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June 24, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Douglas Rushkoff was mugged on Christmas Eve. After posting about the incident on a neighborhood message board, the response was not concern about crime or his safety but about the negative effect this might have on property values. Rushkoff writes in a new book (and discusses on BloggingHeads) the corporatization of our culture and the need to deal in currencies which are local and carry innate value. Previously.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (72 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I agree with his thesis completely, and I find this interesting.

Of course, I also don't find it surprising that he got that response; the sad fact is, no matter what you're talking about, on the internet, nobody gives a fuck.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


And these were among the wealthiest people in New York, who shouldn’t have to be worrying about such things. What had happened to make them behave this way?

Wealthy people do not usually get that way by being nice.
posted by permafrost at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Amazingly, the very first two emails I received were from people
angrythat I had posted the name of the street on which the crime had
occurred. Didn’t I realize that this publicity could adversely affect all
of our property values? The “sellers’ market” was already difficult
enough!

...

The detectives who took my report drove the point home. One of
them drew a circle on a map of Brooklyn. “Inside this circle is where
the rich white people from Manhattan are moving. That’s the target
area. Hunting ground. Think about it from your mugger’s point of
view: quiet, tree-lined streets of row houses, each worth a million or
two, and inhabited by the rich people who displaced your family. Now,
you live in or around the projects just outside the circle. Where would
you go to mug someone?”


Perhaps there's a sweet spot where your property value is lowered, but so are your odds of being mugged.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2009


Yes, what bizarre, twisted experience could possibly have transformed ordinary ultrawealthy New Yorkers into people who cared more about property values than human welfare? It certainly is a mystery my yes this calls for a book deal.
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


Ruskoff is bad enough, imagine what his neighbors are like!
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The detectives who took my report drove the point home. One of
them drew a circle on a map of Brooklyn. “Inside this circle is where
the rich white people from Manhattan are moving. That’s the target
area. Hunting ground. Think about it from your mugger’s point of
view: quiet, tree-lined streets of row houses, each worth a million or
two, and inhabited by the rich people who displaced your family. Now,
you live in or around the projects just outside the circle. Where would
you go to mug someone?


This is sort of like living in Hyde Park/Kenwood on the south side of Chicago. Of course there no-one would be bothered if you complained about being mugged, because it pretty much happens to everyone.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:19 AM on June 24, 2009


Did people care more about the market value of their neighborhood than what was actually taking place within it?

They're trying to leave they neighborhood. The sooner they move, the fewer days they have to worry about being mugged.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2009


Good thing the mugger didn't recognize him, otherwise, I bet dollars to donuts the mugger would have shot him dead on the spot.
posted by dbiedny at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a love-hate relationship with Rushkoff, but this is a great article.

Metafilter: on the internet, nobody gives a fuck.
or
Metafilter: Epcot-style detente.
posted by incessant at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2009


It's well-written, and his observations about life in gentrifying Brooklyn are by and large accurate. (White people who move to Brooklyn, including, for the first year or so, myself, love to romanticize the way they're now living in a "multicultural" community or participating in brown people's lives. All bullshit, of course.) As a white person living in a gentrifying community two blocks away from the projects, I've had the same feelings myself.

Ultimately, though, his point is trite and stale. (See Charles Fourier in the early nineteenth century, for instance.) The menacing bogeyman of "corporatism" is a swollen abstraction that conflates profoundly different issues. Human beings make calculations of economic advantage all the time, and historically speaking even the most deeply personal parts of life have been subject to these calculations. Explicitly and openly calculating marriage for money used to be a lot more prevalent than it is now; in early modern England, the buying and selling of wardships over wealthy orphans was a standard practice. There's no reason to think people are any more "corporate" today than they were three hundred years ago. Now, it is certainly true that the aggregate power of corporate bodies is bigger today than it was then, but that is an entirely separate problem which is not soluble by handwringing appeals to authentic community. For one thing, it's far from clear that making already poor people pay more for medicine bought at idealized little mom-and-pop pharmacies is a good way to achieve social justice; for another, I see no reason to think a small-scale local HMO would necessarily be any nicer in paying off claims.

The reference to fascism at the end is as predictable as it is profoundly unhelpful. There's a common Internet argument that goes like this:

1) Mussolini said "Fascism is the merger of state and corporate power!"
2) Nazis were fascists!
3) Corporate America is the merger of state and corporate power!
4) Corporate America is just like Nazi Germany, man!

First of all, "corporate," for fascists, doesn't just mean large companies. It includes labor unions, political parties--basically all non-state organizations with some measure of authority. Second, Mussolini's Italy was a remarkably poor example of a fascist state. The Catholics and the Communists often had more influence on day-to-day life than the Party did; even the censorship was highly imperfect. Either way, fascist "corporatism" has absolutely nothing to do with the kinds of economic calculations Rushkoff is talking about. In fact, the official rhetoric incessantly called on people to abandon petty money-grubbing and embrace the ideal of the Empire or whatever.

Anyway. These kinds of pieces are often very popular, because people always feel menaced by corporations and look back nostalgically on more authentic community life. But that's an emotional response which is neither interesting nor helpful.
posted by nasreddin at 11:29 AM on June 24, 2009 [36 favorites]


Gripes about property values is nothing. I used to post on a board for my own neighborhood (Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Brooklyn), but every time someone listed any kind of crime warning or made a post that in any way alluded to crime patterns, it touched off a firestorm of rants from other posters, usually involving everything from property values to the evils of gentrification to racial/class prejudices to users' past posting history to community youth involvement to parenting practices to politics.

Then again, every discussion managed to set off those rants. There's a reason I say I used to post there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on June 24, 2009


nasreddin, how did you get so smart at 22? Excellent analysis; kudos.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:49 AM on June 24, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: Perhaps there's a sweet spot where your property value is lowered, but so are your odds of being mugged.

Not driving other people out of their own neighborhoods and then selling what were their homes for a profit is a good place to start.

Gentrification sucks.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2009


Did you really have to post this? I mean, metafilter is having a tough enough time keeping rent, and looking good on a global blog market, but this may tarnish the image we have worked so hard to keep. Please remove this post, FOR THE GOOD OF METAFILTER.
posted by joelf at 11:58 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I stopped reading after this paragraph:

In a similar balancing act, a self- described “holistic” parent in Man-
hattan spares her son the risks she associates with vaccinations for
childhood diseases. “We still don’t know what’s in them,” she says,
“and if everyone else is vaccinated he won’t catch these things, any-
way.” She understands that the vaccines required for incoming school
pupils are really meant to quell epidemics; they are more for the
health of the “herd” than for any individual child. She also believes
that mandatory vaccinations are more a result of pharmaceutical in-
dustry lobbying than any comprehensive medical studies. In order to
meet the “philosophical exemption” requirements demanded by the
state, she managed to extract a letter from her rabbi. Meanwhile, in an
unacknowledged quid pro quo, she installed a phone line in the rabbi’s
name in the basement of her town house; he uses the bill to falsify res-
idence records and send his sons to the well- rated public elementary
school in her high- rent district instead of the 90 percent minority
school in his own. At least he can say he’s kept them in “the public
system.”


