This essay is going to analyse the components of the contemporary city which are also the current prerequisites that have moulded the modern blasé attitude. I forestall that the structure of this work is linear, and the conclusion does not directly relate to the introduction. The introduction and the body provide the right amount of information to address the reader to a critical perception of the Metropolis and how the latter causes an irreversible apathetic attitude engaged by the inhabitants of the big city. Whereas, the conclusion focuses on a singular outcome and tries to find an alternative answer to the essay question. Instead of a predictable one, in fact, I tried to perceive the blase attitude of the mass from a different point of view.
The Prerequisite of a Successful Metropolis
Cities work as the cornerstone of a country; consequently, they run the world within its modern processes. Nowadays, cities are the concentration point of all the institutions that allow the bureaucratic sustain of the whole ecosystem developed by the man and converted into society. As the vital organs of the human body, cities are the confluence where the primary activities transpire, but they differ to the anthropological anatomy regarding duration. Cities perpetuate their span of life by progression and self-advancement. Several cities substantiate this idea of automatic growth. In this case, we mainly refer to the oldest metropolises, which are the financial, economic and commercial epicentre of a state. For example, London, New York, Tokyo, etc., are functioning since the rise of the cities, approximately after the outspread of the industrial revolution outward the UK. Effectively the existence of cities comes after the coalition of people. The Individual is the element which creates the perfect environment where the metropolis generates its roots.
In the final lines of the introduction to “Cities of the world: A history in maps”, Peter Whitfield states that the historical role of the city is to bring together cultures and ideas: “[Cities] convert human power into form, energy into civilisation. They are like brains, directing and developing civilised life, and without their innovative force, the body would atrophy and cease to change and develop” (Whitfield P., 2005, p.25). The city functions as the catalyst to civilisation and society. Without its procedures, the apparatus would die.
Transport and Communication
Productivity was well disposed to characterise an economy which has gone through an industrial revolution. Profit was the consequence of the latter. After the second industrial revolution ‘social overhead capital’ was invested into transport facilities to convert the economy’s richest natural resources into available assets. The transport revolution began embodying basic transport facilities-harbours, roads, bridges, canals and, successively, railways from the mid-seventeenth century throughout contemporary times. The transport field started under private control. Entrepreneurs and local parts commenced investing in the region the transport facility was to serve. The insertion of the new transport means was largely a consequence of the growth of towns with their mounting demands of basic food and fuel suppliers which had to be drawn from a wider and wider agricultural hinterland. The primary resources were needed to supply food and fuel for domestic needs and the whole host of small industries that required even in a pre-industrial community-bakeries, smithies tanneries, sugar refineries, breweries and so on.
The transport revolution soon attached its roots on the soil of society. During the 9th of January 1863, the first underground for the public was departing from Paddington station towards Euston and Kings Cross while conveying mainly men VIPs. Throughout 153 years the London Underground stained insidiously in the bases of London, becoming indivisible and synonymous. The identity of London, as occurred in other major global cities, has been defined by the growth of its system of transportation. The claim of a mass transport structure stimulated and determined the outward expansion of the urban area. However, the fulcrum that induced prominence to the public transport and its aptitude to shape cities was the increasing population living and working in the metropolises. For instance, the enlargement of the underground in London was the answer to the immigration of the 1960’s. This is yet the case of the “London Infrastructures 2050”. Lynsey Barber, City A.M.’s technology editor, stated in 2016 that “£973bn of spending is needed on transport alone to keep up with the rising population and number of people working in the capital”. Nowadays, the London transport system is changing to reduce the pressure on the central area and, furthermore, to link the City with its surrounding areas also to support the Housing Crisis, thus enabling commuters to a less stressful routine. Since the inception of the transport sphere to its assertion, public transport removes the main barriers to the urbanisation and lay down the system of communication which is essential to society’s sustain.
Public Transport as Public Space
Besides transport means, the second evident change of society that shaped cities during the industrial revolutions was the separation between the working environment and the house. The contemporary concept of home as a resting place was originated during the later process of the second industrial revolution. The stressful and extenuating working hours originated by the factories were mediated through the comforting and calming discontinuity from the latter within the walls of the house. Thousands of individuals started to undertake journeys to reach their job’s location, which soon began to be materialised into the new office environment. The office became the symbol of the modern world and consequently the emblem of the work practices that lead the city.
