ABSTRACT. There is an urban ethic in Europe, a set of moral principles which are applied to cities: they explain why some cities exist and others do not. Prominent are: de-urbanisation as the chosen urban trend of modernity; cities as part of national culture in a Europe monopolised by nations; and the liberal idea of an open, interaction-maximising city. In effect, three prohibitions on the existence of classes of possible cities. The urban policy of a state "Europa" should reverse these prohibitions.

Revised February 1998, literature list updated July 1998.

urban modernity
geocultural structure
the liberal city
plurality of cities
Published at Web Architecture Magazine 3

Cities are not for people: cities are for change. The "standard ethic" of cities in Europe, however, contradicts this. This standard ethic has historical and structural contexts - modernity, national unity and liberalism. Its present explicit form is largely liberal. That is, it claims that cities exist to serve their inhabitants - more specifically, to serve some aggregation of their preferences through politics, or through the market.

The tradition of urban studies (and its preceding disciplines) is largely non-normative. It excludes the idea of "an urban ethic". At least explicitly - for much work on "urban problems" is implicitly normative. It defines "problems" and suggests solutions. (All urban design is explicitly normative anyway). The idea of a standard ethic implies "voluntarism" - cities are what people make them, consciously. Typically, the social sciences reject voluntarism, as a theoretical approach - but that is a political claim in itself. In urban studies, it is part of a conservative claim - that urban processes are too complex to change easily. People who say "things are not that simple" usually mean "things should stay as they are". Anti-voluntarism also evades the question of moral responsibility. Although conscious motives are rarely used, in explanations of urban process (see McGrath 1992 on anti-urbanism), cities do not simply happen. People are responsible for them. If a city is wrong, then people can be guilty of it. It is as logical to arrest the mayor of Madrid for Madrid, as to arrest the Mayor for murder. (True, Madrid is complex - but it is not a defence to a murder accusation, to say murder is complex).

It is easy to formulate the "standard urban ethic" in Europe. There are recent normative works on cities (Jacobs and Appleyard 1987; Nicholson-Lord 1987; Short 1989; Sennet 1990; Hough 1990; Elkin 1991; Yanarella and Levine 1992; Harvey 1992; Graham 1994a, 38-40; Haughton and Hunter 1994, 285-312; Schoonbrodt 1994; Vojnovic 1994; Mega 1995, 1996, 1997a, 1997b; Camagni et al. 1995; Meller 1995: Miles 1995; Eichler 1995; Ledo 1996; Sachs-Jeantet 1994, 1996, 1998; Petrella 1997, Beall 1997 - for other recent works see the bibliographies in Mega 1997a, Sachs-Jeantet 1994, and EEA 1997, 88-89). There is official policy (CEC 1990; EC 1994a; Bündesministerium RBS 1994; Europese Commissie 1997; World Bank 1995; EF 1996a; Appendix B in EC 1997a). As the year 2000 approaches, cities and organisations prepare urban scenarios for the next millennium - in the Netherlands, "Toekomstperspectief Nieuw Den Haag", "Transparant Amsterdam", and a national "metropolitan debate". Kunzmann (1996) categorises five partly normative "spatial scenarios" for Europe. But even without all these texts, it is possible to formulate accepted propositions about cities. Most people - in western Europe at least - will agree with such general ideas. For instance:

Perhaps it is impossible to test this urban ethic, by simply asking people if they agree with it. They might just become angry. For instance, few people will openly admit they tolerate pogroms: unfortunately, under the circumstances stated, most people do tolerate them.

The three contexts of the urban ethic - modernity, nationalism, liberalism - have all contributed to this list of propositions. Although these contexts are interrelated, most of this article will approach them as separate ethics. That is, as an ethic of urban modernity, an ethic of geocultural structure, and an ethic of the liberal city. This approach is formalist, and structuralist. (Formalism is not the same as over-simplification. It is a logical error, to assume that formalised statements are untrue because of that formalism).


Urban modernity is so important in modernity, that it is an indicator of the character of modernity itself. That character is: conservative and contra-technological. The long-term modern urban trend (in Europe) can be traced back, at least as far as the beginnings of urban dispersal, in Venice and Amsterdam around 1600 - a "proto-suburbanisation". At that time, access to the city became a locational requirement of the country houses of the urban rich. They were no longer remote landed estates (Brusatin 1980; Fishman 1987, 17; Burke 1994, 79-83). The long-term trend can be expressed, in a four-value structure. This structure of related propositions should replace the dual oppositions, generally used in Europe - "urban-rural", or "nature-urban". These oppositions continue to form the basis of much urban theory. However, as "descriptive ethics" they are insufficient to characterise urban modernity. The four-value structure describes it better - even for its opponents.

In that structure, the world is described here as an ethic of four zones, four values. The first three are: uninhabitable zones, productive zones (housing, factories, oil fields, farms), and nature (parks, gardens, nature reserves). At the beginning of history, the world is largely uninhabited. The productive zone then expands to cover the whole earth, carrying within it islands of nature. These in turn expand to cover the earth - and so transform it into a beautiful paradise of nature, ending technology. During this process parts of the productive zone, in which there is undervaluing of nature, effect a temporary fourth zone, the "urban" zone in the usual meaning of urban. This temporary effect generates the conventional "nature/urban" oppositions. This is not saying, that modern cities cannot exist. Obviously, they do exist: but they are unintentional. At most, they are a step towards nature. The fourth zone is also a model of possible cities, which exist only as nightmares for most people: the urban dystopias. (Semantically it would be clearer if the term urban was reserved for these accidental or dystopian cities, but that is not the case).

This descriptive ethic is exactly that: a description of the ethic which would produce urban modernity . It is a set of rules, which generate urban modernity. (It also suggests, that urban modernity brings a deeper long-term trend to light). There is no reason to dismiss it as absurd - and that would be the usual reaction of urban theory.

The concerns of urban theory, are accurately summarised, in this research proposal:

A basic assumption is that the primary driving forces generating changes in the European urban and regional system are those of the production system...(Hansen 1990, 256).
Research and theory certainly concentrate on shifts in the existing order: Although it is not intended as a handbook, Manuel Castells The Information Age summarises much of this consensus of urban theory (Castells 1996-1998). Most research simply assumes, that the world is experiencing fundamental change. The research then looks for its causes. Wrong question, wrong answer. If you look at radical possibilities, it is obvious that any "forces generating change" are being met, by obstacles blocking it. What are these obstacles? The descriptive ethic given above is one answer to that question. And another question follows: are they just obstacles, or even processes of reversal?