Rushkoff's "Corporatism" is so nebulously defined as to be meaningless.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:02 PM on June 24, 2009


nasreddin: "The reference to fascism at the end is as predictable as it is profoundly unhelpful. There's a common Internet argument that goes like this:

1) Mussolini said "Fascism is the merger of state and corporate power!"
2) Nazis were fascists!
3) Corporate America is the merger of state and corporate power!
4) Corporate America is just like Nazi Germany, man!

First of all, "corporate," for fascists, doesn't just mean large companies. It includes labor unions, political parties--basically all non-state organizations with some measure of authority.
"

QFT! Thank you! I always say this, everytime I hear people say 1-3 (No-one I know actually says 4, that's a strawman) Point being, though: Using the term corporate in the fascist sense IS very different from the modern American and I wish people would stop using it, because it tends to discredit their arguments.

That said, when politicians start pushing "mandatory volunteerism" they do veer closer to this sort of fascism, due to the fact that a lot of community organizations would benefit from the state pushing it: KC, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc... Fraternal orgs that could be considered social corporations in the fascist sense. I'm still not claiming that it would BE fascism, but when people push such things, it rings more towards the type of corporatism of the fascists than the way leftists use the term.
posted by symbioid at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2009


I agree, in large part, with his thesis regarding the corporatization of daily life, and how the ideology of corporatism has been integrated into, well, everything. It's pervasive and totalizing, and I've complained about it before.

That said, unfortunately, I don't see a lot of responses that will be effective—part of the lure of corporatism is that it's valued on efficiency and profit, with weighting towards the short-term. That means that in order to oppose it, you have to elevate the power of long-term institutions, which takes a commitment to diminishing current utility (sunk costs), a shared cultural conception of collective values, and a powerful enforcement mechanism.

For most of human history, the countervailing force was organized religion. But not only does that have obvious limitations, from socially maladaptive precepts to a lack of true unifying appeal, organized religion has failed to stop the three dominant totalitarian movements of the last century—Fascism, State Communism, Liberal Corporatism. In the first two, the church was functionally obliterated, in the last, nearly entirely co-opted.

Rousseau argued that a civil religion was necessary for any state, but that the civil religion must be moral dicta rather than theology (for a variety of reasons, mostly concerning Christian afterlifes). Everyone must affirm these dicta or be banished; they must not violate them lest they be killed.

But as Modernism was a return to Enlightenment, so our post-modernism naturally opposes the idea of universal moral statements from our government—even those who would agree in theory to promulgations of morality from the state or the executive must recognize the practical difficulties of interpretation.

I suppose that's a long way of saying that while I think that local morality, such as I feel Rushkoff is obliquely arguing for, is a good in and of itself, I think that it suffers from the same idealization of humanity that the totalizing systems he opposes do, in that corporatism and fascism and communism would all be fine if everyone would work in the mutual interest voluntarily, but there's a fuckton of evidence that clearly proves they won't. Even, in the same section I alluded to above, Rousseau notes that—he says that Christian Republics can never work because all it takes is one evil actor to subvert them.
posted by klangklangston at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


No-one I know actually says 4, that's a strawman

Well, not explicitly, but that's clearly the point. Why else would this argument even be made?
posted by nasreddin at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2009


Someone was hit by a car and killed down the road from my condo. Someone posted as much to our message board. The first two messages were both complaints about the post. Seriously. (And then all three posts were deleted.)
posted by chunking express at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2009


"For one thing, it's far from clear that making already poor people pay more for medicine bought at idealized little mom-and-pop pharmacies is a good way to achieve social justice; for another, I see no reason to think a small-scale local HMO would necessarily be any nicer in paying off claims."

Yes, but his point there is that the profit motive is pervasive and corrupting.

I don't think that's a particularly novel argument—you could start digging up religious manuscripts on usury that say roughly the same thing. But that doesn't make it untrue, nor does it mean that it won't be novel to some people.

Further, while "corporation" meant something different to Mussolini, it's not like there's no relation between Italian Fascism/Corporatism and the current collaboration between state and business in the West, and liberal capitalism is definitely a totalizing ideology in the way remodels other institutions into itself and warps "the good" into tautologies. One could argue that one of the central tenets of Arendt's view of totalitarianism—that of the elimination of space for individuality between citizens, and between citizens and state, is unfulfilled (or even inverted), but I don't know if that's simply a mechanical difference, in that if every citizen absorbs the ideology and commits to it, it seems just as totalizing in effect. (I realize that this seems to contradict my earlier point about lack of common institutions, but I think that the success of Liberal Capitalism comes through both its simplicity and effectiveness at a lower level than other, more complex totalitarianisms).
posted by klangklangston at 12:20 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wealthy people do not usually get that way by being nice.

usually? what do you know about how people usually get wealthy? "wealthy" to me is indicative of being extraordinary, above the usual. I doubt you have any actual idea beyond a limited number of examples that solidify your already formed (and not exactly novel) opinion. you probably never challenged yourself to really find out whether your hunch was true, yet you spout this poppycock about them because it made you feel better about yourself.

there are all kinds of people in this world. saying wealthy people are bad is on a level with saying white people are racists.
posted by krautland at 12:20 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gentrification sucks.

