‘Splaining versus deliberation

I’ve been taking a little break from Aristotle this week to read more in the post-democracy theories in political science, and this literature is making me miss Aristotle. Not because it’s bad theory, by any means; it’s a very good set of ideas, quite useful for trying to understand planning, but, man, is it depressing. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it’s had that effect on me.

It’s particularly interesting during this presidential election season and the difficulties of mass deliberation via the Internet, where pundit after pundit has made broad statements about who should appeal to whom. These difficulties are too numerous to count, but one has simply been the tendency to confuse “splaining” with deliberation. The former is a cute term that has emerged from the resistance to power and privilege grabbing the role of “knower” and explaining to the lesser, marginal person what’s what because, of course, knowers know and dumb wommins and peoples with different skin tones and young peoples and old peoples just don’t know, not at all. Whether it’s liberals deciding that people who support Trump are idiots, Bernie Bros talking down to blacks about why they should like Bernie more than Hillary, or George Will condescending to Millennials who support Sanders because they “don’t remember the Soviet Union” as he conflates democratic socialism with Soviet-style communism…it’s all the same behavior, and it reflects a fundamental lack of humility on the part of the writer/speaker and a disrespect toward voters.

Deliberation, by contrast, involves exploration and reaching out to understand what other people know, what they understand, and how they view the candidates. Deliberation means taking responsibility for what you think candidates’ ideas represent and the consequences of those ideas for different policies and groups. I don’t think Donald Trump will work for working people, but others think he will. Why do they think that? I have no idea, but I would like to.

For the record, I do have major problems with the incivility Trump has brought into the campaign, and I can be very hard on civility as virtue in other contexts. The refrain we see quoted over and over about how Trump “Tells it like it is” strikes me as a juvenile and self-indulgent rationalization for “Trump hates all the people I do and I like that he has the power to insult them.” There is no political or social value to the slurs he has slung at women and people of color–none whatsoever. Liberty does not mean license, and nobody’s free speech is really impinged when a person is asked to be responsible, or kind, with what they say and how they say it. People running around the world whining about political correctness have done jack diddly to evidence that anybody has really suffered in any material way, let alone being jailed in the manner of real repression, from being asked to say “chair” instead of “chairman.”

Leaders should set a better tone than he has, no matter what you think about the policy implications of the ideas or the man himself. I loathed Ronald Reagen’s policies, but I admired what I saw of the man in his interpersonal conduct. I disliked many of Bill Clinton’s policies and disliked what I knew of him intensely. I didn’t like the way he seemed to treat people around him, at all.

I myself have wondered a great deal about Trump’s appeal, and I’ve not seen a single, convincing explanation from anybody–not from political science or popular press of “this is what his supporters are thinking.” The wonderful thing about perceived political outsiders, like Trump, is that you can make them into anything you want to in your mind. So the refrain of “he’ll do things differently” and “he won’t be beholden to elites” is fine, but we have no real idea what he will do as president because he doesn’t have a governing record to extrapolate from. We might try to import his managerial style from his business life into what we might envision him to be as a governing executive, but there are many instances of people who are successful leaders and managers in one context who do not flourish in other contexts.

One idea I have circled around has to do with all this reading in post-democracy. Celebrities tend to do very well in elections (not governance, but elections), whether it is Schwarzenegger, Reagen, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, Ben Jones, Jesse Ventura, or, now, Donald Trump. I am not clear why, but it may have to do with the ready-made platform of celebrity; I know less than I would like to about the phenomenon of celebrity politics. In a post-democratic America, in a Baudrilliardian sense of the word, people perhaps believe that elites govern, and that’s that, and whoever they elect to the “big chair” will be dropped into that mire–and thus, they perceive that it doesn’t matter who gets elected. At least with celebrities, that person is entertaining.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #11: Lucie Laurian

Lucie Laurian is associate professor at my MPL alma, the University of Iowa. She always does really interesting work, but I just recently discovered that she is interested in Athenian democracy! Whoohoo!! A fellow nerd! Now we have something really cool to talk about when I see her at ACSP!

Here’s the manuscript:

Laurian, L. (2012). This is what direct democracy looks like: How Athens in the 5th century BC resolved the question of power. Town Planning Review, 83(4), v-xii. doi:10.3828/tpr.2012.2

The goal is to describe how direct democracy functioned in Athens. In planning, we are supposedly big on the idea of citizen participation and governance. I say supposedly not because I believe the soggy, line, which must be 40 years old now, of tired planning theory that “planners aren’t technocratic experts handing decisions down to communities” etc etc. I view that line of thinking in planning as a bit ahistorical; when the state has power, planners who work for the state have it. When state power and legitimacy erodes, so it does for planners who work there. It’s citizen movements, their potential, and the laws they’ve gotten passed, see Manuel Castells, that have ensured that planners, regardless of whether they can produce a decent ‘technocratic’ analysis or not, have to play nice with communities.