The ongoing third industrial revolution, known as the technological revolution, has provided a significant proportion of the world’s population with devices and internet connection. As a result of the contemporary society these tools are covering a substantial part of our daily lives. The primary purpose of the technological revolution is to enhance communication amongst human beings, by diminishing distance and revoking time. Nevertheless, dwellers are still willing to undertake the stressful journey from home to work, and vice versa. The majority of workers are also required to utilise more than a single transport means on the same day.
The revolution of information availability and utility will continue to intensely shape the world in the social, economic and political dimensions that administrate our reality, but although it allows people to avoid public transport, dwellers are still undertaking hectic and tense daily journeys instead of working and communicating solely through their devices. This fact is the consequence of the current commercial policies. Even the technological revolution will not outdate the city with its transport system and public spaces: “The container, the magnet, the meeting place will remain essential to life’s processes” (Whitfield P., 2005, p. 25)
Globalisation of immigration
The mindset of commercialisation of the procedures that define society introduced the financial consequence for the sustain of an individual and consequently families. Financial wealth and improved health conditions began to spread out since the second industrial revolution, and affected all the social classes stratification, developing the numerous middle class.
Prosperity and vacancies are the overall outcomes of industrialisation and the means that attract people into cities. In the mid-nineteenth century, the population of Britain’s cities grew explosively, with London’s rising from 1.7 million in 1830 to 4.7 million by the 1880 census. The compelling features of cities are the magnet to the major immigrations occurred (and currently happening) throughout the last couple of centuries. Along immigration, cities were filled with diversity and controversial mind-sets. “Most older inhabitants of the modern city, unfamiliar with the way of all the new immigrants, saw only a sea of strange faces, babbling in alien tongues and framed by freakish clothes, flooding their streets” (Fischer, C. and Barth, G., 1981 p.15) when the City Getaway was rising. The latter term was coined by Marie Price and LisaBenton-Short to define the globalisation of immigration that describes the current bias of metropolises’ stratification. The highest peaks of globalisation are seen within the cities that dominate and control of the global economy, such as the already cited London, New York, and Tokyo. “Global cities are linked to each other by the flow of capital, technology, information and trade” (Price M. and Benton-Short L., 2008, p.1). Such circumstance attracts immigrants, and thus these cities become residence the for tens of thousands, if not millions, of immigrants. The Unites States of America perennially take under observation the flow of immigration through the World’s Migrant Stock, which records data about the matter. In 2005, their files stated the almost doubled number of the World’s foreign-born since 1960, from 75 million to roughly 200 million individuals. In the twenty-first century, many gateway cities are among the most racially and ethnically diverse places on the planet. “Nearly every country in the world has an immigrant in London” (Price M. and Benton-Short L., 2008, p. 16)
Crisis of identity
The flow of immigrant towards the metropolis creates a crisis of identity among the several cultures living in the same place.
“Diversity is the key to urban beginnings and continuities, and diversity is also the snake in the urban garden, challenging systems of order and encouraging disorder and chaos” (Lehan R., 1998, p. 8)
Consequently, fear and racism are likely to take place within social life, especially in small towns. “In the extreme cases, xenophobia develops in which native-born residents blame immigrants for various social ills. In other cities, immigrant contributions […] simultaneously garner praise from local officials but disdain from residents, who may feel socially or economically threatened by immigrant success.” (Price M. and Benton-Short L., 2008, p. 21) In 2005, France was land for many protests against French people originating from Africa. The urban plan of Paris, in fact, still enclose these individuals in the suburbs areas distant from employment and educational opportunities. The contrast among the people of the modern city is accentuated by the discordant features of ethnicity and race. Simultaneously in 2005 the Cronulla riots, a youth community in Sydney, proclaimed an anti-Arabs protest. Despite such unusual events occurring in the largest global metropolises, racism and fear of the “diverse” communities are likely to take place in smaller towns. During the event “Have lunch with…” held at London College of Communication on Tuesday 24th November, Aaquil Ahmedaaquil Ahmed, Commissioning Editor and Head of Religion & Ethics, stated that the visible diversity of London is likely to be seen differently and not accepted internally to more contained cities around the United Kingdom.