Well, except for the people who liked making a bunch of money off a house they bought cheaply... (sure, some people might have rather kept the house but couldn't afford, say, the property taxes [Not Applicable in California], but I find it hard to believe no one appreciated the rise in house prices).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2009


See, they could be giving away lofts for free and I would never live in Park Slope, because there's just way too much of that solipsistic smug materialism in that neighborhood's culture. (Note to all MeFites who are Park Slopers: I don't mean you, I mean all the other douchenozzes blathering self-importantly over hanger steak at Rose Water and whining about whether the coffee at the co-op comes from a sufficiently enlightened workers' collective.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2009


This is familiar. Our neighborhood was recently named one of the 10 most dangerous in America. "The effect on property values/gentrification" was one of the themes of the ensuing discussion, as was "the need to be involved in the community".
posted by john m at 12:35 PM on June 24, 2009


nasreddin, your argument pokes the necessary holes in rushkoff's elaboration of corporatism, and its mythologizing of the authentic Real against the menace of concentration of wealth, etc. but there IS something to be said for arguing not that people lived, once, in some economic shangri-la where personal gain wasn't in calculation, but rather that the complex cultural codes that prevailed prevented most people from getting on top.

that is, the seeming hand-of-god that allows, for instance, forest city ratner to be bailed out by the same MTA that will then in turn sell him atlantic yards for a meager portion of the original price is a phenomenon that, according to the anthropology i'm familiar with (say, bourdieu, graeber, etc), was simply not possible in preneoliberal capitalist moments.

again, this is not to say that the idea of exchange, gain and wealth are disembedded in our cultural histories and todays corporatism embodies them. what should grab our attention is that these networks of exchange and value are so foregrounded, so abstracted from the bodies that produce them, that they become harness-able in their abstract configurations.

if we accept this, we can accept rushkoff and all the other writers about corporatism as another way of telling a story (your own speculative histories, right?) about the abstraction thats going on now. if the poststructuralist amatuer creates the authentic against which to define the contours of this corporatism, i don't see such a problem with that -- as long as she includes the writing subject, as rushkoff clearly does, in the spectre of this authenticity.
posted by yonation at 12:36 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


White people are not racists so much as they are beneficiaries of the benefits of racism. In the same way, wealthy people are no bad so much as they are beneficiaries of the benefits of evil.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:38 PM on June 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


I actually went back and read the fucking article, and I was somewhat off-base. When he compares gentrification to colonization:

Indeed, the now- stalled gentrification of Brooklyn had a good deal
in common with colonial exploitation. Of course, the whole thing was
done with more circumspection, with more tact. The borough’s gen-
trifiers steered away from explicitly racist justifications for their ac-
tions, but nevertheless demonstrated the colonizer’s underlying
agenda: instead of “chartered corporations” pioneering and subjugat-
ing an uncharted region of the world, it was hipsters, entrepreneurs,
and real- estate speculators subjugating an undesirable neighborhood.

The local economy—at least as measured in gross product—boomed,
but the indigenous population simply became servants (grocery
cashiers and nannies) to the new residents.
That pretty much says it, right there.

I can't stand this guy, though. He reminds me of Friedman, coasting on white-privilege all the way to 'enlightenment.'
posted by paisley henosis at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2009


Further, while "corporation" meant something different to Mussolini, it's not like there's no relation between Italian Fascism/Corporatism and the current collaboration between state and business in the West, and liberal capitalism is definitely a totalizing ideology in the way remodels other institutions into itself and warps "the good" into tautologies. One could argue that one of the central tenets of Arendt's view of totalitarianism—that of the elimination of space for individuality between citizens, and between citizens and state, is unfulfilled (or even inverted), but I don't know if that's simply a mechanical difference, in that if every citizen absorbs the ideology and commits to it, it seems just as totalizing in effect. (I realize that this seems to contradict my earlier point about lack of common institutions, but I think that the success of Liberal Capitalism comes through both its simplicity and effectiveness at a lower level than other, more complex totalitarianisms).

If liberal capitalism is totalitarian, then we can no longer talk about totalitarianism as an aspect of a particular political/economic system rather than of modernity itself. (Unless you're implying that social democracy is somehow the exception, which is false and you know it.) I don't think collapsing everything together in this way is of any benefit to understanding--you could use the word "hegemony" or whatever and it would mean the same thing.

I'm not sure what the "relation" between Italian fascism and contemporary liberalism would be. Yes, American companies had economic ties to those regimes, but to assert any more than that is conspiracy-minded bogeyman thinking, as far as I'm concerned. The salient features of fascism as a political formula (as opposed to its concrete manifestations in Germany or Italy) are not in any way related to liberal capitalism.

And to talk of "collaboration" is pretty anachronistic. Historically speaking it is precisely the disinvestment of the state from the market that is unusual. Until the nineteenth century state-issued monopolies were normal features of business practice; the British government was heavily involved in both the South Seas Bubble and the East India Company.
posted by nasreddin at 12:47 PM on June 24, 2009



that is, the seeming hand-of-god that allows, for instance, forest city ratner to be bailed out by the same MTA that will then in turn sell him atlantic yards for a meager portion of the original price is a phenomenon that, according to the anthropology i'm familiar with (say, bourdieu, graeber, etc), was simply not possible in preneoliberal capitalist moments.


Obviously that specific thing could not have happened. But similar examples were all over the place. Read about the South Sea Bubble I mentioned:
What may have supported the company's high multiples (its P/E ratio) was a fund of credit (known to the market) of £70 million available for commercial expansion which had been made available through substantial support, apparently, by Parliament and the King.

Shares in the company were "sold" to politicians at the current market price; however, rather than paying for the shares, these lucky recipients simply held on to what shares they had been offered, "sold" them back to the company when and as they chose, and received as ‘profit’ the increase in market price. This method, while winning over the heads of government, the King's mistress, etc., also had the advantage of binding their interests to the interests of the Company: in order to secure their own profits, they had to help drive up the stock. Meanwhile, by publicizing the names of their elite stockholders, the Company managed to clothe itself in an aura of legitimacy, which attracted and kept other buyers.
posted by nasreddin at 12:52 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


i dont think you and i disagree about the nature of state intervention in the building of empire or the levels of complexity that preceded our own "long 20th century." i think the most interesting thing we can battle out here is why people like rushkoff feel the need to paint their missives in tones of authentic vs... corporatism. why is it that the corporate metaphor is so vital in setting up, i repeat myself, a counter-corporatism that relies on embedded labor and fairer systems of exchange-value?

even if rushkoff is a friedman-esque world-is-flat asshole, which i don't necessarily agree with, as critics of this approach we need to realize why these things have grip. otherwise, we risk being like critics of, say, pop culture in the early 90s and their inability to grasp why the power of those particular narratives grew and grew.

we can use a science studies approach (the "inscriptability" of the metaphor of corporatism) or other approaches (its power, ie eric wolf). but the ideology is worth examining...
posted by yonation at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think the appeal to authenticity is unique to opponents of corporatism. It's basically the most reliable warhorse Western civilization has ever had for criticizing social developments that scare it. I'd be surprised if Rushkoff didn't make that appeal.
posted by nasreddin at 1:06 PM on June 24, 2009


We don't have a system resembling the corporatist structures of European nations. If anything, our interest groups are decentralized and disorganized, except when it comes to particular sorts of policies. And even then, look at what's happening now with health care--it's the insurance companies that have the upper hand now, whereas a few decades ago the AMA was dominant, and the AMA and the insurance companies don't see eye to eye on things now, don't see eye to eye with manufacturers, etc. Elite economic interests may rule within a certain territory, but they are hardly organized or unified, and members of Congress don't have to answer to a chief executive and answer more to constituencies and campaign contributors, which makes creating coherent and effective public policy here all the more difficult. It's too much to get into in a blog post, but his theory is way of whack here. His beef is with turning laissez faire capitalist belief into something sacrosanct, not state corporatism or neo-corporatism or any other loosely defined model of corporatism.
posted by raysmj at 1:13 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


there are all kinds of people in this world. saying wealthy people are bad is on a level with saying white people are racists.