Even so, planners allow for representative decision-making even in citizen participation. We don’t gather and incorporate the reflections of everybody; even in well-intended, genuine attempts at inclusion, we gather the viewpoints of those who show up, and we often take what they say as speaking for ‘the community’ although it is now technologically feasible to subject just about every detail of a project to a direct vote. Yes, not everybody has access to online, but you could have tools where people without computers come in a library to vote if they choose. You could get a lot closer than what we do.

Laurian’s point is that Athens managed to do quite a bit of direct democracy using pottery shards for 5,000 people. No, not everybody got to participate, we know that, but the level of direct democracy in Athens, sustained over the course of ~300 years, is pretty impressive. Its methods and tools could readily adapt to neighborhood level decision-making about specific issues and not just votes on representatives. Laurian highlights four major facets to Athenian democracy:

(1) a combination of decentralized and centralized legislative power, emphasizing governance by all citizens at the central Assembly for major decisions;
(2) absolute freedom of speech and transparency;
(3) effective strategies to avoid power accumulation and corruption; and
(4) regime flexibility.

#3 and #4 are probably the most interesting. In order to challenge power accumulation, Athens reconstituted the representative components of its office-holding leadership every year; people held the job for one year, and they were not allowed to have more than office. Generals were exempted, which makes sense. That means the entire civil administration was recomposed every year. Can you imagine? Now, we are talking about a society not troubled with many managerial issues we have today: we don’t necessarily want Joe Citizen, for example, overseeing the nuclear regulatory commission. But it does make for a really interesting, if not terribly practical, idea that we rotate the job among nuclear physicists. Nonetheless, for planning, the idea holds some merit. If we ever got serious about the idea that planners hold no ‘special’ technical expertise, planning jobs could readily rotate from citizen to citizen. The idea that how planners have no ‘special’ expertise is a pretty devastating assumption for the conception of a profession, let alone the ethics of being a theorist teaching in a planning program charging tuition to train professionals.

Ostracism was another tool that allowed everybody else to kick you out if they felt you were getting too grabby with power. Like historian Donald Kagan, Laurian treats ostracism as a pretty handy tool. It was a bloodless way of shutting down domineering types. It also moved them so that they didn’t wind up as permanent democratic discontents. It was possible to vote to un-ostracize somebody if they seemed sincerely over their bug. I need to learn more about it. I’m less convinced it wasn’t a mechanism for hosing your political enemies. Certainly better than killing them off, though, and since it seems like many of them wound up living in their family estates on the ocean somewhere, hardly a major hardship other than thwarted ambition.

The whole functioning unit had many volunteers: 6,000 according to Laurian. By relying on large numbers, the system disallowed graft and promoted transparency. You couldn’t bribe 1500 jurors, for example. It’s hard to keep a cabal going if you’ve got to get through hundreds and hundreds of people.

My one wish for this manuscript is that Laurian apply her ideas more to democratic theory to planning, and she doesn’t do it. I’ve done more extrapolating here than she does. (But then, I’m freer as a blogger than she is, with reviewers standing on her neck). I would like to know what she thinks about how the volunteerism and institutions in Athens might be mirrored or learned from now, and where the possibilities for direct democracy reside in planning given that we do have the possibility for direct voting. We don’t have the ethic of voting, certainly, or the ethic of service, that Athenians appear to have had, if our sources are proper indicators.

My planning ethics syllabus

PPD 599
Professional Planning Ethics
Instructor: Lisa Schweitzer
Email: lschweit@usc.edu
Office hours: 1- 3 Tuesday or by appointment

Planning is a normative profession, and its practitioners seek to explore, define, and implement change in urban settings based, at least in part, on values and preferences. But to affect change in the city, you have to have some idea what is good change, what is not, what kind of conduct towards achieving those outcomes is acceptable. The assessments of what is good or bad in cities, as you can imagine, is political at every level that planners encounter.

Being a professional in that political context presents individuals with some tough choices about their own conduct as they work within and outside planning institutions. What types of moral discretion do planners have in practice, and what type should they have, if they work with a public agency? A nonprofit? What is the difference between professional discretion and cutting corners? What is the line between effective advocacy—the noble argument for desired ends—and straight-up lying for self-interested gain? These questions appear everywhere in planning and public life. Along with this responsibility go the questions: when you have reached your limit, when should you blow the whistle, exit the organization quietly, or go along with your peers and the institution on the chance they are right and you are wrong?

