Saturday, August 03, 2013

Trust in Cities

Too much social capital is killing Detroit at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Social capital and urban economic development.

Subject Article: "Paradise lost: Britain’s new towns illustrate the value of cheap land and good infrastructure."

Other Links: 1. "China's Golden Cities."
2. "Rulers of the territory: Andy Beckett finds out how modern America was built with lengths of metal chain in Andro Linklater's Measuring America."
3. "My own private metropolis."

Postscript: A common goal for just about any community development effort is to build up social capital. Thus, churn is bad:

Surveying one of the dozen-plus estate agents clustered near Walthamstow's tube station, local Labour MP Stella Creasy views prices with incredulity: "Here's a first floor, one-bed flat, £1,000 a month. Start doing the maths. You're going to have to start earning £2,000-plus a month to have any kind of a debt-free month."

Creasy says her casework increasingly includes housing-related problems, with some families spending up to 70% of their income on rent, before bills: "I see a lot of people struggling, which is putting their kids at risk if they can't stay in the area. They can't stay at school, which makes it really unstable for them. You can see the pattern of factors."

The MP worries that the inevitable "churn" will harm Walthamstow on a fundamental level: "The mistake people make about London is that they think it's about people from different backgrounds not being able to get on. Actually, it's about people passing through. It takes time to build up relationships. When you've got pressures that push people to move on, or live in ways that mean they're just subsisting, that damages it."

Our normative evaluation of social capital is based upon xenophobia, our fear of migrants. Who belongs here? Who has a legitimate stake in the community? Amassing social capital is a problem, not a solution.

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