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    Sep 20 2013: Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times, and this for the following reason:

    Architecture, urban planning, transportation and such alike are tools out of 'Bob the Builder's' toolbox and aren't applicable to make this 'economic and social opportunity a reality for the greatest number of people', because they don't change 'the system' itself, which doesn't allow this desirable changes to happen.

    A family, dominated by a drinking and violent father, won't get a better life if you changed the front-stairs of their house from wood to stone. Not even if you've hired the best stonemasons and used the best quarry. This father would just continue to suppress the family...

    The same goes for São Paulo, Cali, Nairobi and Chennai and all the other cities out there.

    Its not the city, causing the inequality and suffering of their inhabitants, its the socio-economic system these cities are just reflecting.

    The most comprehensive concept I know of, in which social change, city planning, architecture and technology were merged together to tackle the current problems you describe here was done by Jacque Fresco and is called:

    The Venus Project

    The magnitude of this concept goes way beyond some local dwelling, even though it covers it as well, as it includes and spans the whole planet.

    I think we should rather change the reason, why slum people can't afford a decent home than to do some GPS mapping of the whole mess. We need surgery here, no makeup. Because some mirror paintings here and there doesn't change the real object which it reflects and will therefore be only of short living and especially NOT sustainable.

    The obstacles have just risen. And is the Ford Foundation willing to be a part to tackle those? Or shall we better give some input on sophisticated, vertical window farming instead? Its up to you.
    • Sep 23 2013: "Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times." This statement is wrong. Cities have been shaped by political campaigns, social movements, immigration waves, radio stations and alternative media, and the like. A theory of hegemonic financial and real estate control that blocks reform is a pattern you could test in the present mayor's race where the most liberal candidate won the Democratic primary. If you read Lefebvre, Sartre or C. Wright Mills, e.g. The "Sociological Imagination," you will find an argument against economic determinism.

      You are correct, however, that cities in an of themselves are not independent variables (although you don't say this directly). First, as you imply the socio-economic system is a contributing factor, e.g. capital mobility. Second, some cities can challenge the mobility of capital via cooperatives or local procurement initiatives (although there are complex legal questions here). Third, different social movements have different effects, read Pierre Clavel's books: http://aap.cornell.edu/crp/people/faculty-profile.cfm?customel_datapageid_7102=16899 I have recently studied how change in Portland was made possible, an historical analysis, which addresses the structural barriers and the EXTENT to which some of these were overcome.
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        Sep 23 2013: Welcome, Jonathan, to TED Conversations!

        'Cities have always been nothing but a reflection of the socio-economic system of their times.'

        I don't think that this my statement is wrong and given your explanations what makes you think it is, to me is no contradiction.

        'Reflections' aren't static and of course they reflect dynamically when 'Cities have been shaped by political campaigns, social movements, immigration waves, radio stations and alternative media, and the like.', as you said. Yet cities never caused this changes to happen, they got only altered by them.

        Let me give you another example what I mean:

        'The French revolution didn't start because of the urban layout of the city of Paris, yet Paris as a city changed by the French revolution.

        Does my point becomes clear to you now of what causes a socio-economic system to change?

        Its the people who are dissatisfied with their living conditions an who start to change the cause of it. Its not their cities layout which made this movement happen.

        Lets take the early years of industrialization in England, of which we know, that the formation of the 'working class' put those people into almost inhuman living and dwelling conditions, which, as a socio-economic system wasn't caused by the urban planning of that time, but by employers who didn't take care of their workers. The workers didn't just earn enough to be able to build decent homes for them, which is the same reason in todays slum districts worldwide.

        Or take Detroit city today. Once the proud 'motor city' of the USA, today down the hill into decay.
        And what is the reason for this? Was it city planning, choosing the wrong layout for local traffic? Or lays the reason beyond its city map? To me Detroit is falling due to its socio-economic circumstances, and not because of its geographic design.

        Any city administration is is part of the socio-economic system it happen to be in, by which its very 'degree of freedom' is determined in the first place.

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