Last Updated 21 Dec 2022

Urban Planning Able to Understand Urban Problems

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In the Anglo-American context, often Urban Planning can be traced back to the rise of the Industrial city. The urban planning, in ways to understand the urban problems, such as poverty, it emerged in relation to the industrial city, specifically the Industrial City was made visible as a city of the slums. Peter Hall in his work “City of a Dreadful Night” notes that all throughout 1880’s and 1890’s, on both sides of the Atlantic – there were significant uprisings- also named as working class insurrections. It was the politics of fear and not the consciousness of the well-being of the poor which was the reason behind the appointment of The Royal Welfare Commission of England in 1885. The commission was formed to diagnose the problem of urban poverty. Though the Commission was important because it was based on the idea or a sense of urgency that something had to be done about the concentration of the poverty- Commissions like these shaped in the ways in which poverty was understood.

The Commission had asked statistician called Booth to produce analysis and a map of Poverty in London. Booth’s work via maps was deeply normative- it wasn’t just any analysis of the poverty, infact he classified the poor in to different groups. This showcase of different concentrations of poverty and dividing poor in to different groups gave way to the identification of Slums. Booth divided the poor in to four groups- Class D represented the working poor; then Class C had people with irregular earnings; then there was a group of people he dismissed as undeserving poor and then there was another group which was about 11% population which as per him lacked work ethic and that is the reason of their poverty.

As per him they should be moved to outskirts of the city in institutionalized capacity so that they can be taught to work harder. This mapping gave away a strong sense of colonial imagination that saw poverty as a moral problem rooted in the milieu of the city. Housing shortage was not seen as the root of this issue but the concerns about the public health and moral depredation and degradation concerns through quarantine and containing were closely linked with emergence of the urban planning in England. This historical conjuncture also travelled to the other side of the Atlantic to the United States. Through trans historical understanding we see that the early American Planning was the poverty in the United was deeply racialized. Peter Hall noted that even if the there was similar concern over the poverty, the ways in which the response to these urban problems and social problems takes somewhat different forms on the two sides of the Atlantic.

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Through examples of emergence of China 3own, Exclusion act and California Alien Land Law Act in 1914 and Slumm Tenement Housing, it is seen that there was a visible role of Urban Planning policies in producing these forms of exclusion and ghettoization. The City Beautiful movement, which came to know as the planning without a social purpose, dominated early American Planning: zoning and suburban development. The core of this movement resembled the England’s model, which was restoring the moral order and impurity of the urban core cities. These policies became socially exclusionary in their purpose and impact such that better housing was only available to those who could afford it (New York Regional Plan of 1931). City parks also were influential as neighborhood revival and a way to restore the quality of the urban life.

In 1960’s, in the United States, there was a shift in Urban Planning, which went from community action to community development. Professor Roy in her research paper “The Anti-Poverty Hoax” shows how this community development in the form of eliminating poverty just became pretext of territorialization of poverty not only in the city but also in the community. Under the ethos of self help, community action was rapidly transformed into community development programs. Professor Roy brings our focus on the manner in which the people were allowed to participate in community development, like in the case of Oakland, Oakland Economic Development council to counter poverty established a citizen’s board and many Black activists were taken as part of that council as token community representatives.

As soon as these activists realized and argued that the war on poverty should be address the issues of racism, joblessness and police brutality and should not simply expand on existing social services, the Mayor of Oakland refused to address these demands and the council was hence dissolved. There is an interesting relationship between these two historical conjunctures is that either Industrial City or be it 1960s- the city in both of these era becomes the key and an object of analysis and intervention. In both of these Era’s Urban Planning politics led to the segregation and exclusion of the poor in the name of reforming the city.

Brought about by industrialization and urbanization, the city reveals poverty in greater light that it showed in the countryside- this became an international issue. The 21’st century has seen a reshuffling of the global order where the center of the global political economy has shifted from the global north to the global south. From the readings of Professor Roy and Asher Ghertner of “Slum Free Cities” and “India’s Urban Revolution”, it’s easier to understand how the discrete themes of development of a city in to a world class city acts a site for dispossession and displacement. Though in the Global South, this displacement is not necessarily racialized but is a way for the state to reclaim the slums. Roy describes this as the Inclusive Growth Paradox where we see transformations of the informal properties into cadastral properties having global legible value.

The current Urban development in India is trying to follow a predictable formula of creating peri-urban elite enclaves of residence and leisure, economic zones to attract global capital, and civic campaigns to ensure spatial order in the city by following referents like referents that mark the Asian century and its miracles, from China’s Special Economic Zones to Dubai’s real-estate development to Singapore’s meticulous urban planning. Ghertner through his research “India’s urban revolution: geographies of displacement beyond gentrification” examines increasing use of the state force to clear land for private development for Slum Free Cities. He argues that these lands have not experienced historical disinvestment; have mixed, non-ownership-based tenure arrangements; displacement occurs there without redevelopment for a higher and better use and it all depends on the application of extraeconomic force.

To understand this Urban Change Ghertner analyzes the urban displacement through three theories- urban revolution, enclosures, and accumulation by dispossession or ABD by the State or Private Companies backed by the government. ABD accounts for forms of accumulation that require the application of direct extraeconomic coercion, such as eminent domain, slum demolition, land grabbing, dam-induced displacement, and the like. It is necessary for the state to consider the fate of ‘economically disadvantaged victims of urbanization’ and to replace ‘stringent eviction laws’ with the ‘provision of basic necessities for squatters

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