A thesis, of inherent urban reversal, is probably academically unacceptable. However, there is evidence, for a cultural equivalent to the four-zone ethic. To begin with, evidence for the basic human preferences is provided by paradise myths: even in urban cultures, paradise is not itself urban. In modern writing also, there are more urban dystopias than urban eutopias. That also continues a long anti-urban tradition in western culture (Williams 1973; Gerndt 1981; van der Pot 1985, 97-100; Wagener 1985, 33-39). There were some "ideal cities", especially in early modern Europe (Kruft 1989). However, they have been superseded by garden-city utopias, or by anti-utopianism (Hough 1990, 59-68). Current normative urban visions ("utopias") usually fit the standard ethic. In other words, there is a mass of cultural evidence for widespread anti-urbanism.

There is political evidence for the existence of a "standard ethic": the "green" political coalition in Europe. It is a coalition between environmentalists, nature conservationists, developers and the road transport sector. Its political activity promotes eco/green/sustainable cities, (and eco-roads, and eco-cars). It also opposes new rail links (although there are few rail projects anyway). Trends in the Netherlands are a good indicator. There is an emerging consensus: in favour of a large sustainable/green low density metropolis, in the western Netherlands. Agro-recreation would be a dominant land use, and "ecological networks" its primary ordering structure (Frieling 1995; van Blerck 1995; Ottens and Harts 1996, 20). A government document in 1996 gave it an official name: "Randstad Groene Wereldstad", the "Randstad green global city" (Boelens 1996). This combines with an attack on high density as "unsustainable" (van der Wal and Witsen 1995). Pressure groups and NGO's are also part of the coalition. The motorists organisation works with the World Fund for Nature, to lobby for the transformation of the Randstad central agricultural zone. It would become a nature leisure area, for walking, sailing, horse riding and survival courses (van Dooren and Sijmons 1995; ANWB/WNF 1995). Central planners foresee/propose a dissolution of non-car forms of transport (Heerema 1995). Semi-official assessments of underground construction, and the transport Ministry's so-called Underland scenario, combine mobility, sustainability, and a wave of new construction - for urban dispersal with underground roads (Modder, 1995; Peake 1995). The national planning agency proposes conversion of huge zones in Western Europe, for "landscape-culture", or as European nature parks (Rijksplanologische Dienst 1991, Ministerie van VROM 1997).

In fact sustainability is becoming an almost unquestioned planning ideology in Europe (CEC 1993; Healy and Shaw 1993; Healy and Williams 1993 707-708; Mega 1994; Mega 1997; EC 1994b, 107-108; Gibbs 1994; EC 1995; Nijkamp and Geenhuizen 1995; EF 1995; Camagni et. al. 1995, 2; EEA 1995a, 1997, Norris 1997). A map for the "Natura 2000" programme shows the whole of the European Union as "biogeographical regions" (European Commission DG XI, 1997). Gulinck and Dortmans (1997, 44) propose "landscape units" for the Benelux, taking priority over administrative units.In eastern Europe, an area of 760 000 km² has been designated as the "Green Lungs" of Europe (EEA 1995b, 247). The report "European Sustainable Cities" (European Commission DG XI, 1996; see also EEA 1997) has examples from all areas of urban policy. The "European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions" has been active, in linking sustainability to other normative urban theory (see for example Dal Cin 1996). As Blowers writes of sustainability:

Sustainable development draws its political sustenance from its unifying, consensual and essentially conservative connotations. It serves a variety of sociological purposes. It provides status and support to the scientific community; it endows environmentalists with much-desired credibility; it creates a platform for politicians; and it transforms the image of business. (Blowers, 1992, 25, citing Buttel et al. 1990)
In the Netherlands, the urban component of sustainability policy is the "Ecopolis" strategy (Rijksplanologische Dienst, 1995). In a sense Ecopolis is a superlative, a hyper-version, of the Garden City. In turn, the Netherlands agriculture ministry propagates "green strategies for the urban landscape", including the introduction of urban agriculture (Ministerie van LNV 1995). Nature in the garden city acquires a specific garden quality:
Natuur bij de stad moet een flinke omvang hebben en een show-element bevatten: schotse hooglanders, edelherten, bevers, bloemrijke plukweiden, ligweiden, bezoekerscentra. kanoroutes, fietspaden moeten ervoor zorgen dat de mensen natuur gaan beleven.
Nature at the city must be large in scale, and include an element of show: Scottish Highland cattle, red deer, beavers, fields of flowers to pluck, rest meadows, visitors centres, canoe routes and cycle paths must allow people to experience nature.(Sjef Jansen in Lever et al. 1995, 20)
The political coalition behind this green consensus, may expand further. Feminist urban visions overlap with ideals of sustainability (see Eichler, 1995). Other sectors in society and economy, construct similar political coalitions - the nuclear energy sector, for instance. However, the range and scale of the urban-environmental coalition, suggest it rests on an underlying consensus - for one single urban trend. It is consistent in its demands. When land use was mixed and high density, urban movements demanded low density residential areas. With this demand met, they now seek to transfer the remaining higher density uses - to mixed low density areas (Goodchild 1994, 151-152). Politically, all variants of planning philosophy (functional separation or mixed use, zoning or non-zoning), have served lower density. Cynically seen: everything planning theorists say, is a proposal to lower densities.

Finally the clearest evidence, of the urban trend to nature, is the cities themselves: the sea of gardens-with-houses. These form the bulk of "urban" expansion, in the developed countries. Only if other hypothetical possibilities are excluded, can this be described as an "increase in the range of urban experience" (Cheshire 1995, 1058). Only by forgetting all possible urban innovation, can this green monotony be described as "change". This explicitly green "bourgeois utopia" (Fishman 1987) suggests: the "standard ethic" is in fact acceptable, as a description of urban modernity.

Several features of modernity facilitate, and relate to, the nature of urban modernity. Briefly, modernity is characterised

There is a general trend, to a sort of reverse Faustianism. Instead of destroying the old (the myth of Faust), modernity builds the existing as "utopia", builds new nature, restores the past, builds museums, builds tradition, builds community. All these are prominent in urban modernity: conservation of historic urban cores within the growing zone of park-like low density settlement; structuring cities to facilitate democratic community; the special status of culture, especially national culture. Modernity preserves, improves, extends and intensifies the diversity of the existing - in opposition to change. The most modern cities, are probably those at the World Heritage Cities website, - they are certainly the cities rich people want to live in. Conservative historiography represents this process of re-traditionalisation, as "change" - and as inevitable.

This interpretation of modernity is derived from the historiography of the Third Reich. A central question for historians is this: did the Third Reich, deliberately or unintentionally, modernise? In this complex debate (Könke 1994) the Nazi urban, transport, and housing policies are themselves a central theme, - and a metaphor for the entire Third Reich (Dülfer et al. 1978; Thies 1980; Frank 1985; Gröning and Wolscher-Bulmahn 1993). The apparent paradox of Nazi propaganda will be familiar, even to non-specialists. It glorified, at the same time: farm family life, single family houses, villages, monumental urban projects, industrialisation and military expansion. Hitler's Autobahn program, more than any other, is symbol of these paradoxes. To begin with, it was not Hitler's program anyway: the proposals pre-date Nazi rule. To glorify manual labour, machines built the Autobahn. To let Germans reach the forests, the Autobahn cut through them. New bridges for mass-produced cars were built of stone, to look ancient. The planned mass automobile tourism, only came after Germany's defeat. If you want to understand modernity from a single book, then read Reichsautobahn (Stommer 1982).

