Discordant order: Manila's neo-patrimonial urbanism

Murphy, Peter, and Hogan, Trevor (2012) Discordant order: Manila's neo-patrimonial urbanism. Thesis Eleven, 112 (1). pp. 10-34.

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Abstract

Manila is one of the world's most fragmented, privatized and un-public of cities. Why is this so? This paper contemplates the seemingly immutable privacy of the city of Manila, and the paradoxical character of its publicity. Manila is our prime exemplar of the 21st-century mega-city whose apparent disorder discloses a coherent order which we here call 'neo-patrimonial urbanism'. Manila is a city where poor and rich alike have their own government, infrastructure, and armies, the shopping malls are the simulacra of public congregations once found in cathedrals and plazas, and where household order is matched by streetside chaos, and personal cleanliness wars with public dirt. We nominate the key characteristics of this uncanny approximation of chaotic and discordant order – a polyphonous and polyrhythmic social order but one lacking harmony – and offer a historical sociology, a genealogy that traces an emblematic pattern across the colonizing periods of its emergent urban forms into the contemporary impositions of gated zones and territories. The enduring legacy of patrimonial power to Manila is to be found in the households and on the streets that undermine and devalue public forms of social power in favour of the patriarch and his householders (now relabelled as 'shareholders' in 'public companies') at the cost of harmonious, peaceable and just public order. Such a state of affairs is not only destructive of the historic built environment of the city, especially its public parks and plazas and heritage districts, its streets, footpaths, public transport and utilities, but is directly injurious of its citizens. To address the question of Manila's private order and public chaos is to reopen the quest for the good city as the just polis. It is also to take us beyond arguments of indigenous versus colonial forms of urbanism that are mired in nationalist and modernization ideologies respectively, and it is to reject the reductive logics of globalization arguments that Asian mega-cities are but variations of American logics of urbanism.

Item ID: 23945
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: colonization, Manila, privatization, public sphere, social theory, urban history, urbanism
ISSN: 1461-7455
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2012 03:07
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160404 Urban and Regional Studies (excl Planning) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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