Yeah! It's like when the Republicans were shut down in the house, that was just like the Iranians using Twitter!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've known people who said #4. Repeatedly, and not for sarcasm.

...which is really an almost completely pointless remark, but I just wanted to say that nasreddin was correct (perhaps unintentionally?) to include it.
posted by aramaic at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2009


"If liberal capitalism is totalitarian, then we can no longer talk about totalitarianism as an aspect of a particular political/economic system rather than of modernity itself. (Unless you're implying that social democracy is somehow the exception, which is false and you know it.) I don't think collapsing everything together in this way is of any benefit to understanding--you could use the word "hegemony" or whatever and it would mean the same thing."

Obviously, I'm being unclear.

I see Liberal Capitalism (or Neo-Liberalism) as a totalitarian philosophy because it is universal, expansionist, self-justifying, uncivil, and proceeds from an ideology. It is totalizing the same way that Heidegger's Spirit of Technology is a totalizing force—indeed, many of the critiques are the same.

While I think that some aspects of this philosophy have pervaded daily life, I wouldn't necessarily argue that it's hegemonic or dominant per se, noting that it's not synonymous with social democracy, and that even in the US, it's largely checked by institutions. I would say, however, that within corporate leadership, the philosophy is dominant and that this means that it exerts a lot of influence socially—more influence than I would necessarily like it to have, but unfortunately, it dominates the realm of incentives and efficiencies, which makes it hard to fight without broad social will.

But I do see faith in the free markets as being similar to religious faith, and as I hold political religion to be generally totalitarian, I think that the comparison holds without too much diminishing the other ways of thinking about totalitarianism.

"I'm not sure what the "relation" between Italian fascism and contemporary liberalism would be. Yes, American companies had economic ties to those regimes, but to assert any more than that is conspiracy-minded bogeyman thinking, as far as I'm concerned. The salient features of fascism as a political formula (as opposed to its concrete manifestations in Germany or Italy) are not in any way related to liberal capitalism."

Again, I must have been unclear—Replace "relation" with "similarity," as I didn't want to imply family ties, but rather what can broadly be summed up by the quote, "The business of government is business." While you could argue that this inverts the state-corporation relationship prescribed by fascism (and I have to say that I'm not entirely sure what you mean when you distance the political formula of fascism from its German or Italian manifestations—does the Fascist Manifesto count or not?) whereby corporations no longer formally claim legitimacy from the state, it commingles the power, the interests and the worldview of corporations and the state.

"And to talk of "collaboration" is pretty anachronistic. Historically speaking it is precisely the disinvestment of the state from the market that is unusual. Until the nineteenth century state-issued monopolies were normal features of business practice; the British government was heavily involved in both the South Seas Bubble and the East India Company."

State-issued monopolies are still common practice, the state simply no longer profits from most of them. But that's in part because of a huge shift in regulatory philosophy, and the death of explicit colonialism. Evidence of legislative efforts to create environments of profit at the expense of the public are widespread—from land-lease agreements to the way copyright protection is handled.
posted by klangklangston at 2:05 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I don't think the appeal to authenticity is unique to opponents of corporatism. It's basically the most reliable warhorse Western civilization has ever had for criticizing social developments that scare it. I'd be surprised if Rushkoff didn't make that appeal."

It's not just the West. It's a conservative (small C) argument that crops up everywhere.
posted by klangklangston at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2009


I couldn't be arsed to more than skim the article but combining that cursory glance with the discussion here it sounds like the author is making some wonky use of 'corporatism' where he is reacting to 'commodification'.
posted by Abiezer at 2:28 PM on June 24, 2009


Not driving other people out of their own neighborhoods and then selling what were their homes for a profit is a good place to start.

Gentrification sucks.
No, gentrification does not suck. I have very little sympathy for the "driving people out of their own neighborhoods!" argument given that my family and my friends' family did, in fact, live in and grow up in those neighborhoods before they became gentrified. They left as the neighborhoods got worse, and now their children and grandchildren are moving back there because they find the lifestyle in the cities better. But people from the midwest who move to NYC or Chicago need something to feel guilty about, so they complain about the horrors of gentrification.

If you owned a home in one of these places that gentrified, you made yourself a lot of money. If you didn't, you got the chance to take advantage of rent stabilization and/or live in a place accessible to Manhattan very cheaply while you raised your family... and those "original" residents lived in those neighborhoods because of the fact that the previous residents/families before them left, creating space for them to live in. Now, no, it wasn't fair that the police started to pay attention to your neighborhood until middle class whites started moving in, but that was a problem that existed before gentrification.
posted by deanc at 2:34 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gawd, Dean, that's, like the least class-aware and most self-justifying bunch of bullshit I've seen in a while.
posted by klangklangston at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


nasreddin, how did you get so smart at 22? Excellent analysis; kudos.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:49 PM on June 24 [+] [!]


I'm not nasreddin, but I think that would be a combination of natural talent and an indepth study of history. We can't all be as talented, but we can all study more history.
posted by jb at 3:32 PM on June 24, 2009


I'm not nasreddin
Oh aye, more denial from the historian Borg-mind. We know.
posted by Abiezer at 3:39 PM on June 24, 2009


that is, the seeming hand-of-god that allows, for instance, forest city ratner to be bailed out by the same MTA that will then in turn sell him atlantic yards for a meager portion of the original price is a phenomenon that, according to the anthropology i'm familiar with (say, bourdieu, graeber, etc), was simply not possible in preneoliberal capitalist moments.

Corrupt deals? I find them all the time in the seventeenth century - the Crown being bribed to support development projects, a Corporation leasing off fishings for pennies to their own board members.

Corruption is as old as people.

As for what a Corporation is - a corporation is just a thing which has been given legal personhood, and thus is a body (a 'corpus') which can legally own property and do other things that people can. The fact that corporations are immortal people with no single brain or conscience but are rather emergent systems makes them strange creatures.