Indeed, these paradoxes are familiar: for such paradoxes characterise all urban modernity. In resolution of this paradox, the historian Turner proposed a (generally unaccepted) thesis. (A paper by Roger Griffin, online at, reviews theories of modernisation, modernity and fascism). Turner suggested, that the modernisation (including military-strategic modernisation) was directed at de-modernisation. It sought a return to a utopianised mediaeval Germanic culture, exactly as Nazi propaganda implied (Turner 1975). Considering Nazi urban policy, and expanding earlier comments on the Nazi revolution by Schoenbaum (1966), Turner saw the resolution of the paradox:

Despite continuing rhetoric to the contrary, industry grew still bigger in the Third Reich, German cities became still larger, the flight from the land persisted, and women continued to be drawn into the labour force. This seeming paradox has puzzled a good many observers, but there is a simple explanation. How, after all, was it possible to obtain vast stretches of Lebensraum for the purpose of an extensive de-industrialisation and de-urbanisation of Germany in the mid-twentieth century other than by conquest? And how was such a conquest possible except by resort to a vast industrial war machine? The Nazis, that is, practised modernisation out of necessity in order to pursue their fundamentally anti-modern aims. (Turner 1975, 126)
Directly contravening Turner's intentions, the thesis can itself be expanded, into a general explanation of modernity: that the essential nature of modernity is de-modernising.

Modernity is a self-destructing, or at least self-braking, process. In this sense, it is logical to accept that urbanisation is de-urbanisation, that not urbanisation but counter-urbanisation defines settlement in modern Europe, and that nature is urban. The conventional oppositions only confuse. There is no doubt about the urban processes themselves.

In any case the semantics are changing, as current use of the word "nature" in the Netherlands illustrates. New words like natuuraanleg (nature construction) and natuurbouw ("naturiculture", by analogy with landbouw, agriculture) indicate new Dutch thinking. (Since the first version of this paper, the term "new nature" has passed into general use: see Metz 1998). This is Dutch reality anyway: in Holland, "nature" is something constructed by the Government. The word "nature" has become a semantic extension of "park". A low-density plan (one house per hectare) for lakeside houses, in Groningen province, was called "De Blauwe Stad", the blue city (Metz 1998, 73-87). Via other neologisms, such as "eco-housing", "eco-district" and "ecopolis", a semantic convergence of "city", "park" and "nature" is possible - and increasingly probable. (In the United States, the term "restoration ecology" is used for new-nature projects: the term "bio-regional", for planning strategies combining large-scale parks with urban dispersal).

To summarise urban modernity: if the modern urban process is seen as:

the systematic extension of a park-like and garden-like environment for habitation,
at densities sinking to regional averages,
in parallel with continuing development of that environment towards a controlled version of the pre-human ecosystem,
then there is no need for artificial paradoxes. There is no need for the confusing language of: urban, counter-urban, para-urbanisation, carpet urbanisation, disurban, suburban, peri-urban, exurban, edge city, non-places, new towns, spill-over, expansion, città diffusa, garden cities, green cities, or sustainable cities. On the contrary: there is a good case for extreme reductionism in urban theory. Precisely because so many urban processes are reducible, to the basic urban trends of modernity: more nature, lower density, therefore more mobility.

Urban research, as with the social sciences in general, opposes reductionism. Peter Hall identifies the garden city idea as a "response" - one of six basic "responses" to the nineteenth century city (1988, 7-10; 86-318). This implicit rejection of reductionism is probably representative, for urban theory in general. A unidirectional process or ethic (urbanisation for nature), is presented by Hall as a succession of opposites. Urban theory assumes, that de-urbanisation cannot be inherent - and therefore must be a response, to external factors. These rejections of reductionism, are a defect of urban theory. It is a general defect of the social sciences, to reject reductionism. A theoretical reduction of all social processes to "hostility to change", is often necessary - to overcome that hostility. That defect, in turn, derives from a defect of science in general: science worships the complexity of the existing. As so often in the social sciences, urban researchers are fascinated by the object of study: the existing cities. Emotionally, they cannot accept proposals for their destruction. They do not want to see urban complexity reduced to simplicity, by ethics. The ideal book of urban theory, needs just one word about modern cities: "wrong!". No urban theorist will accept that.

In general, therefore, the consensus of urban theory is non-reductionist. It is built around complex processes: globalisation is a good example (e.g. Engelstoft 1991). At worst this is political manipulation: fears of globalisation allow conservatives to present localism and community, as the alternative (Bohm 1994; Graham 1994a, 39):

With regard to urban and regional strategies, there seem to be two approaches to the challenge of these economic conditions. One is acceptance of the developments and conformation to their demands of competition. The other is the search for a more independent socio-economic existence. The first approach can be seen in city and regional endeavours to merit the status of "Global City". The other, the Local Economic Development approach, is an emerging movement with the main objective to make places, communities, neighbourhoods and cities less dependent upon global economic premises and to develop local resources. (Bohm 1994, 108)
That is obvious political propaganda, for Local Economic Development Councils. Not all urban research is so directed, to specific political lobbies. More typical is Castell and Hall's use of "dominant processes". None of these processes involves ethical judgment, and they seem too large for voluntarism. If "globalisation" is such a complex process, then it seems to exclude conscious decisions by individuals. Nevertheless, the resulting extreme consistency of urban form and economy, suggests otherwise. If urban global process is extremely complex, then why is there not much more urban diversity? The semantic shrinkage, of the so-called "Multi-Function Polis" it suggests semantic illusions are active. It started with claims to be a turning point in urban history, it ended as a resort suburb of Adelaide (Castells and Hall 1992, 206-219; Haughton 1994). In other words, language shifts, illusion, and advertising hype, are concealing basic stability and uniformity. Urban form is changing its name, rather than its nature.

It would be wrong to say, that nothing changes. A uniform trend does not exclude all historic succession: the word "trend" implies some process and transformation. These processes can create the illusion of fusion between opposites, if taken out of the context of the standard ethic. New forms can appear to be emerging: this kind of illusion also appears in urban theory. Sometimes this illusion is deliberately promoted. Claims about fundamental oppositions can have a political aim: they often followed by the claim, that some form of fusion is necessary. Howard's original Garden City proposals were a classic example. Howard said, in effect: "there are gardens, there are cities, this is an opposition, therefore there should be garden cities". Not logical, but good propaganda. There were already low-density residential areas in British cities: by contrasting city and country, Howard made them seem a necessary historical development.