The inhabitants of Metropolises are liable to internalise their personality when exposed to the other cohabitants. Richard Lehan says that during the past industrial and the current technological revolutions the “instinct was sacrificed to reason, myth to scientific theories, barter and exchange to abstract theories of money” (1998). The current city has evolved through three different stages – commercial, industrial and global – creating distance among people. This process transformed individuals into materialistic entities. It hardened the heart and diminished empathy, altering the common sense of human scale and community. The modern man, placed under great stress, becomes superfluous and anonymous. Thus, the new city is challenging to redeem, because anonymity has replaced community and sentiment evaporated. Georg Simmel, a German, at the time, underappreciated intellectual and academic of the early twentieth century and predecessor of the sociological studies, “created a typology of modern urban humanity that saw it subject to great nervous stimulation, which blunted feelings and created metter-of-fact ways of dealing with people. This, in turn, led to an emphasis on different roles in which human relations were secondary, not primary, and a premium was put on utility and efficiency.” (Lehan R. 1998). In 1903, Simmel coined the word “blasé” to describe the anonymous and apathetic attitude that many individuals assumed on a daily basis when encountering ‘the other’ in ‘the crowd’. During Simmel’s time, the crowd was likely to be featured by the stratification among the diverse social classes. Nowadays, society’s differences are more likely to be hidden by the wide spread of wealth and the more affordable goods. However, the process of ‘deindividuation’ remains unaffected. The latter term was coined by Festinger, Pepitone and Newcomb (1952). It describes the “process whereby people lose their sense of socialised individual identity and engage in unsocialised, often antisocial, behaviours” (Hogg M. A., Vanghan G. M., 2011, p. 429). Apathetic “acceptance comes as matter of course because the city generally ignored most distinctions, indiscriminately embracing the sage and the fool, the good and the wicked, the rich and the poor.” (Fischer, C. and Barth, G. 1981, p.11)
Technology has changed the contemporary communication. The presence of devices which let us easily access the mesh of endless networks throughout our daily lives has increased the blasé attitude and affected the interaction among human beings. Moreover, technology has vented people’s most primordial impulses. In fact, social medias are congested with cruel and malicious comments. Within the net human’s compulsion is not affected by social restrictions. As a matter of fact, an individual eludes reality and encloses his or her personality within the virtual world, or as I like to call, ‘Virtuality’. People’s public lack of interest is augmented by the freedom of act that reigns on the internet.
The availability and utility of information create a new blasé attitude towards social issues. The homepage of any social network is simultaneously bombarded with selfies, DIY, catastrophes, man’s cruelty and so on. The mass simply scrolls down through all these information without giving any weight and detaching one from another. In consequence, the mass creates an all at once offhand perception towards the gravest societal circumstances.
However, the overlapped information regarding social disputes on the net simultaneously ignites shared awareness and consecutively collective action. In the twentieth century, a significant proportion of involvement for the under-considered social and environmental issues is embodied by Design Activism. Because the present society is ruled by aesthetics, the best way to attract consent is Design. Nowadays, designers are joining to tackle any category of the social and environmental issues, rousing awareness and collecting supporters in a coalition to solve problems. “Architecture, product design, landscape architecture and related design disciplines that have spatial and material manifestations, such as fashion design or interior design” (Thorpe A. 2016) are all field currently alacritous to improve the human condition on earth.
As analysed throughout this essays, the primary outside inputs that mould the contemporary blasé attitude is the modern city, shaped by the globalisation of immigration, crisis of identity, technology and public transport, perceived as the central public space where thousands of individuals encounter each other on a daily basis. A second aspect that differentiates Simmel’s conception of blasé from the current deindividualization process is the impossibility to distinguish one’s social status through his, or her, image. The high-street fashion has given to the mass the opportunity to dress within whichever social status wanted. Therefore, I decided to take into consideration the “Fashion Revolution” as Design Activism against the common blasé attitude towards the misleading activities practised within the fashion industry. “On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,133 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history” (Ditty, S., Cook, I. and Hunter, L., 2015). The fact triggered Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, fashion designers, to unite in a coalition which purpose was to sensitise consumers about the impact of fashion on the environmental and humanitarian sphere. Since its initiation, the Fashion Revolution has become a global phenomenon taking action through events and viral proposals. The debate about ethics, sustainability and transparency in the fashion industry raised by Fashion Revolution has arrived up until the House of Lords in 2014 and 2015. Fashion Revolution incentivizes ordinary people to take action using their devices and question brands about the complete provenience and process of the realisation of their products, from primary resources until production. Many important brands have answered consumers’ #whomademyclothes question providing detailed information. Fashion Revolution is one of the thousands of examples of Design Activism that I choose to concretise my personal interpretation to answer this essay question. Fashion Revolution is the coalition of designers and consumers against the aberrations accomplished by the fashion industry. More precisely, their actions are at first an attempt to sensitise people about fashion procedures. Their main purpose is, in fact, to encourage curiosity and criticism against the label one purchases. We all are aware of sweat-factories and environmental climate change, but yet we overbuy cheap items and waste them. Such activism arises from the indifference and ‘deindividuation’ of the collective to counteract attitude of the later. Design Activism becomes the means to alter the contemporary blasé attitude.
