Trashing the Neoliberal City

Trashing The Neoliberal City:
Autonomous Cultural Responses to the Neoliberalization of Chicago, 2000-2005

Edited by Daniel Tucker and Emily Forman, Learning Site, 2006:

With contributions by Ava Bromberg, Rachel Caidor, Emily Forman, Dara Greenwald, Nicolas Lampert, Pauline Lipman, Josh MacPhee, Micah Maidenberg, Laurie Palmer, the Pink Bloque, Laurie Jo Reynolds, and Daniel Tucker. Design by Dakota Brown and Daniel Tucker

A booklet published in Winter 2006 by the Learning Group in Denmark

Available for Download here

From the Introductory Essay (co-authored with Emily Forman):

As the territorial boundaries of the international ‘ownership society’ expand, we witness our last public square being wired for surveillance and renamed after a corporation. With this sweeping expansion, we feel an urgent need to reclaim, rebuild, and redefine public space as not only an essential component of democratic participation, but also as an open field for play, hope, and critical reinvention.
Towards the ends of that reinvention, this publication will take a look at a unique period of cultural activism that took place in Chicago from 2000 to 2005, in which activists, artists and hybrid coalitions responded to the spatial shifts in power created by neoliberal economic restructuring with strategic experiments in public space reclamation, tactical intervention, and the creation of counter public-spheres.
The term ‘neoliberalism’ refers to the historical transformation and recent extension of capitalist market domination into every corner of the globe and into every moment of our waking life. Its dominating logic of free-market fundamentalism corrodes social solidarity as it sells out social justice in favor of individual ‘freedom’ to compete and consume.
Neoliberal policies of corporate governmentality, structural adjustment, privatization, financialization, and deregulation of labor and markets have amounted to a complete dismantling of the Keynesian welfare state as well as an erosion of the democratic protections and political gains fought for by hundreds of years of peoples’ struggle. The practical effects of this global policy of accumulation through dispossession have been the rapid, and geographically uneven distribution of poverty and structural inequality.
In the US, and in Chicago in particular, the complete dissolution of most aspects of the social state (such as public education and public housing) are concomitant with the development of a massive market for, and public financing of the prison and military. In Chicago this has meant the imposition of new surveillance and policing infrastructures in increasingly disenfranchised and abandoned low-income neighborhoods at the edges of the city, while the majority of transportation renovations, new libraries, parks and capital investments have been centralized in the ever-expanding core of downtown gentrification.
While the increasingly speculative nature of real-estate has made the pattern of gentrification a dominant one in every city, Chicago has experienced particularly violent waves of residential regeneration. Public spaces and social institutions for the provision of common needs such as food, shelter, and education have been thrown into the private market, forcing Chicago’s residents to become citizen-entrepreneurs; competing with each other for extremely scarce employment opportunities and public resources.
The projects in this publication raise fundamental questions about our right to the city and the possible uses of culture in the struggle for community self-determination: How should we interact with our neighbors, for example? What kinds of reforms do we want from the state and what kinds of collective infrastructures should we be building ourselves instead? What kinds of spaces encourage resistance, free movement, and the well being of the whole population? What would it take to denormalize and defeat capitalism in the ‘global’ city of Chicago?
The first section of this publication, “Right to the City”, looks at direct responses to the contested planning of housing and land use in the city. Projects that respond to the gentrification of various neighborhoods will be shared alongside campaigns that critique tourist-centric economic development plans, and the corresponding privatization of public housing and public space.
In the other sections “Spacemaking” and “Social Reorganization” we will look at signs of a hopeful examples comprised of self-organized attempts to create alternative public spheres through the reinvention of protest and the creation of other spaces for democratic convergence. The presentation of independent media projects along side space reclamations and interventions offer examples of exciting ways of democratically sharing ideas and writing alternative histories while resisting the consolidation of media, communication, and social life under the direction of fewer and fewer corporations. These alternative models of resource sharing and cooperation counter the hyperindividualism and competition that has taken hold of our minds, and instead builds coalitions and creative communities of resistance that are building the capacity for a radical and imaginative new course.

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