Between passion and reason: rethinking critical urban scholarship in populist times
CITY has always been a forum for passionate urban scholarship. But what role do the passions play in urbanization(s) today? And should we even make room in urban scholarship for such a volatile part of the human condition? Across the vast breadth of contemporary urban scholarship, today we find deeply paradoxical answers to these questions. So much contemporary urbanization is explained as being confined and codified by free-market rationalities [Peck 2013. Constructions of Neoliberal Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press]. With increasing force, these rationalities are then mobilized in technological innovations that have the power to condition the perception and behavior of citizens [Wyly and Dhillon 2018. “Planetary Kantsaywhere.” City 22 (1): 130–151]. Our casino capitalist, smart cities therefore seem bent on pursuing and installing the whatever-the-cost perverse urban rationalities of climate catastrophe [Madden 2019. “Editorial: City of Emergency.” City 23 (3): 281–284]. And yet, this unreasonable rationality is now producing symptomatic populisms that are distinctly passionate. Few cities have been immune to popular sentiments that have rejected appeals to reason, free market or not [Rossi 2018. “The Populist Eruption and the Urban Question.” Urban Geography 39 (9): 1425–1430]. Many citizens seem sick of the incessant compulsion to reason, they simply want their desires realized. How then should critical urban scholarship approach the current confluence of (free market) rationality and (populist) passion? This contribution examines this question via the political philosophy of David Hume. Isaiah Berlin is said to have claimed of Hume that ‘No man has influenced the history of philosophy to a deeper or more disturbing degree.’ Hume’s arguments about the primacy of passions can help us to understand how the remnants of neoliberal rationalities cohabit today’s cities with various populisms. More importantly, Hume might also offer insights into how critical scholarship can have progressive purchase in such turbulent times.
Davidson, Mark, "Between passion and reason: rethinking critical urban scholarship in populist times" (2020). Geography. 91.