In current spatial theory, the first type of claim (that dualisms exist), is associated with mainstream realism. Mainstream urban theory says, for instance, that there is a boundary between city and country. The second normative component ("fusion is better") is associated with post-structuralism, and post-feminism. Post-structuralists would say: "cross boundaries, overcome dualisms". It is easy to see that, in this way, a theoretical defence of low-density housing can be constructed. So, instead of this manipulation of claims, for political purposes, I prefer reductionism. Reductionist urban theory does not say, that all land surface is identical, to all other land surface. It recognises a question of definition: which categories are used? The "four-zone standard ethic" is at least as valid, as any other categorisation of land surface. It is as valid as the usual dual oppositions, or any claimed fusions.

The real processes of fusion, then, differ according to the categorisation. Certainly, the former urban-agricultural boundary is being eroded, in some form. This is a source of much comment and confusion, in terminology and theory (Coombes et al. 1989; Fishman 1990; Fishman 1991; Garreau 1991; Sudjic 1991; Short 1991, 50-52; Frankenhauser 1991; Piccolomini 1993; Mezga 1993; Stiens 1993; Luchsinger 1994; Irmen and Black 1994; Davis et al. 1994; Müller and Rohr-Zänker 1995; Halliday and Coombes 1995; Augé 1995 73-74). There are at least 17 definitions in the US, just for the term "sprawl" (Ewing 1997, 108). But, more interesting than edge-city phenomena is: direct transfer from "farm" (productive) to "garden/park" (nature). It is ignored by much recent urban theory. This transfer is visible in its products: agro-tourism, riding stables, nature-based theme parks and leisure parks, zoo's, safari parks (Loda 1994; Europäische Kommission 1995; Ilbery 1996). There are also multi-purpose leisure park-centres (Hatzfeld and Temmen 1993, 364): they are more traditionally urban. However, the farm-to nature transfer is more than a "leisure industry" fashion. In effect, agricultural areas are bypassing the urban (fourth zone) phase entirely. They transfer directly from productive (farm) zone, to park zone. They become new urban form, without ever being an old city:

...theme parks like Port Aventura, and other consumption and leisure centres, allow us to think about the loosening of some characteristic components of the traditional European model - the shapes and spaces of traditional European cities give information about their urban functions. (Anton Clavé 1997, 261)
Similarly "counter-urban" settlement of some depopulated rural areas (Clout 1991) is a direct conversion to (crudely described) ultra-low-density suburbia. The "appropriate label" sought by Saraceno (1995, 329) for these post-rural areas is therefore "urban". In other words, some remote rural areas have become urban, without any new high-density construction. They do not look like a city, they look like a park. But that is exactly what I am trying to explain - a city is a park. If you want to recognise the modern city, look for trees and grass. This comment on 1970s Britain is still relevant (compare the map of migratory gain from Paris in Lipietz 1995, 151):
The concept of an outer city embracing both the more accessible and some of the more remote rural areas appears to be increasingly relevant. (Herington 1984, 15).
Final evidence of the standard ethic, are the basic changes in urban form. The "house in a garden" has become the prototype - for the landscaped offices, for industry, airports and even refineries. New urban form is primarily a garden:
Within perimeter centers building-to-garden relationships, not building-to-building relationships, are the only formally substantive morphology. The buildings themselves may be best analyzed as components of garden typologies, not as structures that exist independent of landscape. (Kieran and Timberlake 1991)
If you want to see an airport, look for trees. If you want to see a factory, look for trees. This is the historical triumph of the utopia of the suburb. It is the triumph, certainly in the United States, of some form of anti-urban ideology. It is evidence of a single urban ethic. It is a triumph of the Arcadian vision, which inspired the first "green" movements over 100 years ago (McCormack 1989, 1-17). Equally, in historical retrospect, "suburbia" reveals itself as transitional, leading to "a new kind of decentralized city" (Fishman 1987, 17).

An ethic which promotes fusion of nature and urban, excludes non-natural cities. This is what is meant by an urban ethic: humans have come to believe, that cities without trees are morally wrong. This deliberate process, the application of the ethic, parallels a more general form of technological conservatism, seen in Donna Haraway's (1991) cyborg concept. In the cyborg world, only entities which can fuse with humans ( or biological organisms) can exist. In the current urban ethic of modernity, only cities fused with nature can exist. As Haraway's exclusion of future technologies is the veto "no non-cyborgs", so Howard's veto is "no non-garden cities". Both cyborg and Garden City, are conservatism through syncretism.

In urban modernity, the crowded cities are an accident: the intention was to build a garden. It was an explicit goal of prototypical early modern gardens to restore paradise (Gerndt 1981, 68-70; Wagener 1985; Jong / Dominicus 1996). The ultimate result of the "demand for nature, even if reinvented" (Micale 1992, 37) is the reverse of the classic "western" relationship to nature and modernity. This is its classic expression, by Max Weber:

Es ist nach der Darstellung wohl völlig klar geworden: dass in dem Zaubergarten vollends der heterodoxen Lehre (Taoismus) unter der Macht der Chronomanten, Geomanten, Hydromanten, Meteoromanten, bei der krüden und abstrusen universistischen Vorstellung vom Weltzusammenhang....eine rationale Wirtschaft und Technik moderner okzidentaler Art einfach ausgeschlossen war.
It is clear from the description, that in the magic garden of heterodox Taoism, under the power of the astrologers, geomancers, hydromancers, and meteoromancers, with this crude and abstruse holistic idea of an interlinked cosmos....rational economy and technology, of the modern Western sort, was simply impossible. (Weber 1989/1915)
But what has happened to Weber's Europe? Look at the European Union plan, for the Central Region of Capitals, in "Europa 2000+" (EC 1994b, map 30; EC 1996, map 9.2). These proposed continental scale inter-meshed metropoles, eurocorridors and ecological networks, show the victory of the geomancers of modernity: the urban sacralisation of nature. Rational, modern, western technology is turning Europe into a Magic Garden.

Urban modernity is, in conclusion, an ethic. It is a prohibition of cities. It is not the inevitable historical process, presented by historicist claims. That can also be said of the second context of urban ethics, a second prohibition of cities: the geocultural structure.


The geocultural structure corresponds to the geopolitical structure. In Europe (and so far only in Europe), there is a complete series of explicit geopolitical visions. They are not so much visions of alternative futures, as of alternative forms of state. The three most prominent of these "future-Europes" are: the national model, and the ethnic and regional challenges to it. If military force - the ultimate resolution of alternative forms of state - is an indication, then the reality of Europe is one-sided. Counting soldiers and weapons, it is 95% Europe des patries /Europe of the nations. The rest is for Europe of the regions and Europe des ethnies / Europe of the peoples. It is 0% Europe d'Europe.