Of course, the oldest corporations weren't about making money - they were about providing services and governance. Towns and cities would be incorporated, so that they could own property and provide services to their citizens. The foundation of the 17th century Corporation in my thesis was not to make money, but to provide long-term maintenance for rivers and banks. Early charities were incorporated.
posted by jb at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2009


I think maybe the defensive way people react to the word "gentrification" may be because it's being used differently by different people.

To wit: I did not move into my neighborhood in Brooklyn because I was seeking to push out or disenfranchise a particular class of neighborhood. I moved into my neighborhood in Brooklyn because I could afford the rent. Period.

How the rent got to be what it was is a matter I can understand intellectually and recognize is imperfect, but...I still need a place to live, and I know what I can afford. If no one else is gonna take it, I will. My forswearing an affordable neighborhood in a given neighborhood doesn't really help the situation, so far as I can see ,because -- it's not like other people in the city are going to also forswear that apartment out of nobility.

Some assume that the newcomers to a neighborhood are going to automatically and intentionally change the entire culture, and so we get hit with the epithet "gentrifiers". But some of us actually liked things the way they were, and we just moved in because we were broke.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


To wit: I did not move into my neighborhood in Brooklyn because I was seeking to push out or disenfranchise a particular class of neighborhood

Oh, come on. Do you think ANYONE moves into a neighborhood because they 'seek to push out or disenfranchise a particular class'? "I don't know Clarence, we could live on the UES but I know some working-class folks we could REALLY piss off in Brooklyn!"
posted by thedaniel at 4:34 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rushkoff's article would have been far better if he had NOT used the word Corporatism, although I can't think of a word that would have fit better. Maybe that's the point: there is NO single word that can describe the totality of "isms" pushing and pulling on our culture that combine into the crap we have right now, and no single influence is to blame... except maybe if you distill some of them down into simple Selfishness, using anything collective (and a Corporation is a kind of collective; so is a Neighborhood) solely for one's own benefit and ignoring the needs and desires of anyone else. Yet, ironically, Selfishness seldom acts alone; it's most often accompanied by a Need to Belong or a Need to Be In Control or an Overinflated Ego or Faulty Reasoning etcetra etcetra. In other words, "It's complicated".

And as EmpressCallipygos pointed out, "gentrification" is another inaccurate term for the phenomenon it's supposed to describe (both in its original positive self-definition and its more recent cynical meaning). So, hey, Douglas and all you other self-appointed Definers of Culture, just try to give us some analysis of ALL the various factors in play with your experiences, and stop trying to lump them into some pre-existing one-size-fits-all definition. That's (too use another oversimplified term) being an asshole.
posted by wendell at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2009


Oh, come on. Do you think ANYONE moves into a neighborhood because they 'seek to push out or disenfranchise a particular class'?

That's....kind of my point. That no one actually does this.

And yet, there is still a lot of flak hurled at specific individual people now and again, in which they are accused of "gentrifying" a neighborhood -- as if they DID do this.

Which, as you have ascertained, is silly. And its silliness was precisely my point.

Right. Now that everyone's caught up...?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:15 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gawd, Dean, that's, like the least class-aware and most self-justifying bunch of bullshit I've seen in a while.

I'm happy for you. Talk of gentrification constantly presupposes inviolable ownership of a neighborhood by those who are owed the right to preserve its population and character and claims that the others are interlopers who somehow don't belong there, as if they were American settlers driving Native Americans off their land. This is bullshit, and just a way for those who feel guilty to give themselves a reason to be self-righteous.

All too often we hear it from people who cannot possibly imagine that neighborhoods change and that populations fluctuate. People move in and out for opportunities. Families leave or stay and return. Some neighborhoods used to have a much different character when my parents and grandparents lived there than they did in the 70s and 80s. And now they have a different character than they did then. But I guess I should find a new exurban development so that I don't "gentrify" anyplace that I don't belong in.

People like EmpressCallipygos moved to a neighborhood because it was cheap and she didn't have any other decent options. That's how my family ended up there. Over time, they figured their options were better elsewhere, leaving other people to move in. And the cycle repeats.
posted by deanc at 9:04 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


jb: "Corrupt deals? I find them all the time in the seventeenth century - the Crown being bribed to support development projects, a Corporation leasing off fishings for pennies to their own board members.

Corruption is as old as people.
"

In the BloggingHeads piece, Rushkoff argues for learning lessons from the pre-corporate Middle Ages.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:38 PM on June 24, 2009


Oh, come on. Do you think ANYONE moves into a neighborhood because they 'seek to push out or disenfranchise a particular class'?

That's....kind of my point. That no one actually does this.

And yet, there is still a lot of flak hurled at specific individual people now and again, in which they are accused of "gentrifying" a neighborhood -- as if they DID do this.


Funny you should mention that; years ago while looking for an apartment in Chicago, a real estate agent we were using heard (in conversation) where my parents lived, and let me know she'd bought a place there -- as had a whole lot of other realtors she knew -- in the last year, because they were getting ready to turn it into a "hot" neighborhood to make a profit. She claimed that realtors and developers conspired informally to do this, to bring neighborhoods up and make money with minimal risk. I thought she was full of it, at first.

Then, over the next year, I watched article after article about my parents' neighborhood appear in the papers, talking about how wonderful it was, and I watched the city suddenly put money into redoing the streetlights and building a new library to replace the old storefront one, and so on and so on -- and by the end of that three-year period my parents' house more than doubled in value, and housing sales exploded, and new restaurants were opening up to replace little crappy shops that had been there before, and the public elementary school had to add trailers to handle the influx of new students.

So were they conspiring to disenfranchise or push out a particular class? No, but they were certainly conspiring to turn over houses for a large profit, which drives property values up exorbitantly, which raises property taxes, which means some people (that my mother knew for years) had to leave the neighborhood because they couldn't afford their property taxes on paid-off houses in a neighborhood they'd lived in for 25 years or more. At least they could use the raised property values to sell out and buy in some crappier neighborhood, but you can see how what they did to make a profit had the end result of pushing out poorer folks, even with paid-off houses.

So there ya go.
posted by davejay at 9:54 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


"And yet, there is still a lot of flak hurled at specific individual people now and again, in which they are accused of "gentrifying" a neighborhood -- as if they DID do this."

Uh, yeah, because their actions, even unintentional, have consequences. Think anyone buys an SUV thinking "Gee, global warming is great and I sure like propping up third-world dictatorships?" No one buys freon thinking that they're destroying the ozone layer, no one buys Wal-Mart clothes thinking that they're helping undermine fair pay for workers, no one waters their lawn in the desert thinking that they're helping drain aquifers, no one moves into an exurb development thinking that they're destroying wild habitat.