Annotated Reference List
Ditty, S., Cook, I. and Hunter, L. (2015). How To Be A Fashion Revolutionary. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: http://www.fashionrevolution.org [Accessed 13 May 2016]. All the authors of this catalogue have been working in the fashion field for several years.
It is a source which extensively describes the Fashion Revolution and illustrates each option one could involve with to be part of this global phenomenon.
Fischer, C. and Barth, G. (1981). City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. Contemporary Sociology, p. 11, 15. Gunther Paul Barth was an American historian. His study contained in the book I referenced to, explains the analogous development of urbanisation and modernization in late nineteenth-century within the American society, demonstrating how the success of the ‘big-city’ life spread across the country and transmuted towns all over the United States.
Lehan, R. (1998). The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. p.8. Richard Lehan is Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities, US & Canada.
This book explores the Western idea of the city. The most important poets and writers of the last century are cited to analyse the changings of the city. Lehan’s essays contain several disciplines such as architecture, urban studies, economics and philosophy, building a neutral and extensive theory about life.
Price, M. and Benton-Short, L. (2008). Migrants to the Metropolis. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. p. 1, 16, 21. Marie Price is Professor of geography and international affairs. She is a coauthor of Diversity Amid Globalization. Lisa Benton-Short is Professor of Geography. She wrote important books such as “Cities and Nature and The Presidio: From Army Post to National Park”. The book I referred examines the contemporary global immigration trends and their effects on the city. The book emphases, not just cities with diverse longestablished inhabitants, such as New York, London, Toronto, but also main cities which are contributing to the fast improvement of underdevelopment countries such as Brazil or India
Vaughan, G. and Hogg, M. (2011). Social psychology. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Australia. p. 429. Michael Hogg is Professor of Social Psychology while Graham Vaughan covers Psychology. This book is a scholar manual that broadly explores the social psychology subject on a historical and critical core.
Whitfield, P. (2005). Cities of the world. London: British Library. p. 25. Peter Whitfield is the author of numerous books on a broad range of subjects, including maps, the history of science and English poetry. The book that I consulted for my essay is a collection of maps that explain the history of the current structure of the global metropolises. Whitfield’s opinion about the city is very inspiring and reliable.
Adam, K. and Jessica, K. (2016). The Social Science Encyclopaedia. 3rd ed. London, New York: Routledge.
Antón, P., Silberglitt, R. and Schneider, J. (2001). The global technology revolution. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
Barraclough, G. and Overy, R. (1999). The Times history of the world. London: Times Books. p. 128
Bownes, D., Green, O. and Mullins, S. (2012). Underground. London: Penguin Books.
Deane, P. (1965). The first industrial revolution. Cambridge [England]: University Press.
Fischer, C. and Barth, G. (1981). City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nine- teenth-Century America. Contemporary Sociolo- gy, 10(5), p. 11, 15.
Highmore, B. (2002). Everyday life and cultural theory. London: Routledge.
Lehan, R. (1998). The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Price, M. and Benton-Short, L. (2008). Migrants to the Metropolis. Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse
Rifkin, J. (2011). The third industrial revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Simmel, G. (1971). On individuality and social forms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Simmel, G., Frisby, D. and Featherstone, M. (1997). Simmel on Culture. London: Sage Publications.
The British Library. (2016). The rise of cities in the 18th century. [online] Available at: http:// http://www.bl.uk/georgian-britain/articles/the-rise- of-cities-in-the-18th-century [Accessed 13 May 2016].
Thorpe, A. (2016). Design as Activism: to resist or to generate? [online] Current. Available at: http://current.ecuad.ca/design-as-activism-to-re- sist-or-to-generate [Accessed 13 May 2016].
Vaughan, G. and Hogg, M. (2011). Social psychology. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Australia. p. 429
Weinstein, D. and Weinstein, M. (1993). Post- modern(ized) Simmel. London: Routledge.
Whitfield, P. (2005). Cities of the world. Lon- don: British Library.