Developmentality : biopower, planning, and the living city

Ivison, Timothy (2017) Developmentality : biopower, planning, and the living city. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

Our contemporary understanding of the modern city relies on a widely held consensus that its existence is the inevitable and natural outcome of economic and industrial growth. We take the city to be a habitat proper to modern civilisation, as well as an indexical measurement and representation of its development. Following this, the practice of town planning enters as a providential and cultivating force, guiding and articulating a scientific adjustment of the disorder created by industrial urbanisation, in the direction of an ordered and governable environment. This narrative forms the basis for what I will call the ‘developmentality’ of town planning. This thesis is a comprehensive critique and re-examination of the historical concepts of planning and urbanisation from the standpoint of ‘developmentality’. The thesis takes a critical approach to the history of British urbanisation, going against the grain of conventional planning histories, which tend to emphasise a liberal narrative of teleological progression and achievement, with clear institutional and juridical markers. On the contrary, the following thesis argues for a new epistemology of town planning that emphasises the extent to which it has been a discourse on the very biological nature of the modern city and the biopolitical governance of its spaces. The thesis argues that this biopolitical condition of urbanism in Britain can be retraced to the sanitary reform movement of the midnineteenth century, where an increasingly urgent notion of public health became the rationale for an expanded administrative, engineering, and architectural programme. Elaborated in the Garden Cities and Regional Planning movements of latter decades, biological doctrines are reiterated time and again as the rationale for myriad regulatory interventions and positivist planning theories. By the turn of the twentieth century, town planning not only insists on a therapeutic intervention into the pathological spaces of the city, it also projects a new image of the city: one planned and organised around the urban as a vector of health. In the elaboration of this programme, planning not only attends to the problem of growth, it also remakes the city in the image of an organic system and recasts the city dweller as an embedded subject within a holistic and technologically serviced milieu. The biological premise and hygienic project of planning extends from the very notion of the normal and the pathological city, through to the infrastructural logic of urbanism as an endless propagation of the prosthetics of modern habitation. Through a series of critical analyses, the thesis will argue for a new reading of the history of town planning, one in which its very locus and legitimacy is to be found in the urban spatialisation of biological concepts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: London Consortium
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2017 16:09
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2017 16:09
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/243

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