Urbanism as Will and Representation

a wooden architects model of a large city

From Internationale Situationniste #9 (August 1964).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 13, 2023

Modern capitalism — concentrated and highly developed capitalism — inscribes onto the scenery of life the fusion of what used to be opposed as the positive and negative poles of alienation: a sort of equalizer of alienation. One's obligatory stay there is supervised by an increasingly preventative police. The new cities are laboratories of this stifling society: from Vällingby in Sweden to Bessor in Israel where all forms of leisure are to be united in one single center, without forgetting the housing project in Avilés that signals the neo-capitalist development now reaching Spain. Simultaneously, the disappearance of the "urban jungle" that corresponded to free market capitalism — in all its lack of comfort, its luxury, and its adventures — continues apace. The center of Paris is radically restructured by the organization of automobile traffic: the quays transformed into highways, place Dauphine into an underground parking garage. this in no way precludes the complementary tendency to restore a few old urban spots as sites of touristic spectacle, a simple extension of the principle of the classical museum by means of which an entire neighborhood can become a monument. Administrative bureaucracies of all sorts construct everywhere buildings suited to their taste. At Canisy, this even includes the administration of a new activity that, despite its enormity, can be sold at a premium like all the charlatanry that responds to real lacks: the specialists of generalization.

In order to buy all this, one depends on one's credit; the monthly bills are sometimes a burden, but one pays them: the Frenchman — this is a new development — is willing to make sacrifices for his housing. Where do you live? In Paris, Marseille, Lille, Nantes, Toulouse? It makes little difference since wherever you are you will find the same lodgings, equally well equipped and well decorated. Whose home are you in? Whether it is the home of an office worker, a mason, a judge, or a skilled worker: the difference is imperceptible . . . In this way a style of life can be imposed that is clear, happy, uniform, and common to all social classes. I am conveying the things as they are without adding any political exegesis whatsoever. However, allow me to recall that in the previous century an abyss separated the bourgeois from the worker . . . Today, the salary of a skilled worker is close to that of a professor, and all of them end up on middle-income housing projects. Is this good? Is this bad? I leave the judgment up to you. But it is a fact that a leveling is underway, neither from above, nor from below, but at the middle.

Jean Duché, Elle, 10-5-63.

The 32nd conference of the International Organization of Criminal Police (Interpol) began Wednesday morning in Helsinki, in the large amphitheater of the Economic Sciences Building . . . There are plans to create during the course of the conference a "bureau of criminal prevention" in each of the member countries similar to the one that has been in operation for a number of years in Stockholm. The purpose of this bureau is to provide architects, engineers, builders, and other specialists with the wide range of techniques developed and endorsed by the police in order to prevent criminal offenses.

Le Monde, 22-8-63.

The city of Canisy: an ideal thirty billion franc observatory for market of gray matter... On a huge billboard located in a place called La Croix-Solier: 'International Center of Generalization. The first experimental scientific city, site of synthesis and generalization between men of all disciplines.' 'All this comes from semantics,' the mailman explains with a large sweeping gesture across the countryside.

L'Express, 22-8-63.

Translated by Thomas Y. Levin. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/urbanism.html