In every respect the new media has achieved an unprecedented hegemony over all aspects of social life. This hegemony has produced a more intimate visibility than ever before, while at the same time shattering universality, apparently irrevocably.
Citizens become users and take-on a threatening aspect. Neighbourhoods segregate, becoming predatory locales. Manners specify and the public disintegrates into cults, not to say, cells.
In a TV show like Madmen, set at the apex of golden era New York, the advertising man Don Draper is able to keep his different worlds and roles in rotation: “It’s a carousel,” he exclaims in one episode, branding a circle-slide, having previously offered to abandon his family and disappear with his mistress. The line echoes Koolhaas’ idea that Manhattanism was born in Coney Island; in the development of a technology of fun: the city is a theme park.
The classical Greek agora depended on slavery. For his part Negri employs, symptomatically, the term “utopian” interchangeably with the term “imperial”: the loss of the centre is an escape from imperialist domination.
The rise of interdisciplinary cultural studies is one symptom of this shift, while the art-world proliferation of roles (writer, editor, artist, curator, etc) is another. This logic remains so far mostly confined to the so-called creative class; the class which, linked to gentrification and the figure of the hipster, has come in for some of the strongest criticisms from the Left, which identifies the new class with an older one, and sees capitalistic processes at work in the new lifestyles.
The architecture charged with inscribing bodies is changing form. In his recent book Hatch the architecture journalist, critic, curator and teacher Kieran Long, the current editor of the Architects’ Journal, numbers figures like Eyal Weizman among the “new architectural generation.” Weizman designed his own house, but he remains more famous for his theoretical and mapping work, and his book Hollow Land, a text that employed the concept of architecture as an expansive metaphor for sociopolitical structures. This is the right track.
In his Radical Philosophy essay, Negri nominates Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas’s “retrospective manifesto for Manhattan” as one of the two key texts (the other is Koolhaas’s essay “Bigness”) for thinking about contemporary urbanism. The value of the book lies perhaps chiefly in its value as a source of comparison and contrast. Emphasizing the concept of program, Koolhaas writes of the Manhattan Grid as allowing different programs to be layered on top of each other.