A series of subsidised houses could help tackle regional inequality—and begin tackling the structures that mean some places benefit from the networks of globalisation while others are left outby Eric Lybeck / April 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
In 1882, the Old Town Edinburgh ward of St Giles was among the most impoverished parts of the city. It was also the site of the University of Edinburgh, then celebrating its 300th anniversary—just over a century after the peak of the Scottish Enlightenment which had bestowed upon the nascent industrial revolution its moral warrant.
How could these two conditions—poverty and progress—exist together in the same place? The university stood mere blocks away from the squalor of the slums accommodating populations “left behind” by the rapidly developing industrial economy.
By 1890, the civic sociologist, Patrick Geddes, had a plan: inspired by social innovations in Whitechapel, Marylebone, Liverpool, Rochdale and his own experiments providing co-operative student accommodation, he purchased a derelict mansion next to Edinburgh castle. Architects and builders added six new flats to what would be called ‘Ramsay Gardens.’
Geddes gambled that he could attract enough of the middle classes from fashionable New Town to Old Town. This relocation would encourage the integration of the knowledge emanating from the university as academics, students, professionals and graduates socialised with the artisanal classes, working poor, servants and casual labourers, including children and women supporting families or working themselves.
This is the winning essay of this year’s Bennett-Prospect Prize for Public Policy. To find out more about the prize, click here
Geddes’ innovative approach to civic renewal is best captured in his demand: “Think Global, Act Local!” Indeed, his theory of the global and the local was no mere catchphrase. Geddes saw the city as a space that connected entire regions with populations around the world.
The emergent atmosphere of cities and universities synthesized cultural, intellectual, economic and technological dynamics in ways that transcended—yet drew upon—the historical relations between town, country, village and city.
Contemporary scholars of globalization know only too well that, increasingly, global cities and their cosmopolitan residents connect with one another through networked interactions—but how often do our cities integrate with the surrounding area
Think Global, Act Local
In the USA, political scientist Kathy Cramer has observed how citizens of rural Wisconsin were for years becoming resentful of know-it-all ‘elites’ in Madison and Milwaukee. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild observed similar sentiments and grievances expressed by Louisianans in the lead…