[iDC] Continent City

conrad at buffalo.edu conrad at buffalo.edu
Thu Sep 28 15:48:16 EDT 2006

--On Thursday, September 28, 2006 6:26 PM +0200 franck ancel
<franck.ancel at wanadoo.fr> wrote:

> Please find here an interesting article/view from last Domus 896
> October 2006 by Yona Friedman.

> Self-sufficiency
> Cities are self-contained entities. A city-dweller leaves his city only
> on relatively rare occasions and for short periods. A city-dweller
> practically draws his entire livelihood ? material or otherwise ? from
> the “reservoir” that the city represents for him. From an economic point
> of view, activities in the city create added value: values of goods and
> services entering the city are less than those put on the market in and
> from the city. The urban population lives on the value difference thus
> created. Economic crisis in a city, involving unemployment, deterioration
> of services and quality of life, occur when the range of that difference
> decreases brutally. When that happens, an exodus starts from the city and
> continues until the necessary per capita value difference becomes
> positive again. There are two roads: the city’s value production can be
> increased or values entering the city can be decreased. In the first case
> the market for goods and services produced in the city must be extended.
> In the second one the city must be as self-sufficient as possible. 

	I am excited to find here an expression of a principle that for some
time has been stabilizing itself for me with reference to the
deteriorating economic and demographic (and cultural) systems of my own
city, Buffalo. The term that helps me is _balance of payments_. Here in
Buffalo almost every bill for services, every payment for goods, is
directly or indirectly sent to corporate entities out of the city.
Meanwhile the city produces little to export in exchange. In general,
the balance of payments concept is readily applied to either nations or
individuals, but scarcely to cities--perhaps because the ultimate
distribution of capitalist wealth is not figured geographically on this

	This analysis has convinced me that the only economic solution for
Buffalo, which has little in the way of material industrial strength, is
to export ideas--in other words, to use the internet as a commercial
lifeline. Clearly the same recourse  has been adopted by India and other
places where the US outsources services.

	This approach needs to be perceived as having a genealogical
relationship to an understanding of cultural and social "development" in
which common strength arises through the commonality's perception of its
own identity, which is to say its representations of itself. From this
perspective, it is possible for me to see Buffalo as being
"de-developed" to the precise extent that it imports an alien
self-image, manufactured by the media corporations in Hollywood and New

	Systems of cultural commonalities are much more fluid, and are changing
more rapidly, than systems of economic commonality--but the mechanisms
of cohesion and viability of these differently-conceived commonalities
appear quite similar.

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