A "geocultural structure" of this kind, is not an abstraction. Apart from one explicit multinational federation (the Russian Federation), nation states hold almost all territory in Europe. All of these nations have policies, to promote national culture and unity. These policies or structures include: a national monopoly of force, of the executive, of legislation, and of elections. This is a single geocultural structure, not because of diversity of cultures, but because it excludes the non-national. (The cultures may not differ at all in some respects). Concretely: there are no non-national cities in Europe, except the Vatican. Urban theory tends to take it for granted, that modern cities are national. Here too, a historicist approach equates non-national with pre-national - as if there were no deliberate ethical choice involved. Nations are not inevitable: neither are national policies, and national cities. There is not an inevitable line, from the feudal to the national city.

So the geocultural structure excludes possible cities: but there is also internal conformity to the national culture, rarely referred to explicitly (CEC 1992, 190-192). In effect each nation has a national urban model. It is enforced by law, and defended by the military and police. it is enforced also by social and economic pressures. Since nations are explicitly transgenerational, that model includes projection of the past into the future. Internal conformity to national models, makes national cities more national every year.

National cities explain the growth of the culture and heritage sectors. These sectors are a result of characteristics of national cites: permanence, transgenerationality, and convergence to national norms. The explanation does not lie in post-industrial or post-modern trends. Eight categories of new uses for industrial buildings, are given as examples of the "post-industrial city" (Capel 1996, 29-31). But most are familiar in existing cities: cultural buildings, parks, and government offices are not "post-industrial". Only the category of "technology centres" would not be familiar, in the Manchester of Friedrich Engels.

Culture and heritage sectors can be traced back, into (or before) the classic industrial period. A heritage park (for instance) may be a recent form, but it has nineteenth-century precedents. These precedents include "improvement", paternalist education with nationalist emphasis, and cross regional exchange through new infrastructures. In 1860 people travelled by train to new national museums, in the 1990's by car to heritage parks. A range of classic nation-building (or nation-consolidating) practices is still at work (On these practices, see Knippenberg / de Pater 1988). However, it is now often the private sector which "builds the nation", without direct state coercion.

Heritage and culture are part of urban economies, not the totality. However their impact is probably increasing, and almost never questioned. If there is any opposition, it is only to the priority for "high culture" - not to culture as such (Jauhiainen 1992). European cities are supposed to have culture - because they are national, and nations are supposed to have a culture. This unquestioned assumption underlies cultural policy (see Häussermann and Siebel 1992; Lim 1993; Friedrichs 1995):

London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels....The race is on as to which city will be the heritage/cultural capital city of the new Europe. (Morris 1995, 67).
Nothing "new" here: this vision of Europe, as competing historical cultures, derives directly from the Italian nationalist Mazzini.

Nationalism imposes culture, and prohibits its absence: that is a central theme of nationalism, and also of new "cultural politics". Nationalists justify this imposition, by appealing to historical continuity. New forms of cultural politics legitimise it, by claiming value for diversity in general, or their own internal diversity. Urban theory presents this as a neutral fact, referring to "British cities" or "German cities" as if they had existence rights. So too in new cultural politics, for instance with "lesbian spaces":

And so the process of imagining, contesting, reworking, redefining, and the challenging of sexual identities, community identities and the reshaping of landscapes of desire continues...(Valentine 1995, 109).
That does not mean this process should continue. No quality of a culture confers existence rights on that culture. No culture has the right to prohibit its own absence. In practice there is only political imposition. It is equally wrong to force people to live in a city with a National Museum, or to live in a city with a Lesbian Centre. Some people do not want either. Both cases deny the freedom to reject culture. Both policies are based on an ideal of urban unity.

___Urban unity

The standard ethic values urban unity and diversity: but with logical errors. Basic models of urban space can be presented in simple diagrams (Heikkila and Griffin 1995, 274). They can make implicit territorial ethics explicit. With such simple diagrams, Aravantinos (1994) presents three urban models: cities of diffusion and multiculturality; segregation within cities; and "complementary cities".

The first is the preferred model, the "multi-national city". But, the quickest way to mix nationalities, is to dissolve nation states. For instance, Greece, Aravantinos' country. However, that is not what is proposed: "multi-national" does not really mean multi-national. The reality is, that nationalists accept the principle of ethnic segregation at country level, but reject it at city level. "Multicultural cities" are not cities outside the jurisdiction of nation states. They are national cities, of a nation with a pluralistic identity (see for example Qadeer 1997).

Aravantinos also accepts the existence of non-national social groups, but rejects separate cities for them - because of the danger of racialist or nationalist trends. Here the logic is reversed: arguing, from the problems of division among nations, against other divisions. Again, if nationalism is such a problem, then why not abolish nations? But, again, the proposal is not to abolish separatism: but to keep it as a monopoly for ethnic groups only. Finally, in Aravantinos' model, harmony is claimed to have intrinsic value. However, a city is not "good", simply because there are good relations between groups. Peace is not a moral value. If Mafia clans stop killing each other, it gives them no more rights, than when they were shooting. The political reality of Aravantinos' model is the traditional claim of the state: "we keep the peace, therefore we rule". This claim parallels a similar claim among nations: "if we do not go to war, them we are legitimate". (Both Israel and the emergent Palestinian state, for example, began as armed non-territorial groups. To a large extent, they are no more than gangs that stopped shooting. In return for that, each gets a recognised nation state).

Aravantinos' paper is very useful, because it talks clearly about values, which are usually just assumed. Usually in Europe, a geocultural structure is taken as given: no-one talks about why it is there. The de facto geocultural structure of Europe is this:

In this unquestioned model, the "culturalists" have a monopoly. The "culturalists" are: the mono-culturalists, the multi-culturalists, and the inter-culturalists. No other choice is conceded to exist. Anti-cultural cities are forbidden, in this logic. And emphatically, in reality, existing cities do correspond to one or more existing cultures. A "national city" is not an abstraction, it is reality. A concrete example: perhaps all EU member nations have different legal maximum densities. That is "diversity": but if all legal densities are under 300 person/hectare, then no city of higher density may exist in the EU. A specific urban model is forbidden. Not in a metaphorical sense: it really is a "forbidden city". If you try to build it, you will be fined. Not just legal prohibition, however, prevents its existence. There are also social, economic, cultural and political pressures, not to build such a city.

But perhaps there is such a thing as a "Slovak city", which in the past could not exist, under Czechoslovak federal law. Now, after the secession of Slovakia, it could be built: and of course, there are Slovak cities in Slovakia. In other words, at any one time, there are many forbidden cities in Europe. Forbidden national cities can get built, after independence. Other forbidden cities stay forbidden. High density is not a nation or a culture: so it can claim no territory in the present geocultural structure. No territory, no city.