Aside from my ire at Dean's idiocy, gentrification, revitalization and urban development and planning is really complex and best modeled at population levels, where a bunch of individual choices have systemic consequences. There are plenty of neighborhoods that could use some of the good effects of gentrification, and that's a big part of why New Urbanism should ideally encourage mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods, in order to gain some of the advantages without both undermining the character of a neighborhood and forcing the poor into another ghetto, destroying social ties and social capital.

But as someone who has dealt with development and gentrification in a large-scale planned low-income community, it makes me nearly as apoplectic hearing people blithely ignoring their effects and the real complaints of stakeholders regarding gentrification as it does hearing white people deny that they have any social privilege due to skin color and social attitudes.
posted by klangklangston at 10:51 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Disregarding all the stuff about the naturally or not naturally changing character of neighborhoods, which I do not want to touch with a 10-foot-pole...seriously, the only solution is for people like me to live in the exurbs? I work in the city. Where I live now, I can walk to work. If I lived in the exurbs, that's be a long commute and lots of gas money (plus not environment-friendly). I don't make a lot of money, so living in a better neighborhood in the city is out. I know I'm only poor in that fake woe-is-me-I'm-a-grad-student* type way, and not truly poor. I'll admit to being part of the gentrification problem. I don't feel guiltless about it. But the other options are pretty impractical. I honestly don't know how I as an individual am supposed to do the right thing here.

* Note: not actually a grad student, but you know what I mean.
posted by naoko at 11:09 PM on June 24, 2009


I think a lot of urban hipsters have good intentions. However the problem is that those good intentions are channelled into the "buy more shit" culture. Deriving one's identity from what one buys versus personal relationships is a fool's game.

I notice a lot of white people who like to talk about how they "have no culture" and that minorities "just have culture, gosh that's so great and authentic.'' Lately I think about that discussion a lot.

I think what's going on is this-- a lot of suburban culture is consumer culture, i.e. defining oneself by what one buys. However, this is something new, even in Europe and North America. But, it's more apparent when people from a consumer background meet those whose cultures may not yet have fully embraced the idea that all identity comes from what one buys.

Until the gentrifiers/urban ''pioneers" realize that collective action via citizenship is the only thing that will generate real change and justice, they will continue to chase the fool's gold of progressivism-as-a-consumer-lifestyle-choice, versus progressivism as collective action via the polity.
posted by wuwei at 1:48 AM on June 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


So were they conspiring to disenfranchise or push out a particular class? No, but they were certainly conspiring to turn over houses for a large profit, which drives property values up exorbitantly, which raises property taxes, which means some people (that my mother knew for years) had to leave the neighborhood because they couldn't afford their property taxes on paid-off houses in a neighborhood they'd lived in for 25 years or more.

That's the realtors doing that. What of the people like me who don't use realtors and go on Craigslist and find a cheap apartment in a decent neighborhood?

...seriously, the only solution is for people like me to live in the exurbs? I work in the city. Where I live now, I can walk to work. If I lived in the exurbs, that's be a long commute and lots of gas money (plus not environment-friendly). I don't make a lot of money, so living in a better neighborhood in the city is out. I know I'm only poor in that fake woe-is-me-I'm-a-grad-student* type way, and not truly poor. I'll admit to being part of the gentrification problem. I don't feel guiltless about it. But the other options are pretty impractical. I honestly don't know how I as an individual am supposed to do the right thing here.

This. Not a grad student in my case -- work in arts, have a day job as a temp -- but, the same questions apply. What exactly SHOULD I do?

No, this is a sincere question. wuwei, klangklangston, can you tell us exactly what you think we should have done? You're the one who called us out, do you have any constructive advice as to what we should have done instead? klangklangston, you seemed to be more upset by people who "ignored" their own affects -- what would you say to someone who felt they have no choice? Can you suggest an alternate choice, or is their own awareness enough to placate you? wuwei, can you explain exactly what kind of "collective action via citizenship" you are referring to which is not what we are already doing, which is "moving into a neighborhood and becoming part of that community"?

Not all of us who move into a community try to change it. Not all of us who move into a community ignore our effects, but we may simply have no choice. But people treat us like we do -- and yet, they fail to offer any other solutions. So -- what's the answer? Do you guys have it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 AM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the BloggingHeads piece, Rushkoff argues for learning lessons from the pre-corporate Middle Ages.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:38 AM on June 25 [+] [!]


The middle ages aren't pre-corporate.

That they have no lessons for us. I'm not so fond of the serfdom, but I like tree coppicing.
posted by jb at 5:48 AM on June 25, 2009


Sorry - that should be "That doesn't mean they have no lessons for us."

All of history has lessons for us - good and bad.
posted by jb at 5:49 AM on June 25, 2009


Okay, perhaps I was being a bit disingenuous - when I said the middle ages weren't pre-corporate, I was thinking of non-commercial corporations like towns.

So, according to the font of all easily found knowledge, there were legal entities which had corporation-like qualities in ancient Rome and ancient India. The oldest commercial corporation is supposed to be the Stora Kopparberg mining community in Sweden, which was chartered in 1347.

But the progenitors of what we think of as Corporations really were the "chartered companies" of the seventeenth century - the English East India Company founded 1600, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) aka Dutch East India Company founded 1602, the Hudson's Bay Company founded in 1670. (Japanese corporations have their own history as long as this - but I am shamefully ignorant and so shall not presume to post on it.)

But given the earlier commercial examples, were these truly new?
posted by jb at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2009


"seriously, the only solution is for people like me to live in the exurbs?"

No, the solution for people like Dean is to live in the exurbs. The solution for everyone else is to try to find decent housing, to avoid speculating, to be cognizant of the institutions and stakeholders in your neighborhood, to patronize local businesses, to understand the legitimate basis of complaints about gentrification, to work to become a stakeholder in your neighborhood's stability and progress (usually through volunteering at a local level), and to not be a giant oblivious asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 AM on June 25, 2009


For commercial examples: we have contracts establishing one-voyage companies called "collegenza" that were entered in Venice in 1070; and many more thereafter.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:32 AM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


But given the earlier commercial examples, were these truly new?
Happen to be re-reading JA Sharpe's Early Modern England and the sense there you get is really the confluence of factors achieving some kind of critical mass (a la De Vries' industrious revolution thesis) even if individual elements in the mix were not entirely unprecedented.
posted by Abiezer at 8:18 AM on June 25, 2009


No, the solution for people like Dean is to live in the exurbs. The solution for everyone else is to try to find decent housing, to avoid speculating, to be cognizant of the institutions and stakeholders in your neighborhood, to patronize local businesses, to understand the legitimate basis of complaints about gentrification, to work to become a stakeholder in your neighborhood's stability and progress (usually through volunteering at a local level), and to not be a giant oblivious asshole.

