and looking for new ways to develop coalitions. An example of this is the student protests against educational budget cuts a protest in which the poor find common ground, given that education is understood as a ticket out of poverty. Other examples, are homeless papers sold in Berlin which constitute a contested project (a market economy version of begging) through its offer of self-respect, visibility and social ties. Local alliances are being generated in Germany to oppose the further spread of poverty.
The biggest problem is that poor people's movements are often degraded in social movements research which is prejudiced towards well organized social movement organizations. In fact, as David Wagner points out in Checkerboard Square (Boulder, Colo.:Westview Press, 1993), material gains can emerge from psychic gains. Disruption is necessary for poor people to gain any degree of success.
Professor Roth, then explained his concept of social citizenship rights drawing upon the work of T.H. Marshall. Citizenship can be thought of as a collection of rights that work to connect social class differences. This can be used to attack those who advocate social exclusion and welfare reform by equating the attack on the welfare state with an attack on citizenship rights. The problem, however, is that citizenship rights are state-centered. What we need is a welfare society, not a welfare state. We need to move towards a transnational citizenship, The global citizen. And this calls forth an unfolding of the social in the new social movements.
Professor Dear presented material from a recently completed paper, "Seeing people differently: the sociospatial construction of disability," Environment and Planning D: Society and Space with Robert Wilson, Sharon Lord Gaber, and Lois Takahashi,, 1997, V. 15, 455-480. Professor Dear raised the issues of the criminalization and harrassment of homeless people and how the general public understands and perceives homelessness and homeless facilities, such as shelters and soup kitchens. Attempting to understand how people make distinctions between people and facilities, Professor Dear examined the literature on hierarchies of acceptance, most often related to disabilities. While homeless people were high on the list of being acceptable, homeless shelters were low on the lists of acceptability. That is homeless facilities are understood within a cluster of "negative behaviors" which Professor Dear equates with a moral panic trigger effect.
We need to put more emphasis on human agency of homeless people and figure out ways to handle those people who can't cope with homeless people - the backlash is very strong against the poor. How do the real concrete circumstances of people lead to changed attitudes and an embrace of particular ideologies which then feed into political rhetoric? We need more ethnographic research in neighborhoods to understand the attachments to particular hierarchies of acceptance.
For those defined as marginal housing displacement is a general feature of the Federal Republic of Germany's housing policy. According to Professor Becker the FRG's housing policy discriminates by forcing marginal people into ghettos through a policy of social exclusion. This was not always the case. After WW II social housing was constructed for the majority of the population not only labeled marginalized groups. Sixty to seventy-five percent of the population had rights to housing. Settlements for marginal peoples were designed for short stays, although average stays ended up extending to an average of eight years. The housing stock was not integrated although the placement of homeless shelters attempted to avoid creating ghetto areas. However, the city renewal policies of the 1970s produced a revision in this placement. The benefits for the majority came to depend upon the marginalization of whole population segments. This was further reflected during the 1980s when entitlements were not adjusted to the level of household income. The SPD did argue for revising income limits and thought that by doing so property rights could be maintained. The result was that the proportion of the population entitled to social housing now dropped to 40%. Social housing thus moved from housing for the majority to housing specifically for disadvantaged groups.
This has created divisions between the poor and the middle classes which are manifest in contemporary dispersion policies embodied in current housing law. Rhetoric used against marginal people, such as looking at them as "sick tissue" in the body politic contributes to their further marginalization. The end result of these developments has been both the increased differentiation of marginal groups (homeless families, immigrants, etc.) Combined with extreme forms of standardizations (thought of as "criminals"). This developing population of labeled victim/criminals has further combined in ways to racialize poverty. This means that different levels of racism and poverty must be dealt with if social exclusion in housing is to be deal with.