Feminist scholars often criticize standard ethical approaches for putting job-related concerns over family and other important relationships. If a person is the only source of income for a dependent family, flouncing out of a job simply because you do not agree with an agency’s action may not be any more ethical than tolerating it, when viewed through this ethical lens.

This class will focus on professional ethics in planning. Our major goals for the class are to

1. Understand the models, frameworks, and theoretical perspectives under which professionals can assess ethical problems in planning;
2. Evaluate the most important emerging ethical trends and controversies in planning, such as ethical uses of the conventional and new media to market projects and ideas;

3. Identify the scope and power of professional roles within various institutions;

4. Track the interdependence between political, social, economic, and technological variables in planning ethics; and

5. Gain skills in reasoning through, resolving, and explaining ethical problems both verbally and in writing.

Class 1: January 16: What is moral reasoning in professional life?
This week’s concepts: normative ethics, metaethics, duty ethics, egoism, virtue ethics, deontology, social contract theory, teleology, consequentialism, obligations, virtues, natural law and divine command, relativism, intuition, emotivism, hedonism, narrative and situational ethics.

Frankena, W. 1988. Ethics. Second Edition. “Introduction” New York: Pearson.
(Available via BBoard.) pp. 1-17. (On BBoard)

Thacher, David. 2004. “The Casuistical Turn in Planning Ethics”, The Journal of Planning Education and Research. (On BBoard)

American Institute of Planners Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
(Keep this website bookmarked: we’ll go back to it again and again.)

Class 2: January 23: Role Ethics I
What are roles? Why are they so important? What are the duties and protections that a professional role conveys?

Sanson, Charles-Henri. “The Executioner of Paris.” (On BBoard)

Quinlan, M. “Ethics in the Public Service,” Governance 6, No. 4 (October 1993): 538-544. (BBoard.)

Arthur Applbaum,“Professional Detachment: The Executioner of Paris,” 15-42;
in Ethics for Adversaries. (On BBoard)

“Ex-Virginia Executioner opposes the death penalty.” In the Washington Post (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-10/local/37026104_1_death-penalty-death-sentences-linwood-briley)

Case 1: The Expo Line and the art of the deal
Expo Line Exec Rick Thorpe has been, throughout his career, a bit of darling in transit circles, branding himself as the go-to guy for managing transit projects and commanding a very high salary as he does so. His strategies for the Expo Line have drawn public criticism for conflict of interests among his various hats and roles. You are a consultant to AICP and APTA, and your job is to see whether the material uncovered in the LA Weekly story comprises something that requires further investigation—or simple management mistakes that could happen to anybody heading up such a large project.

LA Weekly:

My fast-and-dirty starting point: (http://lisaschweitzer.com/?s=Rick+Thorpe)

Movies, Media (optional): The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Isuguro’s novel is a truly amazing book. The movie is also well worth watching.

Class 3: January 30: Role Ethics II
Democratic facilitation versus winning? What is the planner’s role in public conflicts over space?

Arthur Applbaum,
“The Remains of the Role,” in Ethics for Adversaries, 61-75.
“Professional Detachment: The Executioner of Paris,” 15-42; “Montaigne’s Mistake,” 240-259
in Ethics for Adversaries. (On BBoard)

Quinlan, “Response” [To Applbaum]: Governance 6, No. 4 (October 1993): 558. (On BBoard)

Case 2: A Town for White Supremacy? In general, people associate suburbs with white supremacy, but the cosmopolitan nature of many of our major cities suggests that suburban demographics are changing. But beyond that, Craig Cobb, an entrepreneur, recently proposed in Leith, North Dakota a town specifically designed to serve the consumer preference for whiteness. Should planners enable this proposal through the approvals process, or fight it? Pick a position and defend it.

A place to start:

Trying to make a town the capital of white supremacy (http://newsone.com/2724583/bobby-harper-craig-cobb-leith-north-dakota/)

Sewer and water issues and state permitting: (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/25/poop-and-water-issues-may-shut-down-white-supremacist-north-dakota-town/)

Class 4: February 6: Role Ethics III: The Ethics of Identity and Difference Planners tend to come from fairly privileged backgrounds. In addition, they often represent democratic majorities, powerful state institutions, or developers. The profession itself is not as inclusive as it should be: many factors of white supremacy, patriarchy, and class interlock to push people out of the profession and out of engaging with the planning process. The topic of how to engage productively across difference is too large to handle in one week. Nonetheless, possession of social and economic privilege means that we have an obligation to be aware of it and to alter our conduct accordingly. This week gives us a place to start.

Code of ethics for antiracist allies by J.L. Calderon.