Nations have a national language, a "national urban density", and national technology, including a national transport technology. The integration of "car culture" (Flink 1975) in national culture is evident: choosing rail, in a nation of car drivers, becomes a rejection of culture itself. Try watching television, but watch only programmes with no cars in them. Your choice will shrink: in a car culture, culture shrinks for the car-less.

The social pressures related to meat, give a good analogy. Being a vegetarian is socially accepted in Europe, but political action to forbid meat is not. It would be seen as dictatorial, if a vegetarian majority prohibited meat, for a meat-eating minority. Ethically however, the mirror positions are equivalent: if you eat meat, you prevent vegetarians living in a meat-free nation. In the political logic of the nation state, your steak is just as oppressive as their prohibition law. Logically, also, pro-meat and anti-meat laws are incompatible, like pro-drug and anti-drug laws. A nation is one or the other. So too, a nation is pro-car or anti-car. No European nation is anti-meat, therefore you can find no vegetarian city in Europe: geoculture prohibits its existence. No nation is anti-car, therefore no city is anti-car: geoculture prohibits its existence.

This is the reason why heritage, culture, identity, and memory are central to nations, and taken for granted in urban policy. Heritage is functional. Preserving the past, is the best strategy for limiting futures. National identity prohibits all that is non-national. In Europe there are different scales of heritage - local, regional, national, even "trans-national regional" (Larkham, 1994, 7). There is a vague "common European" urban heritage (Slater 1997, 154). But they all contribute to a past-based, exclusionary geocultural structure. That which does not belong to a culture, simply does not exist in such a structure.

A huge class of cities, is prohibited by the monopoly claim of this structure. It probably includes almost all possible cities. It is therefore pointless, to try and list them here. Kevin Lynch (1981) gives a partial categorisation of possible urban types, goals and values; de Klerk (1980) classifies ideal cities; and most histories of urban design include urban forms no longer existing in Europe (Kostoff 1991; Kostoff, 1992, 71-121). Usually, however, possible cities are just ignored. The so-called "alternative" urban scenarios, are usually just variants of the standard ethic (see Luiten's typology in EF 1994, 49).

The most relevant (and controversial) deviations from existing urban geoculture in Europe are:

And that too, is the reality of forbidden cities. You can live in a World Heritage City, but you are forbidden to turn it into a "post-heritage city", by demolishing the historic monuments. If you tried you might be shot by the police. How can anyone say there are no forbidden cities, if the police kill people to prevent them?


The third context of the standard ethic, which also prohibits certain cities, is liberalism.

In contrast to the first two exclusions, this prohibition is often explicit (e.g. Schoonbrodt 1994). Thierry Paquot (1997) quotes the (Nazi) philosopher Heidegger - in support of open cities. The familiar urban liberalism is the ideal of the city as a framework: for "business" or "enterprise", place market-place, global trade, Standortwettbewerb. However, liberalism means more than that. It means: the politics and philosophy of openness, exchange, debate, interaction, argument, competition, co-operation, networks and "society". Liberalism presents all of these as natural, desirable and inevitable. In summary liberalism claims (Treanor 1996):

"Liberal structures" in a general sense (liberal democracy, the free market, Internet) have general characteristics:
Liberal historiography emphasises the transition, from the barriers of the pre-liberal era. In liberal histories, Europe progresses: as tolls, tariffs, customs houses, and internal customs-duties disappear. (Liberals see the European Union primarily as a customs union). One symbol of the pre-liberal city, is the Wall of the Fermiers around Paris. It was not a military defensive wall, but a customs barrier - one of many, around European cites, until the 19th century (Kostoff, 1992: 12-14). During the French Revolution, the Fermiers Wall was stormed and destroyed. For both Marxists and liberals, this event shows that bourgeois revolution, and liberal free trade, are equivalent. For liberals, it prefigures the opening of the Berlin Wall. (Ironically the German unity symbol, the Brandenburger Tor, was also a customs barrier. It was the Berlin equivalent of the Fermiers Wall). And the fall of the Berlin Wall shows that, in practice, the politics of the open city, is equivalent to the politics of urban unity.

Logically, openness implies unity. An open infrastructure (no walls) is a sign of a liberal city - and that is logically a single infrastructure. 9 years after the end of the Wall, Berlin once again has one network for each service. There is one road network, one metro system, one water network, one gas network, one electricity net. At least for the present, for like telecommunications, the networks are being privatised. But that does not mean, that the city is re-divided. There are competing telecom companies - but they operate in both east and west Berlin. Along with privatisation, there is a trend to integration of functions (Graham and Marvin 1994). So in the future, there will be several overlapping unified networks: several companies will operate combined gas/electricity/telecom services. However, Berlin will still be open and unified.

Unity of infrastructure is not self-evident, as the history of Berlin (and South African cities) shows. Recent Israeli construction, in the West Bank, shows it is feasible to build two separate road networks on the same territory, for different populations. Significantly, only ethnic and religious divisions made this possible. It is an exceptional case: no separate roads are built for other groups, however different they are. Conversely, Berlin's unification came, because majorities (in east and west Berlin) believed they were the same nation. The divided towns on the 1945 Polish-German border stay divided.The "universal access" to utility infrastructure, idealised by some theorists (Guy / Graham / Marvin 1997, 195), was national access - in the worst sense of the word.

Some unity is always a precondition, of open-interaction cities. In modern Europe, that unity is always national unity, as Aravantinos' paper emphasised. In turn, interaction causes convergence around national culture: liberalism reinforcing nationalism. The transport sector is, again, a good example. Individual decisions to use cars undermined rail transport in Europe, forcing others to follow the choice. The majority preference for cars caused convergence effects, "market forces". Many rail lines in Europe were closed, not because they lost all their traffic, but because they lost most of it. A rail line can not stay open, for 20 passengers. Market logic allows majorities to enforce preferences on minorities. In the end, the minority had to buy a car: or walk to work. But there is a far more important convergence effect, in rail traffic. Not only have existing rail lines closed, but possible rail lines have not been constructed. Converting raw mobility increases into route length, shows a huge infrastructure growth potential. Total EU passenger/kilometre growth 1970-1995, would have increased rail passenger traffic by a factor of 11 (Eurostat 1997). In reality, the growth went to roads (rail traffic grew by 25%, not 1100%). The possible 1000-kilometre metros in large urban regions, and the possible 100-kilometre metros in intermediate cities, have not been built. The failure of the market, is not just the loss of some old steam trains. Convergence tends to exclude possibility. Convergence tends to exclude innovation.