With a population of over 1.7 million Hamburg is one of the largest cities in Europe and the poorest city in Germany. Twenty percent of its population is unemployed and has the highest numbers of working poor in Germany. Sixty percent of the population who are receiving government assistance are working. The numbers of service workers has increased as has pressures to gentrify parts of Hamburg to appeal to the new professionals. In looking at the tax payment changes by area over a ten year period Professor Dangschat arrived at two themes. Theme #1 - the more successful a region is the greater the production of: 1) polarized society, 2) hierarchical spaces, and 3) segregation. Theme #2 - The welfare state in the period after Fordism, 1) cannot integrate the welfare population due to fiscal stress, 2) should not integrate them, and 3) will not integrate the poor into the larger society.
What has emerged is a politics of lifestyle in which cities have become, 1) enterprise cities, 2) inner cities are fashioned as tourist projects, 3) and out of sight, out of mind logic is working against the poor, 4) tenets are being subjected to intense levels of gentrification, and 5) to feel at home people are keeping their spatial identity. Increasingly law and order is becoming a labor issue supported by the Mayor of Hamburg. This has its manifestation in the assumption that all asylum seekers who break the law should be expelled. This, in turn, has taken on racist tinges in the "othering" of immigrants. Empirically working and middle class groups have many differences, but people search for "normalization" in society out of the fear of being shamed. This generates a drive to exclude others who are perceived as not going along with the "normal." They are understood as "out of place" (immigrants, homeless, etc.). This raises the question of what is imagined as "normal." What do various classes have to work with in their construction of the "normal?"
Officially the number of homeless living on the streets in Hamburg is registered at 1,204. However, this figure is understood as three times higher than previous estimates. Over the past five years over 33,000 people have lost their housing in a city where 58.6 percent of the workforce is unemployed. Fully one-third of the population receive welfare subsidies and 70 percent of the residents have experienced a first time loss of an apartment. City restructuring is not working for the poor or working classes in Hamburg. The spreading of alms systems or charities is accompanied by the development of private initiatives such as homeless street newspapers. Selling up to 100,000 issues a month from 500 active homeless sellers. Food distribution is also expanding with the spread of local soup kitchens. The public and private sectors link through the development of the "alms" industry, working to replace government welfare systems. This Americanization of European cities is highly problematic portending a return to the form of charity common in the Medieval period (Grottesbuden).
Neil Brenner began by making two distinct claims: 1) the transformation of state form - the contemporary form of urban restructuring is embedded state forms, from Keyensian to Neoliberal policies and 2) the denationalization of urbanization and the production of new forms of uneven development - this transformation of state functions is part of a broader process where the power of nation-states are directed to local states. Drawing upon the work of Henri Lefebvre, the state is understood as a form which territorializes capital and is both a "fixed" entity and also a mediator between factions of capital in the process of uneven development. That is the state commands regulatory power over social space to enable the reproduction of the relations of production. The national scale was crucial under the industrial system of Fordism, where cities were thought of as parts of national systems. In this context cities worked to distribute surplus spatially as well as economically. Fordism froze time into space. Uneven development was understood as a problem of modernization - lag theory. However, the current conditions of capitalism is re-territorializing space to the city level not de-territorializing as some authors contend. The hollowing out of the state or the "localization" of the state best capture this change.
This has led to the political geography of crisis management as uneven development intensifies. What occurs is a relativisation of spatial scales. Neo-liberalism is only one way of managing this crisis, however, it is not stable. What are the characteristics of this new form of uneven development? Unlike Fordism, there is an active production of geographic uneven development with intensified competition and fragmentation between regions in which cities are reduced to consumptive centers. These new state spaces are not subordinated to Nation-States but do promote a given type of city, where space as a saleable commodity connects directly with product differentiation and the development of niche marketing in lifestyles. State space is folded into capital. Inequality, unlike the period of Fordism, is viewed as necessary for competition at the same time as the push for equality is repressed. This creates a dilema with what to do with those who are not considered part of the market.
