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domingo, 8 de fevereiro de 2009

Resenhas publicadas na Revista The European Legacy, ISSN 1084-8770, Online ISSN: 1470-1316

City of Quarters:
Urban Villages in the Contemporary City.
By David Bell and Mark Jayne (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004), XIII - 287 pp.
By Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro Koury
City of Quarters is strongly influenced by contemporary urban and cultural studies in anthropology and geography. It explores the growing presence of distinct social and spatial areas in cities throughout the world, urban villages, cultural and ethnic quarters. These spaces are sites where capital and culture intertwine in new ways. The study addresses the economic, political, socio-spatial and cultural practices and processes that surround these urban spaces and the role of urban villages in contemporary cities.

The book is divided into four parts that highlight the ways in which the production and consumption cultures, lifestyles, identities and forms of sociability found in specific urban villages are discursively and differentially constructed.

Part 1, ‘‘Urban Regeneration,’’ presents essays that address how cultural quarters have been utilized as motors of economic and physical regeneration: George Waitt on the Newest Chic Quarter of Sydney, Malcolm Miles on El Raval, Barcelona, and James DeFilippis on Lower Manhattan. Part 2, ‘‘Production and Consumption,’’ looks at the interface of production and consumption in urban quarters as cities try to compete in a post-industrial urban hierarchy characterized by intense competition: Graeme Evans addresses the contemporary form of the post-industrial cultural quarter; Tom Fleming examines the role of the state in supporting or developing creative and cultural quarters; Abigail Gilmore focuses on popular music and urban regeneration; and Stephanie Rains discusses the process of quarterization in a case study on Dublin.

Part 3, ‘‘Identities, Lifestyles and Forms of Sociability,’’ examines the conflict that surrounds urban space and focuses on the relationship between identity, lifestyles and forms of sociability, and the construction and experience of urban villages. Jim Shorthose’s essay presents a case study of a cultural quarter, the Lace Market in Nottingham, England; Jon Binnie’s essay is on gay villages and sexual citizenship in Britain; and, finally, Wun Chan’s essay addresses the question of ethnocentrism in relation to urban planning.

Part 4, ‘‘Rethinking Neighbourhoods / Rethinking Quarters,’’ examines marginalized neighbourhoods and offers an alternative approach to planning for urban living. Chris Murray examines the problem of neighbourhoods in the transformation of urban villages to cultural hubs. Maggie O’Neill and others reflect on a particular phenomenon of the urban red-light districts in Walssall, Britain. Phil Denning, in turn, investigates regeneration initiatives in former industrial neighbourhoods in Scotland, Germany and Hungary. Finally, Franco Bianchine and Lia Ghilardi’s essay examines the European perspective on the culture of neighbourhoods and offers an alternative agenda for their development.

The concluding chapter, ‘‘Afterword: Thinking in Quarters,’’ summarizes the main aspects discussed in the book. David Bell and Mark Jayne reflect on the process of entrepreneurial urban governance and the rise of the symbolic economy of cities.

City of Quarters offers a comprehensive view of the subject and will interest researchers in urban studies, anthropology, sociology, architecture, urbanism, geography and other related sciences.
[Publicado na revista The European Legacy, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 349–350, 2006]
Pierre Bourdieu: Agent Provocateur.
By Michael Grenfell (London: Continuum, 2004), VIII + 214 pp. ISBN: 0826467083
By Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro Koury
In Pierre Bourdieu: Agent Provocateur, Michael Grenfell, a recognized authority on the subject, examines the work and the life of the recently deceased French sociologist. As suggested by the subtitle, Agent Provocateur, Grenfell affirms that Bourdieu’s work stirs men to action.
The book is divided into three parts. The first presents a brief biography of Bourdieu and examines his main theoretical concepts.

The second offers a deep analysis of Bourdieu’s attitude to the Algerian Crisis, presents Bourdieu’s views on education as the training field of the state, and discusses the relationship between his conceptions of the aesthetic and the media with those of culture and society.

The third part is devoted to Bourdieu’s political views, and calls attention to his book published in 1993, La Misere du Monde, on the poverty of experience of common citizens based on a series of ‘‘eyewitness’’ accounts.

This section still focuses on the militant side of Bourdieu, emphasizing his critique of capitalism and his opposition to the military actions of the West in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan.

This book offers a coherent and valuable reading of Bourdieu’s work, addressing the key questions of the social and political world, the links and alliances of present day society. Grenfell discusses the implications of Bourdieu’s work, evaluating the use and continuity of his ideas for the twenty-first century.

Pierre Bourdieu: Agent Provocateur presents a comprehensive picture of Pierre Bourdieu — as man, militant and intellectual. Without doubt, this work is of incalculable value for students, researchers and scholars working on social theory.
[Publicado na revista The European Legacy, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 457–458, 2006]
Le pouvoir de l’identite´: L’ère de l’information.
By Manuel Castells (Paris: Fayard, 1999), 538 pp. E30.35 cloth.

