Κυριακή 6 Απριλίου 2014

The crisis and its consequences on the modern city

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The European city cultivates a double heritage urbs and civitas. Over the last five years doubts have been raised in connection with the utilization of this heritage. Reluctance was not referred to the position of the city, which probably tended to be reinforced by new technologies, the ensuring of solidarity among the inhabitants, and the promotion of urban planning.
The reality that we are experiencing is described by Alain Madelin, as our mutation in the process of change from an old, ‘very old ‘, ‘ageing’ world that is disappearing. Through globalization a new world is taking shape. What we have seen from the fall of the Berlin wall was an opening to the outside world for countries that were locked up in their own little worlds. This is this an entrance to the world open societies for billions of people. This opening leads to a redistribution of the global comparative advantages, it also leads to a world where new ideas in the market and in free enterprise prevail.
Industrial culture is substituted by the society of knowledge whose main symbol is the best internet, and it is guided by the advent of powerful technologies.
This is what Alvin Toffler describes in the history of humanity using the term “the third wave” which leads to the “economy of knowledge.” We are at the foot of a new Himalaya as far as scientific and technological progress is concerned and yet we have not gone further than a couple of millimeters. In this new world the most important thing is creativity, consequently individual initiative acquires a pivotal role that entails personal freedom and personal independence.
On this horizon it is to be expected that the welfare state has come to its end.
Large networks of financial markets don’t have the ability to print money indiscriminately. Markets impose a maximum limit regarding the accumulation of national debts. It is now not possible to increase taxes indefinitely. It is no surprise, especially for those who have heard of Milton Friedman, and are familiar with how fit he is that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
The euro crisis was thought to facilitate us, helping us adjust to the reforms and efforts made concerning the liberation process, which are demanded by such a significant change and complete dominance of a global cartel which we usually call “markets.”
But, strangely enough, it is the obverse that is happening.
It all seems to be happening because the politicians and the opinion leaders found the opportunity in this crisis to take revenge from the ‘fiendish markets,’ and also as the means to save as much as they could from the proportion of the power that is perpetually slipping away from them, this they are doing by taking the global cartel.
The creation of a European super-state is the means and the solution that will restore the political power over the economy and the markets.
What we need is a political exit to deal with the crisis and developmental policies, this is what many economists and political scientists advocate. But this is not a solution. This is the heart of the problem. Those who are exerting pressure to create a super-state will have to adopt a more modest profile. Naturally, this is not speculation or a bad tradesman’s dangerous perception. It is not mutual funds, compensation stemming from danger and it certainly isn’t Wall Street, or the support of large multinational banks, which due to being negligent created this financial crisis whose unlucky victims are the citizens of the nations, residents of the modern cities etc, all people including the environment.
The way that political and institutional variables can affect the way public economy functions and finally the effectiveness of the economy, has been analyzed by many scholars( Roubini and Sachs 1989, Grilli et al. 1991; Corsetti and Roubini 1993; Alesina and Perotti 1995, Hamerbas 2011).  Taking this context into account, we witness a discernible distinction between the increasing income and the improvement of the political and institutional development on a broad scale.(Kaufmann and Kraay, 2002).
In each case the crisis is an unusual situation which is characterised by instability, the most certain thing being that those who are negatively affected by the implications of the speculative global entities are regions and places.
Many examples can be cited, the most characteristic being countries of southern Europe and Iceland, also certain places in America, for example California or even France and Latin America etc.. We therefore observe that there are many examples that show us that regions, places, countries, prefectures and communities are the first to experience the crisis.( Hartman L.P.,2001). However, besides the economic crisis which it faces, the city must deal with a range of different crises. A characteristic of a city, which is facing a crisis, is its juxtaposition with a difficult and unexpected situation that it can not handle.
This long-lasting situation inevitably affects the economy, social relations too, the identity of a place and as a consequence its image too.
Today’s crisis which is inherently linked with processes of globalization seems to have negative effects on the nucleus of societies, on the very part that constitutes the identity of places and individuals. Today’s people are making heroic efforts to keep its national identity ‘clean’ and also to maintain the quality of daily life at a high level. At the same time the continuous intergovernmental influx of information and products is inevitably accompanied with displacements of huge numbers of people, cultural characteristics and financial transactions.
 1.2 The repercussions if the crisis and the changes that it entails
Apart from disturbing economic stability, the crisis affects everyone within the affected areas.
It poses a threat upon public persons, elected officers, the private sector like enterprises and also the residents. It is the source of economic decline but also the source of decline regarding identities. This occurs due to the construction of bad images associated with places that are struck by the crisis and the economic recession.
It is therefore evident that, crises have repercussions on identity. Whether the crises are   social economic, social-political, or social-demographic, they spread and affect all levels of population in an area, creating all kinds of problems such as social exclusion, poverty, and decline. These crises are quite often the cause of violent social conflicts. Hence, the representational system of natural persons is disrupted.
It is vital to remember that people must feel accepted and recognized by others, and this is a matter of appreciation and trust. In the event of a historical crisis, like the ones that took place in Dunkirk and Le Havre, the demolition of their cultural heritage and symbolic elements that was caused by the bombing of these places, caused loss of the signs of recognition especially for the place/ region.
However, as Zemor P. (2006) cites the choice of elements that allow people to differ from others are of fundamental importance in the procedure of constructing identities.
As a consequence, the territorial crisis leads to the loss of trust and reference points and it causes the decline of the region’s identity. The people feel as if they don’t belong to the region, and they have the feeling of it being a lost land. They no longer recognize the old reference points, which they held in high esteem, hence they cannot relate to them. (Zemor P, 2006)
A city or a place exists only if it has an identity, which originates from and is constructed by the people that live there, have lived there or want to live there. The identity can convey a certain image, the image of the specific place, or the specific city.
However, the city or the place itself has a huge impact on its identity due to the interaction between the natural environment and anthropogenic factors. These dynamic components also have repercussions on the identity.
From the middle ages to the modern era, social, cultural, and economic development in Europe has always been dependent upon the city. The common history that European cities share has given them a similar facet. The small roads of the medieval centers and  magnificent works of art of the 18th century all underwent a transformation in the 19th and early 20th century, today’s giant malls, the degeneration of the once historical centers of the cities, the traffic congestion and the unvarying, mediocre architecture of the towns and suburbs constitute today’s cities. The majority of the population, in the European continent, lives in cities. Cities constitute centers rich in history and traditions, industrial, commercial and other activities. The features cities have form citizen’s physiognomy and their way of life, as a result they function as a point of reference.
The crisis and the subsequent social and economic implications gradually promote new forms of co-existence, participation and cooperation, standardizing meanings such as solidarity and self-organization as informal mechanisms that shall ensure immediate needs.
The necessity to construct relations and structures based on solidarity, in times of prolonged economic recession and declining welfare systems, is evinced in the significant widespread initiatives that have been taken, and the broad network of social services provided.
The present study has been inspired due to the acknowledgment of the great extent that policies of social solidarity have reached. By mapping the intercultural networks and relations within the city, its objective is to highlight the qualitative characteristics of these relations, by assessing and interpreting them. Simultaneously, it also aims to pay close attention to “active citizenship” (Landson- Billings, 2005,72), in order to highlight its context but also its aspects, which emerge in the societies which are threatened by the economic recession and  the devastating implications the go with it.

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