In the past those considered on the periphery or margins of society were invited in through various medical treatments, social work, etc. Now, however, the move is to cut off completely those marginalized by capital for the benefit of capital accumulation. Urban citizenship is transformed from a democratic basis to one of rule by elites with little if any public participation. This calls forth the question of the different forms of Neo-liberalism and how close they are at realizing this agenda. How is the new capitalism transforming local, regional, and national spatial sites. And how are these sites contested? How are local struggles embedded with the global struggles of capital?
Professor Wright began with a selection of quotes from five people regarding struggles over homeless squatters sleeping in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The quotes represented different positions which one can take on homelessness, positions which reveal much about the speaker's class, race and gender position. The extreme diversity of positions are indicative of public attitudes within the new hypermodern city, what Neil Smith referred to as the Revanchist City. In addition, each statement revealed a different imagined community. The question raised was what is the relationship between imagined communities and the organization of social-physical space through which one's identity is legitimated?
Adopting Warren Magnusson's understanding of the importance of local power, Professor Wright asserted that cities remain the locus of social movements and in particular, were becoming more important than the state, tactically speaking, for realizing popular struggles against the new capitalism. In order to explain this relationship a longer discussion of the relationship between the imagination and social space was discussed using the concept of "social imaginary signification" derived from Cornelius Castoriadis. The spatial concepts from Henri Lefevbre were integrated with the social imaginary to argue for new possibilities of struggles of marginal people within cities. The technical logics used by city planners, experts, social workers, and other agents of social control are predicated upon a particular imaginary which medicalizes and criminalizes those who deviate from a narrow comportment. These imaginaries are embodied within the schemes and policy apparatus of city officials and private developers leading to an intensification of those people who are no longer thought of as essential for the market. Uneven spatial development is accelerated and encouraged by conceiving more and more people as outside a narrow imagined norm of behavior and appearance.
Using Lefebvre's three part distinction: 1) spatial practices, 2) representations of space, and 3) representational spaces, Professor Wright demonstrated how the dominant social imaginary operates through distinct representations of space to create a city in which homeless and other marginalized people have few options for movement and yet, how through the creation of alternative representational spaces, areas may be opened up for re-imagining their integration into society. It is this latter form of social-physical space which spells hope in contemporary urban struggles. Professor Wright then contrasted and compared the concepts of Castoriadis and Lefevbvre with those of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens, drawing from Bourdieu's concept of habitus and Gidden's concept of routinization to look at the empirical way in which social imaginaries are realized in everyday life, and are also resisted.
We often fail to see homeless persons because of a dialectic of marginalization and integration. Homeless persons remain invisible to the general public which hides behind fear and repulsion connected to marginalization and a perceived threat or behind the medicalization of the problem with re-integration as its goals. The question is how are homeless people part of the social life of the city? What is the relationship between homeless youth and globalization? Homeless youth narratives have remained invisible in North America. In a general sense the development of new social movements and the actions of racist and sexist rhetoric can be considered as a "reaction formation" to the effects of Fordism. This applies to youth narratives as well. As long as the concept of youth remains colonized we can continue to dominate the conversation.
Three phenomena are now occurring with the development of post-Fordist societies: 1) the erosion of that temporal period called "youth." Increasingly, youth are subjected to adult criminal convictions. Forty-seven percent of these youth convictions are Black. The willingness to try youths on adult felony charges is spreading rapidly. 2) The transition to adulthood remains prolonged with economic exploitation considered natural. As a society we think it is natural for students and other youth to live marginal lives. 3) The proliferation of self-help books assists in locating contemporary youth struggles in some imaginary past, the mythical childhood of old. Such concepts serve to rationalize adult rights to play leading to the development of specialized entertainment centers and such events as "extreme sports." Children as commodities now exists side by side with children as "threats." Children and youth, homeless or otherwise, effectively become vehicles for the spread of moral panics, viewed in campaigns for street-proofing kids, fear of strangers, and obsessions with the spread of what adults perceive as morally problematic material. An interesting question to explore is the linkage between Not-In-My-Backyard sentiments and the safety of children and home?
Dr. Talmadge Wright
Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
6525 N. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60626
December 8, 1997
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