From megalopolis to communitas Reply

By Murray Bookchin (1974)

Panarchy.Org

The city has completed its historic evolution. Its dialectic from the village, temple area, fortress or administrative center, each dominated by agrarian interests, to the polis and medieval commune during an era when town and country were in some kind of equilibrium, to the bourgeois city which completely dominates the countryside, now culminates in the emergence of the megalopolis, the absolute negation of the city.

No longer can we speak of a clearly defined urban entity with an authentically collective interest or outlook of its own. Just as each phase or moment of the city ha its own internal limits, the megalopolis represents the limits of the city as such — of civitas as distinguished from communitas. The political principle, in the form of the state, dissolves the last vestiges of the social principle, replacing all community ties by bureaucratic ones.

Personified space and the human scale disintegrate into institutional space and urban gigantism, hierarchically grounded in the impersonal domination of one human by another and the destruction of nature by a rapacious society motivated by production for the sake of production. This “anti-city,” neither urban nor rural in any traditional sense, affords no arena for community and genuine sociation. At most, the megalopolis is a patchwork of mutually hostile enclaves or ghettoes, each of which is internally “united” not by a positive harmony of creative impulses but rather by a negative hostility toward the stranger on its perimeter. Physically, morally, and logistically, this urban cancer is in rapid decay. It does not function on its own terms as an arena for the efficient production and marketing of commodities.

To say that this creature is breaking down is an understatement: the megalopolis is an active force in social dissociation and psychic dissolution. It is the negation of the city as an arena of close human proximity and palpable ‘ cultural tradition, and as a means of collecting creative human energies. To restore urbanity as a meaningful terrain for sociation, culture, and community, the megalopolis must be ruthlessly dissolved and replace by new decentralized eco-communities, each carefully tailored to the natural eco-system in which it is located.

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