Contemporary thinking on egalitarianism has focused on the flattening of social hierarchies, altering systemic obstacles to equality, radically transforming institutions that uphold exclusive access to collective resources and critiques of market capitalism. This inaugural Michigan/Mellon symposium explores the following themes as a way of opening up a new integration between contemporary urban design and humanities discourse: Rethinking Modern Orthodoxy; Privatization and the Commons; Capital and Justice; and Political Space of Media. Participants will move between ideological discussion and locally specific conditions and between the pragmatic and the speculative. Envisioned as a roundtable, our symposium is intended to maximize discussion. Each panelist will prepare brief presentations addressing a topic s/he believes to be especially significant. Panelists may focus on the program’s three main cities (Detroit, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro), or they may discuss related cities as well. We expect this will generate a myriad of useful points from which a productive discussion will take place.
The Michigan/Mellon Project on Egalitarianism and the Metropolis is a 4-year academic and research initiative focused on architecture, urbanism and humanities research in Detroit, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. It is made possible by a $1.3 million grant from the A. W. Mellon Foundation. The project allows design theory and practice to inform and be informed by questions of social justice, social movements and transformative creative arts movements--both past and present. The emphasis on cities and their specificity will focus humanists on linking theories of human interaction and collective life with the physical space of a city and its histories. The increased expertise in urbanism allows for humanists to better understand the market forces and economic constraints that inform design decisions that directly affect human life.
Egalitarianism remains a useful framework for examining the contemporary metropolis because it contains a theory of value based on both the inherent equality of individuals and on some notion of a fair distribution of resources to individuals. Egalitarianism is thus a more ample construct through which to view the challenges and opportunities of today's modern metropolitan regions, because it does not assume a market-based or capitalist-driven imperative. Rather, egalitarianism can be used to ask what if the underpinnings of resource distribution, transportation, housing allocation and industrial wast management were in the service of the most equitable allocation of goods and services. Given the reality that contemporary metropolitan regions and post-industrial cities fall well short of this goal, egalitarianism then allows us to ask what is the best way to reduce or mitigate the harmful inequalities.