“Suburbia,” a term describing the communities around the outskirts of larger cities and metropolitan areas, was originally a phenomenon exclusive to the English-speaking world. In its original British context, the term once meant the residential areas which were situated outside a major city. It conveyed two specific meanings, both of which are products of the 19th century:
- Former towns and villages that were later absorbed into larger cities like London or Birmingham as they expanded during the Industrial Revolution.
- Residential areas separated from the cities by the surrounding countryside and resided by members of then-emerging middle class.
Suburbs that fell under the first category were usually built around the city center, away from the residential areas that accommodated those who worked in the factories. Those which were part of the second category emerged from those who had the Kapital to live well away from the urban pollution and sprawl of the cities. Both categories were integrated into the nearby urban locales through the implementation of rail transportation, connecting those living in Suburbia to the cities.
The emergence of Suburbia in the English-speaking world signified a breakdown in the older delineation between urban and rural areas that once existed before the Industrial Revolution. The British version has been adopted in other parts of the English-speaking world, resulting in distinct interpretations in Canada and the US as well as in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the concept of Suburbia is defined in the same sense as a “neighborhood.” It refers to residential areas situated within the jurisdiction of larger cities and metropolitan areas and therefore under the administration of its Municipal government. In Canada and these United States by contrast, Suburbia is defined as the outlying residential areas of major towns and cities or as separate communities that exist independently of nearby towns and cities. Even so, the American version in particular is distinct enough to warrant further study.
As a Western phenomenon exclusive to the English-speaking world, the presence of Suburbia is less prevalent throughout the European mainland. Although they can exist in European countries, some of their suburbs are smaller and tended to be integrated into administration of nearby cities and metropolitan areas through its legal or transportation systems. In the German-speaking world for instance, the closest equivalent to Suburbia is the untranslatable “Vorort,” which refers to a municipality like a large town or small urban area outside of a major city or metropolitan area. The significance of the “Vororte” is supported by the fact that the wealthiest citizens often live within the cities proper as opposed to living away from them like in the English-speaking world. This particular trend in the German-speaking world also accounts for why Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels chose the French word “Bourgeoisie” when referring to why those with Kapital in the European mainland often chose to live within the cities. For the original meaning of that term, outside of its Marxist-Leninist connotations, once denoted the people who live within the walls of towns and cities prior to the French Revolution.
The significance of Suburbia is that its presence can impact the operation of MTEP (Mission-Type Economic Planning) for the Economic Planners and Inspectors of the VCS Economy. MTEP, as it was articulated across previous Entries as well as in The Work-Standard (2nd Ed.), involved delegating the role of economic planning across the various Enterprises throughout the national economy. The Central Planners still retained their roles, but they now had subordinate Economic Planners overseeing different Enterprises throughout the VCS Economy. These Economic Planners were to work alongside their retinue of Accountants as well as with the Inspectors sent to oversee the various Enterprises as part of the State Commissariats of Wages and Prices. Each Enterprise, regardless of their economic organization type, was to choose its Delegate who will speak on their behalf at the local Council of their Municipal government.
Based on the manner in which the Vororte took shape in the German-speaking world, there continues to be a fine delineation between urban and rural locales. It is possible to imagine some of the Vororte being covered by the Municipal governments of the nearby cities or metropolitan areas. Those which are furthest from the cities and those large enough to be considered as large towns and small cities should form their own Municipal government. A similar pattern of organization may also be arranged in other European countries as well.
For applications of MTEP in the English-speaking world, things are a lot more interesting. In the UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, their conceptions of Suburbia can easily be brought under the jurisdictions of Municipal governments in the major cities and metropolitan areas. Due to the manner in which Suburbia took form in those countries, there is less room for their versions of Suburbia to have separate Municipal governments.
As for the US, it should be noted that there is no formal definition from the Federal government on what constitutes as Suburbia. Although more than half of the US population likes to think that they live in Suburbia, the Federal government is more inclined to disagree insofar as its position is reminiscent of the one found in the German-speaking world. The Federal government continues to maintain a well-defined delineation between rural and urban areas to which Suburbia exists as part of either category but never as its own. Although there were proposals as recent as the late 2010s to change this view, there is still no official moves from the Federal government. To recall a relevant topic from The Work-Standard, this could be considered as another phenomenon associated with the “American Essence,” in its most fundamental form, being derived from a fusion of British and German (or more precisely, English and Prussian) characteristics.
How would MTEP be conducted at the local level in the Federalist American Union, the US as envisaged in The Work-Standard (2nd Ed.)? It would be a combination of approaches found in the German-speaking and English-speaking worlds. Some locations in American Suburbia are large enough to be considered as large towns or small cities and could therefore have their own Municipal governments. Others, especially those within the vicinity of major cities or metropolitan areas, will fall under the jurisdiction of their Municipal governments. This has everything to do with the specific manner in which American Suburbia developed after 1945.
On American Suburbia
The basic formation of a Household in American Suburbia is the single-family home. Each single-family home is a two-story building on a plot of land that includes a lawn, a backyard, and a garage. It is connected to a hierarchical network of roads connecting the house to other houses throughout the neighborhood and the surrounding area outside the neighborhood. The whole idea behind America Suburbia was to promote homeownership, the belief that anyone can someday own their Household and live someplace between the surrounding rural and urban locales. Compared to owning a Household in the cities, the spatiality of Suburbia envisaged the living spaces of individual Households as being separate from each other. And unlike the Households of the countryside, Suburbia was not too far away from the nearby cities, allowing anyone to visit the cities with their automobiles. In fact, the historical development of Suburbia throughout the 20th century was assisted by the advent of the automobile. Although the automobile is capable of allowing anyone to travel farther distances, one has to wonder why Suburbia in general seldom accommodated other modes of transportation.