Okay, then, what is your definition of "a giant oblivious asshole?" Because I have been accused of being one simply because of my very presence. Or simply because I asked a kid not to throw trash on the sidewalk. Or simply for observing that I saw a rat in one of the two local supermarkets, and so that's why I used the other one of the two.

See, I would say making the observation that "hey, maybe we should all team up to stop the litter problem on our streets" would be an example of "becoming a stakeholder in my neighborhood's stability and progress." And making the observation that "hey, maybe this supermarket would do better if it didn't have a rat problem, and that's why I use the other one" is an example of "patronizing local businesses". But to others, such observations are examples of my "being a giant obvlivious asshole."

So which one am I?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on June 25, 2009


"Okay, then, what is your definition of "a giant oblivious asshole?""

Gee, was it not clear? Perhaps you could scroll up and get a pretty good picture.

Or hey, you could continue on with your defensive litany of all the times that people in your neighborhood were jerks to you and you perceived it to be because of your interloper status, but really you're one of the good guys, honest!

Because if you're this tone-deaf on the internet, I'm gonna pick the "well-intentioned but giant oblivious asshole" from the two choices you've given me, the same way that I'd pick "giant oblivious asshole" when white people start lecturing black people about the social costs of single parentage. It's not necessarily what you're saying, but you're reading to me as acting massively entitled and that's pretty understandably resented.

I mean, duh.
posted by klangklangston at 11:04 AM on June 25, 2009


>"Okay, then, what is your definition of "a giant oblivious asshole?""

Gee, was it not clear? Perhaps you could scroll up and get a pretty good picture.


Okay, maybe I wasn't clear in my question.

My actual question was, "do you actually acknowledge whether newcomers to a neighborhood might ACTUALLY be interested in JOINING it as part of a community, or are you just knee-jerk writing them all off as 'asshole gentrifiers' because you can't accept newcomers on general principle?"

Since you're writing off instances of patronizing local businesses and taking interest in the overall well-being of a community as instances of "being a giant oblivious asshole", I'm going to say I've gotten a pretty clear picture where things stand here -- and my best approach is to just not engage any more.

Nice talking to you, I guess. Sorry you're not more welcoming towards people who are sincerely trying to fit in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2009


"Since you're writing off instances of patronizing local businesses and taking interest in the overall well-being of a community as instances of "being a giant oblivious asshole", I'm going to say I've gotten a pretty clear picture where things stand here -- and my best approach is to just not engage any more.

Uh, no, I'm writing off a rather transparent attempt to force me to give you some sort of moral hall pass because you didn't intend to do harm to the other neighbors and because you feel you've been unfairly treated even when trying to fit in. And I'm arguing that if you're tone-deaf here and unable to understand when I say:
"gentrification, revitalization and urban development and planning is really complex and best modeled at population levels, where a bunch of individual choices have systemic consequences. There are plenty of neighborhoods that could use some of the good effects of gentrification, and that's a big part of why New Urbanism should ideally encourage mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods, in order to gain some of the advantages without both undermining the character of a neighborhood and forcing the poor into another ghetto, destroying social ties and social capital."

that I may have a broader interest than whether some people were, like, totally unfair to your anti-litter campaign, you likely aren't able to understand other subtle and legitimate complaints from your actual neighbors—complaints that I'm unable to address or explain or absolve because I'm not your neighbor.

So, yeah, it may be unfair to believe that because you're acting like a self-centered dumbass here that you're a self-centered dumbass in your interactions with your neighbors (especially when I've seen you grasp other concepts of about equal complexity here on MeFi), but you're the one making this about you, not me.

I don't have an objection to newcomers on principle. I have an objection to people who act like selfish, oblivious assholes on principle.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 AM on June 25, 2009


Apparently I'm a "giant oblivious asshole" because I refuse to engage in the sort of typical self-flagellation that various urban hipsters subject themselves to over gentrification. Even worse, klangklang, you seem to rejoice in people begging you to give them a "moral hall pass" by asking you "what can I do?" I'm not oblivious to the concerns-- I think you're just rather clueless about them and I really have little interest in your self-righteous anger when it's pointed at me. What's my concern? A nice place to live that I can afford.
I don't have an objection to newcomers on principle. I have an objection to people who act like selfish, oblivious assholes on principle.
What makes you think you're not a newcomer? Lots of people and other families lived there long before you or anyone else arrived.

The essential problems involved is only that the government typically shafts poorer neighborhoods until better-off residents come in and start gentrifying. Instead of laying the blame where it belongs-- on the government -- you have a bunch of people lashing out in territorial anger or simply guilt-ridden hipsters for whom cities are "exotic locales with fascinating native traditions" who blame the new people moving in. I've no interest in giving in to these naive, simple-minded attitudes. You may also be romanticizing the existence of sclerotic institutions and provincial establishments as well as mindlessly grinding a bunch of axes at people who aren't kissing your butt about gentrification.
posted by deanc at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


....it may be unfair to believe that because you're acting like a self-centered dumbass here that you're a self-centered dumbass in your interactions with your neighbors (especially when I've seen you grasp other concepts of about equal complexity here on MeFi), but you're the one making this about you, not me.

...You're basing your belief that I'm "entitled" based on my statement that I asked a kid not to throw trash on the street, and my statement that I said, "hey, I saw a rat in this supermarket once, and that's why I go to the other one."

You couldn't possibly mean that I should just shrug and say "fuck it, the people here deserve litter-strewn streets and rat shit in their flour, so I'm just not going to say anything", could you? Because THAT sounds more like entitlement to me, believing that I should just give up on the betterment of the neighborhood and I should keep such kind of consumer warnings to myself.

No, actually, that sounds more like ASSHOLISHNESS to me, believing that "fuck it, I don't care if there's trash on the streets, I'll just move out in a couple years anyway. And I don't care if no one else knows about the rats in the Met Foods, that's THEIR problem, not mine. LET them get rat shit in the flour, I don't care."

You really don't care about warning your neighbors if you see a local business has a health problem? Wow. That's....kind of entitled, I think. I'd rather have neighbors who told me, "hey, I saw rats in that supermarket" so I could avoid it too myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:43 PM on June 25, 2009


"What makes you think you're not a newcomer? Lots of people and other families lived there long before you or anyone else arrived."

The fuck are you even on about? Where I live now? Where I had the long-term experience of dealing with gentrification?

