betacity


goin’ back to Houston tm

In America there was a very deliberate decision made to separate politicians from businessmen in the establishment of our state capitals and business cities.  Albany is miles from New York City, as is Sacramento from LA, Austen from Houston, Springfield from Chicago, Harrisburg from Philadelphia and so on.  Get the lawmakers out of town and let business get down to business was the guiding principle.

New York boomed not in small part because of the free trading, ethnically diverse, pub going and prostitute partaking culture set up by the tolerant Dutch.  Bombay was the same:  tolerance, inclusion, liberalism, a flowering of activity and trade.  Meanwhile, puritan religion and intolerance squelched business life in Boston and other eastern cities which stagnated and never caught up.

Liberal trade policies made boom cities but world financial centers still operate according to rules.  They’re economically liberal; they’re not anarchies.

In their essay Houston TM excerpted below, Quinter and Fabricius describe an experiment in extreme liberalism.  Like northeastern American cities, lawmakers were removed to their legislatures in Austin and Houston became a business center.  But unlike socially and economically liberal Bombay and New York, the very definition of city is rewritten in Houston.  The humanity, booze, sex and diversity of the 19th century boom cities morph in the late 20th Texas century as  soulless, single function, pure and cruel places for doing business and nothing but.

New York, London and Tokyo are models of the discipline society, described by Deleuze in his essay Postscript on the Societies of Control:  defined by interacting and predictable structures: owner, factory, labour, the market.  Houston is the model for the control society – the endlessly competitive, product-less, voracious, aggressive, nationless and indebted corporation.

The fantastic irony in the case of Houston is that extreme liberalization – or you could call it laissez-faire, or deregulation – results in conditions more like intolerant, religious, puritan Boston than pro-business Bombay and New York.

Here are some excerpts from the critique of the capital of laizzez-faire:

“Houston’s famously ruthless ‘progrowth’ policies with zero local and state taxation in exchange for low civic services have resulted in Houston having less per capita parkland and poorer quality water, sewers, streets, and air than any other city in America.”

/…/

“Despite its parochialism and idiosyncrasies, Houston may well be the ‘globalized’ city par excellence:  rigorous and pure in its shapelessness, cruel, unforgiving, and utterly delirious in its conviction that cities need be no more than mega-machines for doing ‘bid-ness’ at ever-expanding scales.  It also presents a clear omen and model for all other cities everywhere in the world of what the true destiny and impact of economic globalization could be for human societies.”

from the article Houston TM in Mutations, Actar press by Sanford Quinter and Daniela Fabricius

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