Urban convergence can be described as a process like this:

in a city where persons are exposed to a high level of interaction, including competitive interaction, deviance from an aggregate of the inhabitants' preferences will be negatively rewarded, i.e. punished.
Price structure in housing is a good example. A new family house with a garden, accessible by motorway, at 50 kilometres from a medium-sized city, is often cheaper than old housing for single persons, in inner city areas. A manager may pay less per month for such a house, than for a single room when a student. Economists can explain such effects, in market terms, but that explanation is not relevant here. The point here is simply, that such effects exist. In this case, they reward social conformity: the market is therefore not neutral. If you want to save money, it is better to be a conventional family, with a conventional lifestyle. The more you deviate, the more money you spend. Some people want these convergence effects, and support "market forces" for that reason. However, the convergence effects are also an ethical reason, to reject the market. The market is not transparent to all preferences - if it was, there would be no convergence effects, no bias toward majority preferences. If the free market was preference-neutral, a rail line would stay open for one passenger. But that does not happen. Openness of interaction destroys openness of possibility. A liberal city will tend to limit its own internal diversity.

This effect is rarely explicitly considered. Supporters of liberal cities generally use an argument of necessity:

Moreover, cities do not only meet the needs of economic life: they have social, cultural and political functions which are based on relationships of proximity, facilitating the construction of social networks with partial or global objectives; these social networks, to the extent that they seek innovation, need a face-to-face relationship in order to produce their effects. (Schoonbroodt 1994, 86).
"Network" contradicts "innovation". The housing market, the labour market, transport and communications infrastructure: all favour convergence effects. If cities are absolutely split, fortunately, these effects cease absolutely.

Splitting cities would also limit other, more direct, convergence effects - through standardised education, or through urban politics. Most European cities are governed by parties (or coalitions), based on less than a third of the adult population. Sometimes the proportion is much less. However this minority tend to be over-representative of core population - in terms of age, sex, employment status, ethnic origin, and housing. Their control of the city, favours the core culture, and convergence on that culture. Very simply and directly, minorities are always disadvantaged, in open pluralist cities.

In summary, liberal cities in Europe are "cities as networks within networks of cities". Much urban studies terminology (urban interaction, "transactional city", "informational city", "network city") implicitly accepts liberal ideology. However, that is not inevitable. De-liberalisation can take two forms. Cities can be de-networked internally: or cities can be made autarkic, at least in respect to liberal interaction.

Is this a historic regression, a return to the ghetto? It is a historicist claim, that the demolition of the Wall of the Fermiers, or the Berlin Wall, are the inevitable direction of history. It is true, that open cities are now the norm. Perhaps even more than their supporters think. In general, the claimed "social polarisation" in liberal cities is insignificant, compared to pre-1989 Berlin, or divided Korea (Marcuse 1993; Schön 1993, 652; EC 1994a, 40; EC 1994b, 100-105; Caldeira 1996; see Hammett 1994 403-409). "Dual cities" are usually an artefact of liberal bias, in urban research:

Contrary to the modern public space constituted in accordance in accordance with ideals of openness, equality, commonality, and the reference to a notion of universality, the new public space which is being formed in Sao Paulo is structured on the basis of the principles of separateness and emphasis on irreconcilable differences. (Caldeira 1996, 65).
If you adopt such explicitly unitary principles, then all cities will seem as divided as Berlin. If you are convinced that all people must socially interact 24 hours a day, then any city will seem privatised, unsocial and ghettoised. But what is the real problem for the poor of Sao Paulo? It is not that the rich retreat at night to enclaves, like the ironically named Alphaville (van Dijk / Meurs 1998, 46-47). The problem is, that they come out during the day, to exploit the poor. There is no ethical reason to force urban unity, if it implies injustice. There is an irreconcilable difference, between oppressor and oppressed: it is immoral to ignore it. Yet, in general, it is ignored. Rich and poor live the same cities anyway.

Most cities, then, are open cities, yet technology does not determine an open society. Fencing, detection systems, alarms, security recording, tagging, and access control, are increasingly sophisticated. (The liberal attitude to this technology varies. Liberals find it oppressive in state use, but acceptable to protect property. They find fences and cameras; wrong in the centre of Berlin, but acceptable at the Polish border). If there is a technical trend, it is a trend to effective division, not to unity. Every year, separate infrastructures become more feasible. Every year it becomes cheaper (in real terms), to build a Berlin Wall. Yet despite this, only one large divided city remains: Levkosia (Nicosia) on Cyprus. Not technology, but politics, made Europe like this. Europe could be full of divided cities: there is no inevitable historical trend against them.

Similarly, "intra" networks (networks among cities) can be broken up. In this case, no-one can claim it is not feasible. Networks among cities in Europe are already limited, by barriers among nation states. Yet urban networks (inter and intra) are presented as neutral, inevitable and/or desirable (Loeckx 1992, 285-286; EC 1994b, 109-111; Baumheier 1994; Graham 1994a: 1994b; Kunzmann 1995; Stoll 1995; Aurigi / Graham 1997; Guy / Graham / Marvin 1997; Gleisenstein et al. 1997), with only occasional criticism of the concept (Schön 1993, 650-1). After sustainability, the vague "ideal of network" may become another unquestioned norm, for EU urban policy. Yet, if there can be 50 nation states in Europe, then there can be 500 autarkic city states. Networks among cities - often the word means nothing more than "administrative co-operation" - are not inevitable. A Europe of city states, displacing the nation states, is not a radical change - as urban theorists would see it (Harding 1997, 308) If they are all network with each other, then the number of states has grown, nothing more. If they are all autarkic, that is different.

Separate urban administration does not, in itself, distinguish liberal from un-liberal cities. The difference, between liberal and un-liberal cities, lies in the nature of liberal structures. An open liberal city "expresses" preferences of its inhabitants, to some extent. (Although that is usually, as explained, the preference of an elite, within the majority culture). Liberals see the ideal city projects of autocratic rulers as un-liberal: they are right. The inhabitants had (in principle) nothing to say, if a King decided to build an ideal city. There were in fact no inhabitants, at first: the King decided on a new city, and later the inhabitants were compelled to live there. Such an autocratic decision would now be unacceptable: even historical examples are rare. (It is true, that some new towns in Western Europe were built on empty sites, but within liberal democratic planning frameworks). But there is a clear modern antithesis to the liberal city: the secret cities of the Soviet military-industrial complex (see Rowland 1996). Such secret cities are as remote as possible from the existing urban network: interaction is deliberately minimised. That is what makes them inherently and absolutely un-liberal.

Closed, secret societies are abhorrent to liberal democracies (the Italian Constitution specifically forbids them). So also (in principle) secret cities, although western states also have secret military facilities. Secret societies can have their own agenda, their own goals. For liberals, that is wrong. For liberals, it is dangerous that they are not subject to the "checks and balances" of an open society. Liberals fear the ability to pursue any goal, which is different from the aggregate of interactions in a liberal society. Liberal cities "express" the aggregate preference of their inhabitants: secret cities express secret preferences. The liberal doctrine of "anti-perfectionism" rejects this: for liberals, society has no goal other than "expressing" the aggregate of interaction. For free-market liberals, the city is the sum of market forces, nothing more. The un-liberal city, therefore, is primarily characterised by a deviant goal. It is a teleological city: it is there for a purpose, and its inhabitants are secondary. It was the conservatism of the old "ideal cites" which was wrong, not this principle. Once built, they were static. But, returning to the opening of this article, there is one goal (telos), which does not result in a static state of goal achievement. That goal is change itself. Cities are for change: not for their inhabitants, not for people at all.


