Neoliberalism and Design – Econlib

I try to stay away from books that take “neo-liberalism” as their goal. Yet I have made an exception Non-design. Architecture, Liberalism and the Market By Anthony Fontenot And I suggest you make it too.

Fontaint, who teaches architecture at Woodbury University, has written an interesting book arguing that economic thought can influence architecture and design. Its work focuses on an improbable parallel: between the trend of 20th century design theory and the revival of classical liberalism (sometimes referred to as “neo-liberalism”) after World War II.

You may think something, the third part Constitution of Independence (1960), FA Hayek devoted a chapter to housing and city planning. Sure enough, “we know civilization is inseparable from urban life,” Hayek noted, adding that “the market, as a whole, has managed the evolution of cities more successfully, albeit imperfectly, than in general perception.” Fontaint begins his book with Hayek’s assessment of rent control or the unintended consequences of public housing. But he adds a concise and accurate presentation of the broader argument against top-down planning and the “spontaneous sequence”, pointing out that such a theory has enormous consequences, even at the juncture of urban planning and design, questioning its role. Designers as more than an interpreter of consumer needs. Fontaine Hayek also refers to the work of Mrs. Michael Polani (the originator of the expression “spontaneous sequence”), but also to Carl Popper, for his critique of historiography, and to Ernest Gumbrich, who preached the Poprian perspective on the history of art. .

In the 1950s, Hubert de Cronin, chairman of the Architectural Press, animated the Hastings Townscape movement, an architectural and planning movement that emerged in the 1940s and spoke in favor of urban density and respect for the needs and desires of individuals. Hastings called for an understanding of the complexities of the urban landscape as “acknowledging the urgency of the parts to complete a new type.” “Hastings urged planners to ‘love, or try to love,’ with all the clutter complexities associated with a metropolitan democratic society, including the general unplanned urban landscape.” According to Fontenot, he relied on “classical liberalism” for his new approach, including a French radical rationalist approach (Le Corbusier and his disciples) and a British one (Hayek did) making more liberal distinctions in landscape and planning.

Fontaint thinks that “throughout the 1950s, the message of liberal economists that the free market, as a price-free or neutral structure, was the only intelligent alternative to state planning was generally known, if not adopted” and influenced urbanist thinking. And architecture. Although he has successfully pointed out some combinations, it is not always clear if there is a causal link (by which reading X affects B to write Z). Could it be that some problems with the plan, after much encouragement, are coming to the fore?

Writing on Jane Jacobs, Fontaint maintains that “the comparison of Jacobs’ main conclusions with Mysus and Hayek shows a striking similarity between the original principles”, indicating that “a whole new paradigm emerged, where the plan began to be rejected. A new generation of collectivists.” Opponents of the history of the central plan struggled to reorganize themselves with a different value. “

The book rarely embraces these ideas and strongly criticizes – at least to say – the English architectural critic Renar Banham. Banham is described by Fontaine as a “free-market radical” “because of his steadfast defense of the free-market economy and indefinite city, only because of his firm and consistent rejection of plans.” Banham suggests that design culture values ​​oppose free-market economies, explicitly associating objects with their functions and technological evolution, and “subtly protected by the aspirations of the people.” Extremely skeptical of the various controls imposed on design by agencies such as free design philosophy. “

It may well be that Fontaine, as a few other intellectual opponents of “neo-liberalism”, exaggerates the importance and influence of the classical liberal tradition. It may well be that in politics the connection between a particular method and another architecture or design is not as clear as maintaining a font. The book though is a rich comparison of developing ideas in various fields, and one of the most suggestive. Also, those who are interested in the history of political concepts will learn a lot about design and architecture and on the contrary I guess.

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