Class 5: February 13: Discretion versus democratic representation
How can we simultaneously satisfy the public’s desire to have decisions made by qualified professionals and their desire that decisions be responsive to public demands? What should planners do when people have strong opinions founded on bad information or demonstrably sloppy reasoning?

Burke, Edmund. Speech at Bristol, in The Works of Edmund Burke (New
York: Harper and Brothers, 1860), 218-222. (On BBoard)

Hannah Pitkin, “Representing Unattached Interests: Burke,” in Concept
of Representation, Chapter 8. (On BBoard)

Pitkin: “Representing People who Have Interests: Liberalism,” in Concept of
Representation, Chapter 9. (On BBoard)

Case 3: Campaigning—or planning—for Measure R?
In 2008 with Measure R, a local option sales tax measure, Valley area council member Mike Antonovich called out LA Metro for their choices with regard to “informational” documents sent in support of a ballot box measure.

You work for Metro, and based on this case, you have been asked to draft a policy regarding agency communications about ballot box initiatives like Measure R in the future. (Case materials on Blackboard).

Class 6: February 20: Ethics of Planning Rhetoric
Is planners’ use of political rhetoric praise-worthy for enabling democratic action, or is it a form of manipulation, or does it depend on circumstances? How do we draw the line between rhetoric and reasoning? How much information should planners be expected to reveal about their projects and services when they are in the middle of a political fight?

Plato, Gorgias (Hackett), 1-26, 447a-466a. (On BBoard)

Robert E. Goodin, “Rhetorical Trickery,” in Manipulatory Politics (Yale, 1980), 93-122. (On BBoard)

Galston, William. “The Obligation to Play Political Hardball,” in Claudia Mills (Ed.), Values and Public Policy* (On BBoard)

Case 4: The social marketing of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Eagles
In the late 1990s, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Authority staffers began to use a nesting pair of bald eagles as a means for education surrounding the Bridges’ ecology restoration programs. As time wore on, the educational component surrounding the eagles fell away, as the animals became symbols for the project. What did planners around the project gain and lose as the eagles became media celebrities? Was the social marketing ethical? You are a mentor to a young environmental planner at the WWB authority who has become concerned that the way the Authority is using the eagles in the media has misrepresented the project’s environmental impact. What do you advise the young planner to do and why?

February 26: Planners as Liars (Part 1)
Walzer, Michael. 1973. “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,”
Philosophy and Public Affairs 2, No. 2 (1973): 160-180 (On BBoard)

Kant, Immanuel. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, pp. 15-22 (Ak. 399-405); Metaphysical Elements of Virtue (2 page excerpt on lying: 90-93, Ak. 429-432) and “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Altruistic Motives,” 346-350.
(On BBoard)

Class 7: March 6: Planners as liars ( Part 2)
Last week we were pretty abstract. This week, we’re going to get our hands dirty with some cases.

Korsgaard, Christine M. “The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 15, No. 4 (Fall 1986): 325-349. (On BBoard)

Sidgwick, Henry. The Methods of Ethics (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981): Book III, Chap. VII, §2 (on Kant and lying); Book IV, Chap. 5, §3, 485-492 (on cases in which utilitarians should not make their principles public). (On BBoard)

Use Sidgwick’s cases to think about your reflections this week.

Wachs, M. 1996. “Ethics and Advocacy in Forecasting.” (http://www.honolulutraffic.com/Wachs_2.pdf)

Flyvbjerg, B. 2001. “When Planners Lie With Numbers.” (http://flyvbjerg.plan.aau.dk/liewithnumbers.php)

Case 5: California High Speed Rail Ballot Box Initiative
In 2008 as part of a ballot box initiative called Prop 1A meant to raise $10 billion for high speed rail, the California High Speed Rail Authority issued cost estimates for the entire, 520 km system at a little over $32 billion despite extensive criticism from infrastructure experts that the promised project was likely to cost nearly $80b to $120b. Throughout the election, rail advocates, encouraged by the CHSRA, shouted down such criticisms whenever possible. Then, two weeks after the ballot box measure passed, the CHSRA issued new cost estimates of $42 billion. Facing yet more criticism and the state’s comptroller who was unwilling to issue bonds with such incorrect estimates, the CHSRA issued a new business with cost estimates ranging from $75b to $100b. Outraged, Governor Jerry Brown demanded a re-envisioning of the estimates which came in at $72b with project modifications. Still, many feel that the original estimates come close to (if not amount to) ballot fraud and there should be a re-vote on the measure. Advocates of the project claim that voters already approved the project with the 2008 and that the cost estimates are irrelevant.