This article has described cities in Europe, as the result of an underlying ethic. The urban present, described in the three ethical contexts above, is certainly "modern" in chronological terms. A transition to a "change ethic" might therefore constitute a chronological break, but that is a guess about the future. In historiography, the normative proposals in this article might be classified in another way. A future historian might categorise this article as a "second modernity" text, rather than indicating a definitive break with modernity. In this "second modernity", some elements of modernity (causing social and political stagnation) are by-passed. So the future historian might see this article, as part of an intellectual transition in Europe - to a second modernity. Perhaps that is all it is. But even so, the proposals do contradict a wider "standard ethic" - of the value of nations and community, the value of historical political communities (the "demos" in democracy). In that sense, they are a break with tradition.

The proposals facilitate change, by maximising urban form, content, and maximising its dispersal. The facilitate the use of the city for change, even if not all cities undergo change. The equation is simple. 99 conservative cities, with one innovative city, are more likely to facilitate change, than 100 open, pluriform, democratic cities. Plurality of urban form should therefore replace political pluralism, "civic society", community, and public domain. Diversity of cities is at least as important, as diversity in cities. The liberal restriction on possible cities - "no goal without consensus of inhabitants" - should be abandoned. A telos for cities is legitimate.

In the short term, a plurality of possible cities already exists, as options on classic planning issues: density, mobility and transport technology. Moderately high densities (up to 20 000/km²) are feasible, with existing construction and infrastructure. The first post-automobile city in Europe can exist tomorrow: it is a matter of political decision, not technical feasibility. Any European city with a million inhabitants, could construct a high intensity metro (1 km. route/ 10 000 inhabitants).

Such a plurality could be implemented in a few years. But, it can not exist within the Europe of nations. It is a precondition for all this, that the geocultural structure is removed. That suggests a "State of Europa" to remove it: a state, for the specific purpose of ending nation states. In turn, de-nationalisation of urban areas, would be a priority for such a state. "De-nationalisation" is not simply demolition: national planning policies also include demolition. The difference lies, in what is to be demolished: de-nationalisation would target national identity. And perhaps recent construction (theme parks or shopping malls) reinforces national culture more, than preserved towns or monuments. "Urban de-culturation" is another policy to make new cities possible: it would aim to close the cultural sector outlined by Friedrichs (1995, 454-457). That is a large and influential sector: broadcast tv and radio studios, universities, art schools, record companies and art galleries. The range of cultural urban policies, summarised by Bianchini (1996), would simply disappear.

As a strategy for de-nationalisation, and as a result of it, migration should also intensify. As an indication, cities in Europe should exchange about one third of their population. A first phase of intensive urban migration would erode the geocultural structure: cities would be inevitably less national. In a second phase, migration would adapt the population, to the goals of the cities. In turn this may require a high capacity transport infrastructure in Europe: not to facilitate interaction, but to minimise it.

At this point, what had been urban policy, merges into state formation theory. In the present world order, the only large territories with specific goals, are the nation states. Religion provides some exceptions to this. There is one rare example of a city, with a population determined by an entirely transcendental and un-liberal goal: Makkah (Mecca). It is reserved for Muslims, yet few non-Muslims seem to care, about being excluded. Outside Makkah, the police turn away anyone who is not a Muslim. (Imagine the reaction, if the police sealed off Hamburg or Bristol, and then turned away anyone who was not an anarchist). But it is not simply envy of the privilege, to extend this principle. Nor is it self-interest (although atheists would be safer, in an atheist city, than in Makkah).

Rather, separation favours the possible, against the existing. Conservatives would complain, about being excluded from a "city of change". However they cannot legitimately demand to be admitted to that city, if their presence defeats the goal. Population transfers, to facilitate change, are therefore legitimate: for states, and for cities. It is legitimate, to reserve a city for change, and then restrict access of those who oppose it. If they are admitted, then the possibility of change will cease: that is exactly why they would want to enter.

In this article, there is no attempt at urban design Yet these proposals, for a different urban ethic, outline radically different cities. Such possible cities are more than just a "phase in urban development". That is the usual assessment of the ideal cities in early modern Europe (Kruft 1989, 18). At a minimum, they clarify how existing cities conform to an existing ethic. They serve as examples, in considering why that ethic should be rejected.

The opposite of these proposals, is to allow the existing standard urban ethic to continue. What that means, at its worst, can be seen in plans for Sarajevo (and other cities in Bosnia). The general policy of EU states, is to forcibly return refugees. They are returned to cities, where they "belong", on the basis of birth and ancestry. A hereditary identity will determine their city of residence. They will be forced to participate in restoring a heritage, conforming to official mythologies, The city authorities will collect taxes, to restore "our glorious churches" or "our glorious mosques" (or possibly both, to impress the UN). The refugees will return to an economic system, largely determined by the intervening powers. The propaganda for these plans will appeal to high moral principles. In reality, they are a suppression by force, of alternative possibilities (including depopulation).

Deported to Sarajevo, forced to work on the restoration of heritage in order to eat: that is the standard ethic at its most explicit. But a minority in Europe's cities is pressured every day: to buy a car, to use the roads and not the trains, to buy a house with a garden, to raise a conventional family, to take the children to the park, to take the children to the theme park, to shop at the mall or hyper-market, to have a career, to conform to the expectations of boss and colleagues at work - and yet also, to create the conditions, for the next generation to suffer the same pressures. Europe's cities are not free, so long as other cities are not free to exist.

Many people will reject the propositions in this article, but some people will not. They will realise that all ethics, however "soft", can result in coercion:

If current life-styles and sustainability are in conflict, people will have to learn how to think differently. (Peter Hall in OECD 1994, 43).
Sustainability is part of the standard ethic, and used in turn to justify liberal open cities:
Stakeholder participation creates urban environmental sustainability, and dismantling the barriers that separate minorities and the poor from the rest of society is crucial. (US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, in World Bank 1995, 7)
If they are being told to think differently, however, minorities have good reason to stay outside society.

The truth is, that not everyone accepts the standard ethic, of existing urban Europe. It is not legitimate, to coerce this minority into accepting existing cities: not for sustainability, not for any part of the standard ethic. The consensus on cities in Europe is not total. It is not realistic, however, to expect visible conflict in the near future. It will probably first become apparent, after the breakdown of existing geopolitical structures. Some form of "civil war" in Europe, seems a precondition for urban change.


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