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  • Writer's pictureDave LeRue

"The Right to the City" (2016) Annotation I The Neoliberal Aesthetic

Harvey, David. The Right to the City. New Left Review 53 (2008): 23-40. Web.

Through the lens of human rights and global capital, David Harvey’s right to the city is an exploration of urban development beginning with the humanization of Paris. As a broad study of urbanization, Right to the City’s timeline matched my initial observation of the Ikea catalogues from the 1960’s juxtaposed to their contemporaries. The postwar period was a time of rapid suburb expansion, while the last twenty have been a process of capital returning to inner cities, causing a surge in property values and interiors expressing the values of the upper class.

Harvey suggests we live in an era when ideals of human rights have moved center stage both politically and ethically. (23) Affordable city housing is quickly evaporating, with governments opting out of public housing models and allowing the ‘rule of the market’ to decide where impoverished people live. Consequently, the city is now being molded in the image of those who control the capital surplus.

In my research of postwar 1960’s advertisement, there appeared to be an idealistic suburban lifestyle being sold through colourful imagery, shapes, exciting music, and an overall optimism. Contemporary advertisements appear to have a seriousness, assuming we are occupied 100% of the time with our important commitments and business meetings. Optimism and excitement is substituted for personal responsibility and empathy toward the contemporary condition of the loss of individuality. These advertisements coincide with the economic shifts in North America from a centrally controlled economy based on social welfare to one of free market capital. (Hickel) These findings lead me to understand that our economic conditions and systems have a pronounced relationship with cultural aesthetics and values.

Take for instance, the Match Your Mood Appliance advertisement from the 1960's, featuring numerous individuals dancing in the kitchen of a house. Interjected throughout are women cutting wallpaper style fabric, with text asking individuals to match their fridge to their style. Vivid fabrics, colours, and music, encouraging viewers to live a hyper-individualistic lifestyle.

Now let's compare this to a condominium advertisement from D'Leedon condominiums in Singapore (see also the La Salle advertisement from the Learning From Las Vegas annotation). Here there is obsession with time, fancy cuisine, grey-scapes, and the "finer things" of life. Individuals are depicted reading, with essential oils and massages, and reading. The advertisement presents an ideal, monk-like lifestyle. People are reading, people are contemplative, and people are slowed from the presumed business of the neoliberal economy. This is one advertisement, but this is a common ideal of home life, and a common aesthetic of home interiors.

What does this say about the ideological structure of the condominium itself? Is there a method in which these architectures enforce a lifestyle? This is, of course the most open of questions, but I will continue to approach them

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