You have been appointed to chair the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Governance and Accountability. Your job is to review the case and conclude about whether the problems with forecasting and democratic accountability constitute unethical practice and whether the state should be required to go back to the voters to re-approve California’s High Speed Rail Project. Keep in mind, the Governor very much wants this project to go forward. But is it more likely to go forward if the house gets cleaned, or if you do damage control? Perhaps the project should die, after all, if it can’t clear the vote?

Class 8: March 13: Set aside for one of your topics!

March 20: Spring Break! Please enjoy, be ethical, and have a good time!

Class 9: The Ethics of Changes, Demolition, and Takings
One thing I wish every planner or developer would learn: blowing into a community and describing a place or a community as “ghetto”or “blighted” is both unprofessional and bad manners. Describing a person’s neighborhood in negative terms is a lot like walking into their home and calling it a dump. Even if there might be good reasons for championing change, like community members seeking change themselves, planners have a duty (or do they?) to demonstrate empathy towards the process of change.

Marris, P. 1986. Loss and Change. Routledge. (On BBoard)

Leigh, R. 23 (1996) Ethics of Compensation: Takings, Utility, and Justice, The Ecological Law Quarterly. (On BBoard)

Class 10: April 3: Whistleblowing
From Edward Snowden to Sherron Watkins, whistleblowers are both celebrated and reviled among their peers and the colleagues. What is the right way to stop your employer from doing wrong?

Jensen, J Vernon. “Ethical Tension Points in Whistleblowing.” J Bus Ethics 6, no. 4 (1987): doi:10.1007/BF00382941. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00382941 (On BBoard)

Milbank, D. “Putting her foot down and getting the boot.” Washington Post. July 10, 2008. (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2008-07-10/opinions/36888695_1_thurman-higginbotham-army-contractor-media-coverage)

Milbank, D. 2013. “The Price Gina Gray paid for whistleblowing.” Washington Post. (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-08-20/opinions/41427821_1_channels-edward-snowden-president-obama)

Ravishankar, Lilanthi. 2003. “Encouraging Internal Whistleblowing.” UC Santa Clara Working paper on Ethics, Center for Applied Ethics, UC Santa Clara. http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/whistleblowing.html

Case 6 The Housing Authority: You are a financial associate with the Los Angeles Housing Authority. You have been clearing the vouchers for Section 8 housing, when you are abruptly informed that, despite a waiting list of nearly 380 families, that there are no remaining funds for the program. You have been working with families for months, and there has been no indicator—not from your boss or from the people in accounting—that you would not be able to serve a least 200 of the remaining families. When you inquire, you are told that the vouchers cleared so far cost far more than you had projected. Confused, you backcheck your calculations and double-check the payments out for vouchers. You find that, in general, your original projections for the vouchers were very close—certainly not enough to make for the significant funding deficit. When you press your boss, you are told that they were mistaken when they blamed your original projections, but that the authority is entering a fiscal crisis. Again, this is the first you have heard for the fiscal crisis, and when you bring it up with analysts for other programs, they say they have heard nothing of it. When you suggest to your boss that perhaps all the analysts should meet to discuss the fiscal concerns, your boss tells you to ‘drop it’ and begin re-doing next year’s projections. When you approach your boss’s boss, you are told that your original projections for Section 8 spending must have been in error. What should you do?

Class 11: April 10: Planners, harms, and wrongs
Despite the best efforts planners make, planning and development can and do hurt communities. Often, individual planners join agencies that have committed harms and wrongs long before the planner joined. Even if planners are directly involved, democratic decisions, undertaken by public institutions, may reflect the priorities of democratic majorities, and those priorities may not include deferring to the preferences of democratic minorities. Or democratic decisions may be taken by a diffuse group of actors so that assigning blame to planners makes little sense. And yet, communities and individuals experience harms and wrongs nonetheless, and it influences how planners can ethically relate to them. You can’t just act like nothing happened, or that what happened doesn’t matter.

Sklar, J. 1990. “Misfortune and Injustice.” Faces of Injustice. Harvard University Press. (On BBoard)

Schweitzer, L. Forthcoming. ”Restorative Planning Ethics.” Planning Theory.’’ (On BBoard)

Case 7: The Blue Line and Broken Promises
In 1992 in riot-torn South Los Angeles, the LA metro promised a train line that would bring jobs and new opportunities to the area. The train has delivered a lot of mobility but very little in the way of promised growth to South LA. Do those promises reflect simple misfortune in planners and project advocates misjudging the future? Or injustice in making promises planners were in no position to keep to be begin with (reflecting back on rhetoric and Gorgia and ‘winning’? What, if anything, should planners do about the Blue Line, or in future relations with residents of south central?

