Do cities even make sense as something worth preserving?

Submitted by _ziq_ in AskRaddle

Cities are designed to centralize commerce, workplaces, industry, property and the state, to streamline the processes by which we're controlled. They depend on imports of everything from food to water to fabrics to building materials. Wouldn't it be a hell of a lot more efficient if everything we needed could be harvested and processed right next to our homes? If our buildings were made with whatever materials we have available in the specific ecosystem we inhabit?


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sudo wrote

I see no reason to get rid of cities once you've gotten rid of capitalism. They weren't created to control people; in fact, I'd say they weren't created at all. Rather, they formed because people generally find living and working together easier than living on their own. As populations naturally increased, villages evolved into towns, which later evolved into cities. There's nothing inherently oppressive about living near a bunch of other people, so there's no reason for us to disband cities.

Wouldn't it be a hell of a lot more efficient if everything we needed could be harvested and processed right next to our homes?

Not really, no. First of all, you might be able to harvest everything you need right next to your home, but probably not everything you want. For example, if you want to build something made out of iron, but there is no iron mine near your house, then you won't be able to do so. In fact, I'd argue that this would be less efficient, because there would be no specialization, if everyone has to focus on subsistence farming. Plus, you may not even be able to harvest what you need to survive, like if you live in an area without access to clean drinking water, or in an area that doesn't have adequate soil to support agriculture.

If you don't want to live in a city, then don't live in one. But don't force your way of live on people who don't want to live that way. There's nothing wrong with living in cities, and there are a lot of benefits, so we should keep them.


Tequila_Wolf wrote (edited )

Not a direct answer to your question, but I've been thinking a fair bit about my friends in Cape Town who have been facing the water crisis there. For those of you who don't know, a cursory glance around f/Climate_Changed will get you roughly up to date.

There's one other thing about Cape Town (on top of the intensive racism and all the usual capitalism and postcolonial baggage) that I learned recently that just fucking hurts me. All of Cape Town's sewerage goes untreated into the ocean.

How alienated do you have to be from the things you affect for this to be something that is ultimately accepted by people living there? It's only cities, so far as I know, that create this kind of alienation, where people are so disconnected from the sources of their food and water, and from the waste that they expel in all its forms. (Obviously Cape Town is a complex place ridden with problems of which this is only one. I don't mean to imply either that we should lay responsibility on most Capetonians for being overwhelmed with this world that they can't begin to deal with this). And who knows how many other cities do the same as Cape Town.

I'd love if somebody posted a good anti-civilisation article on the topic of how cities alienate us from what we affect. It'd be great grounds for further conversation.


happy wrote

This is my westernized view and I don't know how it would hold up in the global south, but I don't think it is living in the city that creates the alienation, but it is living in civilization and capitalism that creates the alienation. People living in small towns aren't going to care about their waste either because it is exported out of town.

I think in a post-civ (not anprim) society the city has the potential to be something good because of the integration of different ideas, cultures, and people that prevent bigotry and further conflict. Even anarcho-primitives acknowledge that primitive societies went into conflict with each other and I think that in creating these ideal utopias avoiding conflict is important.


Tequila_Wolf wrote (edited )

You're right - I think I was thinking more along the lines of how this alienation from what we affect is necessitated by cities and not so much in towns. And how it seems a more totalising alienation in cities than towns, but I might be wrong there.
Where I'm from there's possibly a much sharper divide between urban and rural with relatively not so much by way of small towns. Not sure.

but it is living in civilization and capitalism

I think civilisation is characterised in part by cities, so we're possibly on board there, and I of course agree that capitalism is alienating.

I was not thinking about anarcho-primitivists here, but non-primitivist anti-civilisation critiques. I'm still figuring out what post-civ is.


happy wrote

From what I understand post-civ is non-primitivist while still being anti-civilization. Life after civilization has crumbled.

Post-Civ! is a good primer. Here for a more in-depth look.

I think I would define civilization as the idea of advancement for the sake of advancement. Similar to capitalism being growth for the sake of growth, but civilization will still have a desire to advance itself. Transhumanism and space communism as examples.


zod wrote (edited )

The real question is - can you maintain anarchy in something so centralized and growth-focused? Small communities make more sense to avert hierarchies and other power traps forming. The smaller a community, the less the residents need to compete with each other for resources and space.


BlackFlagged wrote

Ideally we'd disassemble the concept of the 'city' and reboot it to be more sustainable. Every building would power itself, living roofs for growing food, community gardens surrounding every apartment complex, roads within the city limits closed to motor vehicles. Bike / wheelchair lanes everywhere. Human waste composting plants. Every building would need to be self reliant, or at least semi-reliant on resources within the community, and not depend on importing everything from outside and exploiting the rest of the world.


[deleted] wrote


ziq wrote (edited )

i've heard some talk about them being anti-trans

It's most often a misunderstanding that stems from ancoms not understanding individualist anarchism. Critiquing civilization or industry and the mass destruction it's responsible for doesn't mean anticivs want to outlaw medication and surgery. Individualist anarchism doesn't aim to restructure society in its image like communism does.

Henry David Thoreau withdrew from civilization to live alone in the woods, but at no point did he try to force others to join him.


happy wrote

They obviously aren't going to call themselves anti-trans, but the reason that they are called anti-trans is because the ideology is against technological instruction that is going to allow trans people to get the treatment they need to transition.

An argument to this is that the desire to transition stems from the pressures of civilization. I think this is a misunderstanding of what goes on in a trans persons mind and could also be seen as transphobic.


tnstaec wrote

I'm not trans myself, but I've interacted with anti- and pro-civ trans people online. However, I haven't really seen a specifically trans anti-civ position elaborated yet. The thing is, many non-civilized societies have recognized we would call LGBT. I've posted a bit about it here: https://raddle.me/f/anticiv/7324/civilization-and-gender

A lot of the trans discourse is couched in a highly medicalized language. And to be honest, I find some of it to be a little bit creepy and gatekeeper-ish ("if you don't have dysphoria, you're not trans"). As a non-trans person, I haven't involved myself in these debates, but I have been keeping an eye on them.

Also, there's the DGR who are sometimes mistaken as anarcho-primitivist and they are virulently tansphobic.


happy wrote

This question depends entirely on how you define a city. That said, I think this is an unfair critique, it is because of the centralization of people that allows for the efficiency of creating and transporting massive amounts of goods and is why our planet is not currently overpopulated.

Yes, the current model should be questioned and redesigned but I don't think cities are the problem, but the general consumption of living in capitalistic cities is the problem.


BlackFlagged wrote

massive amounts of goods

Isn't that part of the problem of why our society is so inefficient?


happy wrote

I fail to see how having a lot of goods is inefficient. Inefficiency comes from the methods of distribution of those goods (capitalism).


not_AFX_lol wrote

From a collectivist standpoint: the idea of major metropolitan centres is, I think, somewhat incompatible with self-sustaining and self-governing communes, in that direct democracy becomes less efficient on larger scales. However, the arguments for specialization also have merit; the happy medium of small settlements would thus be optimal for an anarcho-communist or anarcho-collectivist society.


zorblax wrote

cities are pretty garbo

but, for the neear future at least, they're a necessary evil.


Emery wrote

Depends on what kind of city you're talking about