Book Review by Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro Koury

Le pouvoir de l’identité is devoted to the comprehension of the political world, viewed at the end of the millennium, with the advent of corporate networks on the one hand, and the assertion of identities, on the other. For Manuel Castells, three independent processes begin at the end of the 1960s which together with principles of the 1970s converge in creating a new world. These processes are: (1) the revolution of information technologies; (2) the economic crisis of capitalism and the subsequent reorganization of state agencies; (3) the emergence of numerous social and cultural movements—including, among others, feminism, environmentalism, human rights, and sexual freedoms.
The first process, the revolution of information technologies, remodels society by defining information as the material base of a new society. Its significance is equal if not greater than the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Information technologies become the indispensable tools in the generation of wealth, in the exercise of power, and in the creation of new cultural codes. These technologies acquire particular importance as emerging networks, which replace old forms of social organization, becoming the predominant form of organization of human activities, transforming all aspects of social and economic life.
The second process, the crisis of capitalism and the state, gradually transformed economic life from the mid-1970s. The state apparatus was shown to be incapable of sustaining the transition to the Age of Information, while, in the capitalist economies, firms and governments adopted measures and politicies that led to a new form of capitalism. This form is characterized by the globalization of economic activities and by greater organizational flexibility, to facilitate the relations of management and workers. In this new form of capitalism, informational capitalism has prevailed. The basic consequence of this process is that, for the first time in history, the world is organized on a set of common economic rules. Capitalism has been found to be more flexible than any one of its predecessors: in adopting the new information technologies it has become fixed in the culture and is driven by the new technology.
However, Castells affirms: ‘‘A technology does not determine societies.’’ Multiple factors intervene in the configuration of any given society at each stage of its history.
Thus, the third process, the cultural process, centered on the powerful movements that rose in 1968 in their confrontation with society, reacting in various forms to the arbitrary use of authority. In essence, they were cultural rather than political movements: what they wanted was to change life and not to assume political power. It is this that explains why they were not defeated. In their fight, they questioned the bases of society and rejected established values. However, these social movements were in principle cultural and independent of economic and technological transformations. Their libertarian spirit influenced, to a considerable degree, the change toward a more individual and decentralized use of technology. Their advocacy of an open culture stimulated experimentation, with its manipulation of symbols, and their cosmopolitanism established the intellectual bases for a culturally interdependent world.
The interaction of these three parallel processes, in the last decades of the twentieth century, redefined the relations of production, the individual, and the social, and culminated in the creation of a new society. This society is characterized by a new dominant social structure dependent on the network; by a new economy, the global informational economy; and by a new culture, the culture of real potentiality. However, in the network society it is not knowledge and information that is the defining feature, for, knowledge and information have always been central elements in all forms of society. What is new is the information technologies with which we deal, centered on communication, based on microelectronics and genetic engineering. It is these that are transforming the social fabric of life, giving rise to new forms of organization and social interaction.
According to Castells, then, we have entered a new scientific paradigm, as described by Thomas Kuhn, that is, a space that induces a standard of discontinuity in the material bases of the economy, of society, and of culture. The main characteristics of our information–technological paradigm are: (1) information is the basic raw material; (2) information processing is present in all fields of our eco-social system, which thus transforms it; (3) the logic of networks, adapted to the increasing complexity of interactions and to unexpected developments; (4) flexibility, understood as the capacity of constant reconfiguration without destroying existing organization; (5) the convergence of specific technologies in a highly integrated system. For the first time in history, Castells says, the human mind is a direct productive force and not only a decisive element in a system of production.
In this kind of paradigm, a new culture emerges, in which human expression and creativity are standardized in a global electronic hypertext that substantially modifies the social forms of space and time. This hypertext electronic world, synthesized for the Internet, becomes the landmark of common reference for symbolic processing of all sources and all messages. Potentiality is our reality, affirms Castells, because we live in a world in which reality (the material and symbolic existence of people) is totally immersed in an environment of virtual images. In this environment, the dominant values and interests are constructed without reference to the past or to the future, but in the atemporal landscape of computer networks and electronic media.
These interactive information networks are the components of our social structure and the agents of social transformation. They define the social morphology of our societies. With the development of information technologies, flexibility can be reached without sacrificing performance; and because of their superior performance capabilities, the networks gradually eliminate, in each specific area of activity, the hierarchical and centered forms of organization.
Even networks that are based on alternative values share the same morphology. Thus, social conflicts also depend on networks. The networks try to retrace other networks, inscribing new codes and new values so as to organize the performance of opposing networks. The main objective in the age of information is to redefine cultural codes, which reside, ultimately, in the human mind. The mind has thus become the main center of power.
Social change in the network society is highly complex, because networks have the capacity to absorb new developments or to neutralize them. Change can either come through the negation of the logic of networks or through the affirmation of values that cannot be processed by the network alone. That is, by developing alternative networks with alternative projects that goes beyond its specific auto-definition. In this context, because political parties seem to have lost their potential as independent agents of social change, it is the potential citizens of the Age of Information who become social movements, and it is they who will produce alternative cultural codes.
However, social movements must develop across infinite social distances, across the metanetworks of international financial systems, the global flows of wealth, power and images, as well as across enormous numbers of people and activities. Globalization is a great web connecting everything to the instrumental needs of the market and, at the same time, disconnecting everything that is not instrumental to the market. In this scene, people tend to regroup around primary identities (religious, ethnic, territorial, national), to search for personal security and for possibilities of (re)organizing their lives.
Thus appears the bipolar opposition between the Network and Being and, in manifesting their primary identities, people start opposing the network society. The enormous drive to affirm and articulate specific identities gives rise to social movements, especially of those who feel excluded by the existing system. Castells affirms that the rising tide of religious fundamentalism from the mid-1990s was therefore not accidental. It seems logical to exclude the agents of exclusion. ‘‘When the Networks disconnect from Being, individual or collective Being constructs its meaning outside the global instrumental frame of reference: the disconnection process becomes reciprocal, with the excluded rejecting the unilateral logic of structural domination and social exclusion’’.

[Publicado na revista: The European Legacy, Vol. 10, No. 7, pp. 759–761, 2005]