You work for Legal Defense Fund in Los Angeles, and your job is to recommend a position for LDF to adopt with regard to future rail development in South Central.

(Case materials found on Blackboard)

Class 12: April 17: Whom Do Planners Serve?
We have spent the semester talking about the ‘public’ service and the ‘public’ interest, and we’ve danced around this idea about who planners serve throughout the semester. Local residents? What if their preferences conflict with those of long-term sustainability? Future generations? What about people in need now?

Seyla Benhabib. 2007. “Twilight of Sovereignty or the Emergence of Cosmopolitan Norms? Rethinking Citizenship in Volatile Times.”
Citizenship Studies. 11(1): 19-36 (On BBoard)

Douglas Kellner and Richard Kahn. 2008. “Resisting Globalization.” in
The Blackwell Companion to Globalization. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, Ch. 34 (On BBoard)

Do We Owe a Duty to Future Generations to Preserve the Global Environment?
A d’Amato – The American Journal of International Law, 1990 (On BBoard)

Rolston III, Holmes. 1996. Feeding People Versus Saving Nature. IN William Aiken and Hugh LaFollette, eds., World Hunger and Morality, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996), pages 248–267
http://www.ecospherics.net/pages/RolstonPeopleVSNature.html (On BBoard)

Class 13: April 24: Wrapping up
American Institute of Planners Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
(Keep this website bookmarked: we’ll go back to it again and again.)

Case 8: Rewrite the AICP Code of Ethics for 2014. (knowing what you know now)

(last week of class due to MPL comp)

Do What You Love in work and Utopianism in planning

Miya Tokumitsu has an essay up over at Slate, which seems to have been adapted from Jacobin, about how people need to shut it about “Doing what you love” because that devalues the real nature of very difficult, largely manual, labor. My students have been discussing this idea on Fboo, and rightly noting that this author has hit upon a very important point about the connection between affluence, choice, and privilege in occupations. I dissented on a couple points.

First of all, it is undoubtedly true that do what you love is facile advice, particularly if you don’t think for yourself, and thinking for yourself is undervalued. My problem is a supposition that the writer makes, which I do not think is at all true, that the DWYL advice somehow translates to devaluing “real work.” I am very nervous about the idea that something as fluffy as DWYL devalues work that was paid scarcely minimum wage, or unpaid entirely when we are taking about caregiving work, long before Steve Jobs said ANYTHING about doing what you love. That is, please learn to recognize the difference between a cause and a symptom: the poor treatment of laborers, particularly in low status professions, happened long, long before we had creative class hipster types chatting on about fulfilling work and the people who hate them because they annoy.

Moreover, I think I have a unique perspective on the value of the “DWYL” advice because I was raised in an environment where people *never* said that. I wasn’t raised to enjoy work. I was raised to shut up and obey authority. I was raised to expect work to be a miserable grind. You weren’t supposed to be happy at work. You worked long, miserable hours only to have to come home to say to your kids “No, you can’t have that because we can’t afford that” and watch as teachers and other kids treat your kid like crap because you’ve outfitted them in mismatched stained clothing from Goodwill. This was the life my mother told me to expect for myself. The big, shining dream she had? I could maybe go to college and at best be an elementary school teacher. That was it. That was her entire dream for my life; it was the shiniest shiney thing she could imagine. So what if I hated kids and was terribly unsocial and could barely speak? I would have to deal with that misery because being a low-paid elementary school teacher was the most lavish life she could envision. Because those folks had health care and could buy their kids new shoes when they needed them. While town kids (like my cousins) had after school activities, poor farm kids like me were doing shitty, often soul-destroying work some of us hated (and some of us loved) on farms that were going bankrupt slowly in the 1980s.

Now, there is a great deal right with being an elementary school teacher if it is, like it is for my friend Jeff, what you want to do. It is not what I was born to do. I hated elementary school children even when I, myself, was in elementary school. My inside died every single time my mother prattled on about how awesome it would be to be a teacher. My family *deplored and attacked* any and all dreams I had that weren’t elementary school teaching. I wanted to be a writer. OMG. It was my mother’s mission in life to attack that dream. Shame on me for wanting to write. Being a writer meant I would expect her to pay my way my entire life, sit around like a lazy worthless slob, and that was not going to happen, nosireebob. “Writing is a lazy man’s profession” my mother would say, shooting me daggers. And I learned. I learned never to mention that dream around them.