I mean, you toss out vague bullshit about just wanting a nice place you can afford as if that's somehow unique to your experience, while ignoring that your definitions of "nice" and "affordable" may directly conflict with folks already in the neighborhood you're choosing to go to. And then painting it as if you're somehow being unfairly set upon or asked to flagellate instead of the fairly reasonable expectation that you should understand that your actions have consequences and can adversely affect others even when that's not your goal—it's selfish and stupid and the entire fucking point of Rushkoff's essay. I mean, you might as well just copy pasta "Nuh-uh, I do what I want!" for all the insight you're bringing to your argument.

And placing the blame on the government is the very essence of ignoring personal responsibility, and ignores the very real concerns of people who already live in these neighborhoods and are complaining of gentrification.
posted by klangklangston at 2:18 PM on June 25, 2009


"...You're basing your belief that I'm "entitled" based on my statement that I asked a kid not to throw trash on the street, and my statement that I said, "hey, I saw a rat in this supermarket once, and that's why I go to the other one."
"

Uh, no, again, I'm basing it off of your fairly transparently manipulative framing and bizzaro insistence that I vindicate your actions regarding your neighborhood.

I mean, think about this for a moment, you're saying that kids didn't like being told not to throw trash on the street because you represent the forces of gentrification? They told you that? Or they told you that they resented your very presence? That, to put it kindly, strains credulity. More likely, you told some kid not to throw trash on the street and he told you to fuck off because he recognized that you didn't have any power to make him pick it up. Then you transformed this into some part of a victimhood narrative where your righteousness was rebuffed by the local hellions because they see you as an interloper without a stake in the neighborhood despite your best efforts, and you try to turn that into some sort of argument that criticisms of gentrification are invalid because I don't necessarily think you're giving an objective rendering of the facts. That, combined with the defensive and petulant tone of your comments here gives me the sense of feeling entitled to be accepted, respected and listened to without the corresponding feeling that you're listening to and respecting the complaints of your neighbors.

When you give me a choice between saying that either criticisms of you as gentrifier are unfounded or you're clueless, well, given your rejection of simpler explanations and your bad faith argumentation, I'm gonna chose the latter, duh.

So stop trying to conflate what I'm saying with every slight you've experienced, real or imagined, and realize that you're not Maria Immaculata and that folks you have trouble with in your neighborhood are probably more annoyed by your tone than your intentions, and you'll have taken a good step towards not being regarded as a clueless gentrifying asshole—you know, since you seriously asked for constructive advice.
posted by klangklangston at 2:40 PM on June 25, 2009


That's the realtors doing that. What of the people like me who don't use realtors and go on Craigslist and find a cheap apartment in a decent neighborhood?

Well, presumably your idea of which neighborhoods are "decent" (and by "you" I mean "someone like you by the criteria you have defined") might be influenced by positive articles in the paper/knowledge of rising property values/government-financed improvements/an influx of new restaurants and so on...or just influenced by a friend who's been influenced by all that stuff, or driving through the "improved" neighborhood, seeing the new shops et al and people walking around who look just like you.

So the realtors are conspiring to attract people like you. Does that make it your fault? Of course not. Should you be cognizant of it, and consider it when making your decision to move to a neighborhood? Of course. Not necessarily thinking "hey, I am contributing to the gentrification of this neighborhood, perhaps I should not" (you can think that, it's up to your own personal moral code) but at least thinking "hey, this neighborhood seems to be going through a rapid and previously unsuspected upswing, possibly catalyzed by people that do not have the neighborhood's best interests at heart, and so I'd better make sure I know what the negative repercussions of that are re my potentially being mugged/graffiti on my fence/my car vandalized/having neighbors who hate me just for being there."

Or, you can think "oh, this neighborhood's well into the upswing, and the realtors will be selling their homes soon and starting again in a new neighborhood -- where can I get in on this deal?" but again, that's up to you and your moral code.
posted by davejay at 3:52 PM on June 25, 2009


Oh, hey, there's a neighborhood in Chicago (I wish I could remember the name) that has a majority population of Puerto-Ricans, and (at least when I was still living in Chicago ten years ago) they had resisted every attempt to have their neighborhood gentrified by simply refusing to sell their homes. That, and the giant metal Puerto-Rican flag sculpture that straddles one of the main streets running through it, which scares some folks.

I say good on them, personally, that they take pride in themselves and their community and want to keep it that way.

Ah, here, from Lonely Planet:

"Paseo Boricua, aka the Puerto Rican Passage, is a mile-long stretch of Division St stuffed with Puerto Rican shops and restaurants. It's marked at either end by a 45-ton, steel Puerto Rican flag sculpture that arches over the road; the eastern flag stands at Western Ave, while the western one is at Mozart Ave. This area has long been the epicenter of Chicago's 113,000-strong Puerto Rican community."

And the requisite wikipedia entry.
posted by davejay at 3:57 PM on June 25, 2009


jb: "But given the earlier commercial examples, were these truly new?"

I confess to knowing nothing about this. I just wanted to present Rushkoff's argument because I find it interesting.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:28 PM on June 25, 2009


My dad was tangentially involved with a community center in Paseo Boricua. It's funny to me how my pals who live just, like, a half-mile down Division think both that PB's totally the rough part of town (and so try to avoid it) and think that their neighborhood isn't gentrified.
posted by klangklangston at 4:30 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


>That's the realtors doing that. What of the people like me who don't use realtors and go on Craigslist and find a cheap apartment in a decent neighborhood?

Well, presumably your idea of which neighborhoods are "decent" (and by "you" I mean "someone like you by the criteria you have defined") might be influenced by positive articles in the paper/knowledge of rising property values/government-financed improvements/an influx of new restaurants and so on...or just influenced by a friend who's been influenced by all that stuff, or driving through the "improved" neighborhood, seeing the new shops et al and people walking around who look just like you.


For the record, my determination for whether a neighborhood is "decent" involves me going to have a look and asking myself, "okay, do I feel like I would be able to walk home from the subway at midnight safely? And, would that walk take me under 20 minutes?"

That's it, to be honest. Whether there are "people walking around who look just like me" or whether there are "new shops et al" have nothing to do with it.

And I don't own a car, so I wouldn't be "driving" through the neighborhood at all. Oh, and if I have any questions about anything -- you know, where's the nearest laundromat, how reliable is the subway -- I don't ask my friends or the realtor, I may ask someone who actually lives there.

I never do read the paper to track property values. I'm never going to be able to afford to buy a house anyway, so feh.

It's strange -- I don't know why you'd think I'd be concerned with what my friends think or the papers think or whether there are new shops in town. Unless that's YOUR criteria? If not, why would you assume that mine would be this?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


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