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What Will Be Our Starting Point to Think about Ethics and Responsibility in the Inhabitants Network?

A few considerations
by Cristina Reynals

Urban spaces, institutions, systems, subjectification, and new subjectivities are co-producers in social-disintegration processes ...

Photo: Solos, by David Benavent

Our hypothesis will be that as eviction mediators, institutions wield key instruments of power in subjectification and socialization. This obliviation of the subject with the paradox of subjection to the strict limits it imposes on circulation, property, identity, and citizenship comes paradoxically with void and abandonment in the production of absences, of the critical interstices of survival. This instrumental rationality is part of the method and is institutionally programmed. This production has, without a doubt, two victims: the producer and the produced, two closely related co-producers of social-disintegration processes.

In institutional practices and discourses, three notable dimensions can be observed in depth as being in play: the way urban spaces are laid out, the conception of what is social, and the creation of subjectivity. The macro-dismantlement of the system and the reinstatement of another leaves the regulatory—formerly disciplinary—institutions with a twofold task: on the one hand, to manage order and the rehabilitation of dangerous subjects, families, and communities; and on the other, to address the needs of subjects, expressed and dealt with individually. Thus, the distribution of space—mirroring the distribution of power and social wealth—is fragmented, repressed, and brands populations in intense guettoization processes, where working-class neighborhoods are no longer a space continuum but fractures in social circulation. In this degradation, social distances are accentuated and police/military occupations become frequent while day-to-dayness is made of violence.

Photo: Industrial Mural by The Flying Enchilada

In this context, new tragic subjectivities emerge, where traditional working-class markers are dissolved, as well as family structure, differentiated roles, and dominance: gender, age, and micro-economics are transformed. In this collapse with nothing to replace it, subjectivity shifts and is sculpted into new collectives of very different natures: self-help groups, neighborhood groups, gangs, and tribal conflict, and at their extremes, childhood, old age, disability, with abandonment and solitude. There are no boundaries to legality and illegality, they are juxtaposed, because surviving within the crudely manifested demands of a hegemonic society, within the already blinding supposedly reticular panopticon of these spaces, requires within its limits and inside of it identification papers, a home address, that national and local taxes be paid, that public services be privatized, and private security patrols... These factors become co-builders of new, extremely vulnerable subjectivities, which leads to explosive-implosive projections.

Institutions—between their mandates to privatize, focalize, and assist—keep tutelary forms of assistance that address the symptoms. The quality of social suffering leads to these ungraspable practices, and in this ungraspability lie the resources of hegemonic legitimization. Impotence does not produce questioning on what is done but the meager expression of the limits imposed by the higher bodies, salaried survival, and official knowledge. Thus, intervention is formulated with no possibility of moving up on the causal chains of the subject, the context, and the system. Repetition, derivation, and senseless rehabilitation turn out to be homologous with the social course of eviction.

Published on: 24 June 2011
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Other network contributions
  • The 2013 WAI Declaration summarizes the necessary steps towards an open and democratic process, and involved organizations and networks from across the world throughout 2012, particularly during the People’s Summit in Rio, the Urban Social Forum in Naples, and Africities in Dakar, culminating in the thematic workshops and the General assembly in Tunis.

  • The Network on Inhabitants has put the spotlight on concrete experiences that renew the commitment of Ethics and Responsibility in its work on behalf of the most vulnerable. Here we share with you the story of an organization that fought so that 30’000 families could keep their homes making responsible the State for the irresponsibility of the market

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