Because you can not kill desire, I achieved that dream anyway, in a manner that allowed me to both pay my own rent and that allowed me to read and write for a living and NOT spend my time wiping noses and asses in an elementary school. I made my life slipping between and among the constraints that my beginning in life set up for me (ok, probably not going to rule a country, though I think I’d be good at that and I’d probably enjoy it; also nix on the NBA star/ballerina dream). But there were other things I did love and could find a way to pay my rent. I would have been a marvelous classicist, but the job market there was scary, and so I picked something else that also allowed me to optimize on my strengths and what was out there in the world as a feasible option the things allow me to do the things I love to do (write, read. Talk about things I’m writing and reading. etc).

By not accepting what was “realistic” for me, I exceeded my predicted lifetime income, not just by a little. A lot. And I love going to work. Yes, there are richer people than me monetarily, but I do not want what I haven’t got.

You will find, I think, that there is, indeed, a great deal of honor among people who do jobs that they hate, but they often do those jobs they hate because of love. They do them to survive and to try to give their kids or their siblings or a chance at something better. That’s still doing what you love; it’s just not related to the job. It’s service and sacrifice for what you love. Encouraging people to find what they love hardly devalues the honor and sacrifice of people who do work they don’t love for people they do love.

And there are also people who love to work with their hands and come home every day smelling like sweat and manure and who enjoy what they do, too.

I am not satisfied the idea that *only* creative types or Steve Jobs types or privileged people can have a worthy vocation. Figuring out what matters to you–what you love, iow, strikes me as the most important thing anybody of any socio-economic class can do over the course of the life they are dealt. Perhaps the nature of the work matters to you less than the people you work with; perhaps context matters more than the job. Perhaps the fact you can work from 6 until 3 so that you can be there when your kids are out of school defines what what you love. Doing what you love falls under all those choices, and I do not think that class privilege robs you of any and all of those choices. Lack of privilege may constrain those choices by a lot more than you want them constrained, but it shouldn’t rob you from thinking about what would make you happier.

Just like utopian plans are often silly and unworkable, they can sometimes help to shine the light on the things that we really want. I refuse to problematize desire even though desires are not uniformly realized.

50 books to add to Brent Toderian & Planetizen’s standard, white city-making books

The risk of critiquing book lists is that a) it’s easy to kvetch about others’ lists, and b) you risk insulting the many wonderful writers who do appear on the original list, including the person who took the time to put together the list in the first place. But at the risk of doing both a and b, I have to say I am disappointed in Brent Toderian’s list of 100 best books on city-making for Planetizen. We can go around and around about this: I guess it depends on what he means by city-making. And a lot depends on what a person reads. But if you are going to go around labeling something “the best”, you’d better be well-read, and this list just doesn’t strike me as being that broad or that open to different perspectives on cities. Then, in his addendum, he adds some fiction, including the rapey The Fountainhead, which he does include as a ‘negative’ example, I guess. But does that tiresome book really need more press? At least he included Calvino and China Meiville in the addenda. But this list and his addenda are standard white urbanist fare, with a lot of echoing of the same ideas from one white urbanist to another. It make me sad that our “best of” lists are still doing this. That said, Jan Gehl’s book is very fine, and you could spend a long time reading the wonderful books on this list.

And he does have some women on the list, but the ones chosen are not exactly writing from non-dominant perspectives, and there are some terrific books by Asian authors on the list, including work from my wonderful colleague, Tridib Banerjee. It’s not that I want to erase the people from the list. It’s that I really wish urban planners would read more widely and take seriously their job to understand and promote more than one perspective on cities, not just focussing on a perspective that simply creates an echo chamber of the wonderfulness of white urbanism and planning with its bike lanes and its downtown retail. The latter is like an endless diet of FoxNews or MSNBC.

You are not educated until you get off your butt and start learning to see the world from a perspective other than your own.

City-making is not the exclusive purview of planners or self-declared urbanists.

So here are some to add to the list, in no order because I’m bad at order. I don’t claim these are ‘the best’–just books I have read that reflect cities and how they are made, that were worth reading, and that represent an effort to read what people from different perspectives have to say:

1. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Much of what you need to know about how ineffectual city government is in governing black neighborhoods appears here in the first few pages as Morrison riffs on “Not Doctor Street.”

2. There Goes the ‘Hood by Lance Freeman. Contemporary gentrification debates.

3. The Truly Disadvantaged by William Julius Wilson. This book should be required reading.

4. The First Suburban Chinatown by Timothy Fong

5. Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America by Ella Howard. The first book from a very promising scholar.

6. Off the Books by Sudhir Venkatesh I don’t like his other, much higher profile books as much: this one tells the stories about how people make a living despite city regulation.

7. Promises I Can Keep by Kathryn Edin. Read anything by Kathryn Edin. Just do it. This book focuses mostly on impoverished women in Philadelphia.

8. Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila There are some great books on Baltimore, but this one is a good recent one.

9. Gay New York by George Chauncey I wish I could assign this book more often; it’s long, and it’s not easy to chop up. But it is worth your time.

10. Barrio Urbanism by David R. Diaz I like David Diaz’s work a great deal anyway, but this is my favorite.

11. Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak by Bettina L. Love Young black women talking about the role of art and expression in their coming of age in Atlanta.

12. Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism by Rebecca Solnit

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

13. Jesuit Garden in Beijing and Early Modern Chinese Culture by Hui Zou So interesting.

14. Snow Drops by A.D. Miller A novel set in post-Socialist real estate in Moscow. Harrowing.

15. Kinesthetic City: Dance and Movement in Chinese Urban Spaces by SanSan Kwan

16. Harlem Nocturne by Farah Jasmine Griffin

17. Sento at Sixth and Main by Gail Dubrow and Donna Graves This book made me cry.

18. 18. The Hiawatha by David Treuer Urban Indians in Minneapolis. A haunting, haunting novel.

19. Cities of God and Nationalism: Rome, Mecca, and Jerusalem as Contested Sacred World Cities by Khaldoun Samman

20. Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora by Martin F. Manalansan IV

21. Tunnel People by Tuen Voeten

22. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, who did dystopian Los Angeles like nobody else.

23. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, by Samuel Delany. Oh, and read some of his novels, too.

24. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios

25. Graceland by Chris Abani a wonderful novel about post-colonial Lagos

26. Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 By Heda Kovaly

27. Factory Girls by Leslie Chang Follows the story of young women who move from village to metropolitan China.

28. Black, Brown, Yellow, & Left by Laura Pulido

29. Young and Defiant in Tehran by Shahram Khosravi (Author)

30. Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde by Doryun Chong, editor. (Yes, I’m including edited volumes)

31. Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans By Emily Landau

32. Daily Life in Victorian London (an anthology) London of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes was a terrible place if you weren’t rich.

33. The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick Good fiction, with a strong sense of place.

34 In The Land of Isreal by Amos Oz A wonderful book about people, politics, and territory.

35. Aztec of the City–these Comic books are cool, about an urban superhero in San Jose

36. Season of Migration to the North By Tayleb Salih a terrific novel about the influences of east and west and city and village in a globalizing context.

37. The Havanna Quartet by Leonardo Padura. A police procedural set in Havanna.

38. Smeltertown by Monica Perales–the story of the Mexican residents who live in El Paso’s company town.

39. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York by Suleiman Osman

40. Anything written by Walter Mosley . Anything.

41. L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

42. Paul R. Williams, Classic Hollywood Style by Karen Hudson

43. City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa by Adam LeBor (wonderful prose style and an intimate look at individuals and the contestation over urban space.

44. All Souls: A Family Story from A Southie
by Michael Patrick MacDonald

45. Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic City by Rudolf Gaudio

46. Black Manhattan by James Weldon Johnson

47. The Rise of Abraham Cahan by Seth Lipsky If you have an interest in migrants and the global reach of NYC media, here you go.

48. Chavez Ravine: 1949 by Don Nomark

49. Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows edited by June Manning Thomas and Marsha Ritzdorf
Another terrific edited volume.

50. The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996 by John Robb

Opinions are a bit like….

Brilliant student Muriel Skaff sent this piece from Patrick Stokes around the other day. It’s lovely, largely because the face-palms that students lead you to over their opinions, and their entitlements to them. It makes you crazy after awhile.

I don’t care what your opinion is. I care about whether you can make a reasoned argument from a position, based on what you’ve read and discussed. Rants from either Fox News or MSNBC I can get from television: I don’t need it from a student. If you want to learn to rant on Fox News or MSNBC, then watch them. If you want to learn policy analysis, then we need to reason differently.

The money quote:

If “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” just means no-one has the right to stop people thinking and saying whatever they want, then the statement is true, but fairly trivial. No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven.

But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. And this too is a distinction that tends to get blurred.

Jim Throgmorton is blogging!

My students in planning theory will probably wonder at this, but yes, their old teacher took planning theory (multiple times; once as a master’s student, and multiple times as a PhD student. I went to UCLA for my PhD, where we did things like take planning theory).

Jim is blogging on WordPress on Storytelling and Cities. Go take a look.

Jim’s work over the years has focused on planning as storytelling about the city. Here is a link to his book, Planning as Persuasive Storytelling. . It looks as though his blog continues on these themes.

There were a number of scholars at the University of Iowa who were interested in the rhetoric of the social sciences, including my undergraduate advisor, Deirdre McCloskey, who wrote a very nice book on the rhetoric of economics.