Surplus housing, surplus people, surplus violence

Thus does America's neoliberal utopia come into being

Al Martin discusses here the transformation of America's cities into wastelands.

Here's a glimpse of a Turn Key Approach to Urban Wasteland Management ™. Last week I had a chance to talk to a friend who just got back from Detroit and boy did he get an eyeful of America's Future. After listening to him describe Detroit, it's obvious that it has all fallen apart. First of all, there's very little civil authority or regular civil government remaining and in operation. Almost everything has been turned over to these so-called Private Management Companies. And this is how it's being done. They block out areas, in which 80% or more of the houses have been foreclosed on, which happens to be almost the entire city and county. They have selectively begun to bulldoze the properties which have been foreclosed on. The rest have been boarded up. Then they have turned over management of these 100 block area to private companies which have become defacto governments.

Amazingly enough, these private entities "… have the literal authority of 'governments' and they're paid a flat fee from the city, county or state to 'manage,' as they say, a square block of this urban wasteland." Management might not be the better term to use in this instance, though. Nor public administration. Rather, a governmental attitude marked by its class commitments and dedication to security would better characterize the system now coming into existence. When considered in this way, the private entities which define the new political situation may be better identified as economically liberal political dictatorships within the space they have acquired, as Martin suggests:

These private management companies have been given more power than the underlying governments ever had. They have become, for lack of a better word, a defacto privatized post-apocalyptic government.

Whereas the father once characterized the affluent American system as one of "private opulence" amidst "public squalor," the son returns to this problem by wondering about the most recent iteration of America's best and brightest (p. 126):

What did the new class — endowed with vast personal income, freed from the corporation, and otherwise left to the pursuit of its own social position — set out to do in political terms? The experience of the past decade permits a very simple summary explanation: they set out to take over the state and to run it — not for any ideological project but simply in the way that would bring to them, individually and as a group, the most money, the least disturbed power, and the greatest chance of rescue should something go wrong. That is, they set out to prey on the existing institutions of the American regulatory and welfare system.

The minimalist social form was once described thusly (pp. 31-2):

Unreal City,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many,

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying:


'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae

'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,

'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?

'O keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,

'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!

'You hypocrite lecteur! — mon semblable, — mon frère!'

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