Going somewhere in this Suburbia often required the automobile, even in circumstances where traveling on foot or on a bicycle would have sufficed. Not every suburban locale has special lanes for bicycles or areas where one needs to walk in order to reach their destination. Even pedestrian traffic is not always suitable. A similar argument can be made about some suburban locales do not have any buses, trains, or other mass transportation system for those without automobiles. Not everyone is going to have their own automobile and even if they did, there will always be those who might need another mode of transportation due to their automobile being unavailable or because they have some other preference in not always having to drive somewhere.
Outside the immediate boundaries of the neighborhoods are clusters of Enterprises which are predominantly a part of the Services Sector. Shopping centers and the occasional shopping mall will be situated not far from the neighborhoods to sell goods and services. Their proximity is in actual contrast to concentrating the sale of goods and services at the downtown “shopping district,” what is colloquially referred to in American English as “Main Street” (British English speakers will recognize this area as “High Street”). Emergency services such as hospitals or other facilities like schools and office buildings can also be found within driving distance.
An important question posed by the development of American Suburbia for MTEP involves ascertaining the extent to which it will change under the Work-Standard. In various Entries throughout Sections One and Two, I discussed about the establishment of Small Businesses, Cooperatives, and Workshops which would be organized into Guilds and its Delegates sent to the local Councils of Municipal governments as part of Council Democracy. I also addressed another topic regarding the formation of Department Stores and Supermarkets. American Suburbia could facilitate these new Enterprises as sources of Arbeit and Geld. But what has yet to be answered is whether the Work-Standard will be able to help American Suburbia tame its notorious Consumerist tendencies whilst still maintaining a high standard of living.
Aside from the automobile, American Suburbia was also made possible through access to cheap Kapital, the Schuld of which has not always been paid back in full nor will it ever be for the foreseeable future. There are some suburban communities in the Union where the Quantity of Kapital is not high enough to sustain the Quantity of Schuld that comes well after the initial construction projects and the borrowing of mortgages. Even more problematic is the issue of repairing and maintaining the entire infrastructure that came with the Real Estate development of American Suburbia, an issue that has become increasingly relevant in the early 21st century.
It is important to understand that American Suburbia, when it rose in prominence after 1945, was intended to be a generator of Kapital and Schuld as part of the first and second Modes of Production. Production for Profit saw much of its gains from the Real Estate development and the immense potential in attracting Kapital from bank mortgages and privatized commercial firms to suburban communities. Jeffersonian New Deal programs, specifically the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), proved influential in accelerating the growth of this Suburbia when it was combined with the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (otherwise known as the “GI Bill”). Production for Utility, on the other hand, contributed to urban sprawl and, among certain States of the Union, either a dissolution of urban communities of American Europeans or a reinforcement of racial segregation when it came to who could purchase homes in which neighborhoods. The latter is more well-known during the height of suburban development in the 1950s and 1960s, but the former is not as apparent.
When it came to the issue of urban sprawl, two important perspectives appeared in the forms of “NIMBY (Not in My Backyard)” and “YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard).” The development of American Suburbia has seen the NIMBY opposing its spread on grounds that it would disturb the environment and disturb the surrounding areas by contributing to pollution and overcrowding. Those who chose YIMBY argued that the development was necessary in order to improve the livelihoods of those who live in those areas. The positions of NIMBY and YIMBY can be both recontextualized in the purview of Production for Dasein, which can lead to different perspectives distinguishable from those found in Production for Utility.
On YIMBY and NIMBY
Imagine for a moment that somewhere in the Federalist American Union, there is a proposal by a State government to implement an economic policy within a given suburban community. The suburban community in question has its own Municipal government. Its superior State government recognizes the importance of this economic policy and believes that it will provide the Totality with a potentially lucrative source of Actual Arbeit and Actual Geld. That source of Actual Arbeit and Actual Geld is a long-term endeavor will come from economic activities outside of the initial construction and its eventual sale to those interested. How would the opposing proponents of YIMBY and NIMBY respond to the implications of that economic policy?
Those siding with YIMBY will claim that the implementation of the economic policy will provide the affected suburban community with a way to “live within its own means of production.” It will help the local residents create economic growth and pay down the Schuld that it had accumulated when America was still under the Jeffersonians’ Democratic-Republican Party. And if successful, it will provide Meaningful Work for those who are living in other parts of the State.
Conversely, those who chose to align themselves with NIMBY will present a different side of the proposal. They express concerns over the environmental impact of this economic policy’s implementation and a potential loss in the Authentic Dasein of the local area. It might harm the livelihoods of Small Businesses, create unnecessary vehicular traffic and alienate local residents from an influx of people coming from outside the suburban community.
What I just described is generalizable enough to include all kinds of different Enterprises that would match the profile of arguments posited by proponents of YIMBY and NIMBY. It also fits neatly with the concern which I had raised earlier, which was the question of how American Suburbia will be able to adapt to the distinct circumstances of the Work-Standard. While adopting Arbeit and Geld and ditching Kapital and Schuld, a suburban community can be expected to undergo significant redevelopment of its infrastructure in order to accommodate the establishment of new Enterprises which will be creating additional sources of Arbeit and Geld from their economic activities. The economic policy may sound great at first until one stops to wonder if something is going to be irretrievably lost in the midst of those redevelopments.
For the Socialist Nation of The Work-Standard, how would it act in these circumstances? What will be its role in the property development and construction projects? What laws might it have regarding the usage of land as part of economic activities?
Categories: Third Place