“In every department science needs an ideal value, a power which creates values, and in whose service it can believe in itself.”
-Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals
It is tempting to look at specific, individual professional and research practices as examples of conflicts of interest. It feels good to locate “bad actors” and to find the “source” of our problems, someone to blame for the corruption. In many regards, we are experiencing a cultural moment of blame assignment and finger-pointing. In the age of Trump and Harvey Weinstein, there is no doubt plenty of blame to go around. In the architecture world, we may, for example, cite Enron’s 2002 sponsorship of the Guggenheim’s retrospective of Frank Gehry’s work, as Thomas Frank does in “Rocking for the Clampdown;”1 the 1998 Art of Motorcycle show at the Guggenheim, which epitomizes the museum’s strategy of “soliciting corporations—like BMW, Giorgio Armani, or Hugo Boss—to sponsor ‘shows’ of their own products, turning museums into boutiques,” as Michael Sorkin puts it in “Brand Aid;”2 or the work that Eero Saarinen did for General Motors, Bell Labs, and IBM, as Reinhold Martin explores in The Organizational Complex;3 or the design research and exhibition work that Charles and Ray Eames conducted during the height of the Cold War—including their propaganda film Glimpses of the USA for the 1959 American National Exhibition—and their work for companies like IBM, Boeing, Westinghouse, etc. From a critical viewpoint, these “bad actors” stand out and are, of course, worthy of criticism. Yet in all of these cases (architectural and non-architectural), if the goal is merely to critique and condemn individuals, we are liable to overlook—or even implicitly justify—the systemic and structural forms of corruption within our institutions. The individualizing blame game—as important as it is—fails to furnish a commentary on the degree to which the majority of practices are situated within a biased and predefined field of possibilities that structure the coordinates of common sense and ethical standards in the service of a narrow set of interests. In the architectural world, this field of possibilities—which I call “professionalism”—has a highly political history that tends to be ignored by those who wish to imagine the discipline as being neutral and objectively rational. Yet, as this article intends to show, professionalism was originally posed as a political means of preserving ruling class power against political contestation—a mission that was never neutral or objective.
At the end of the nineteenth century, after a period of unplanned, relatively unrestrained and accelerating urbanization and population growth in the United States, a number of reform organizations began to problematize the city as a primary site of political and social intervention—one that professionalized experts would be summoned to bring under control. As a political strategy, professionalism was ineffective until it established itself on the “neutral” terrain of scientific discourse, which depoliticized—in the public eye—professionalism’s inherently political objectives and allowed it to become the administrative basis of the majority of sanctioned human effort. This was accomplished partially by an organization called the National Municipal League, who, alongside other reform organizations, gave rise to a regime of experts whose activities were ostensibly above political contestation. It was on the terrain of “truth” that the reformers of the League—interested in stability of the social order—waged a struggle for power and influence. Particularly between the 1880s and 1930s, reformers discursively developed the “scientific” basis upon which experts from various incipient professions would maintain order and ensure the reproduction of a capitalist economy.4 Within this discursive context arose the professions of urban planning, architecture, and design, alongside the disciplines of economics, political science, psychology, and sociology—disciplines that claimed to possess truths about humanity and civilization, while downplaying the asymmetrical and motivated political agency that such knowledge was intended to generate. Strategically, this occurred through the suspension of political questions of “why?’ in favor of specific and narrow technical matters of “how?,” in both academic and professional discourses.
In the work of the League and other organizations, the so-called “Progressive Era” witnessed the rise of “specific intellectual,” or academic experts, steeped in the new disciplines, operating within a larger, unquestioned “regime of truth.”5 This regime regulated “the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true,” as Foucault put the matter.6 The division of expertise among “specific intellectual” professional problem solvers increasingly trained in technical skills was mobilized and vetted by professional organizations and associations, whose missions were to uphold the standards and “best practices” of the professional order—situated in a narrowly-serving yet widely-pervasive regime of truth that has generally gone unquestioned. If we are going to investigate the conflicting interests at play in the contemporary practice of architecture, perhaps this is a good place to start.
Founded in 1894, the National Municpal League set out to tame the urban conurbations in the United States, which had aggregated largely without centralized planning, and were plagued by fractured social classes scrambling for power. As cities experienced political gridlock, to the detriment of the elite and monied interests, members of the League turned to the early political science writings of Frank P. Prichard and Woodrow Wilson, who both sought to establish “objective,” expert-driven administration as an unquestionable force for reform.7 Prichard argued that “scientific knowledge, skilled labor, systematic organization are all necessary for the conduct of the various municipal departments,”8 while Wilson—the only US president with a PhD—argued in an 1887 essay that leaders should seek effective management of public opinion in order to avoid the disruption of administrative power. “The problem,” he stated, “is to make public opinion efficient without suffering it to be meddlesome…Let administrative study find the best means for giving public criticism this control and for shutting it out from all other interference.”9 In order to accomplish this, Wilson proposed separating the administrative and legislative functions of government, so that governmental tasks such as the planning of streets and utilities, the enforcement of laws and regulations, and, increasingly, the design and erection of infrastructures, the drafting (and enforcement) of zoning and building codes would persist in spite of regime changes and fluctuations in public opinion.
Consistent with Wilson’s musings, the League argued for such a separation of the expert-driven administrative branches of government from politically-contentious legislative politics. “If we hope to use experts in our cities,” the League stressed in a 1916 Model City Charter—a version of which would eventually be adopted into law in most municipalities—“they must not hold elective offices, so that their positions must be independent of political change.”10 Those entrusted to run municipal administration—the bourgeoning class of professional planners, enforcers, and regulators—ought not be considered politicians.
The League was part of a larger movement, in turn-of-the-century United States, to reform municipal government. The mid-to-late 1800s witnessed a massive growth in factional party politics in the US. Especially “during the 1860s and 1870s existing ‘machines’ within the parties had centralized bits of power scattered among the numerous precincts and wards of cities,” the historian Martin Schiesl writes in his landmark study of municipal organization. “By the eighties these organizations were attempting to tighten their grip on urban administration.”11 These political machines capitalized on the broadening political and economic rifts that were emerging in the urbanization of America, as inequality became widespread and the population fractured into distinct social classes with specific interests that were often antagonistic. Beholden to specific interests, political parties would “distribute public posts and social services to various groups in urban society,” and such a structure was decentralizing political power over urban administration.12 Disturbed by this seeming threat to upper and middle-class hegemony over city government, political reformers “denounced the party system which permitted these lower-class people to acquire such power” on the one hand,13 but also the consolidation of power in the hands of certain monopolistic business interests on the other—referred to as “boss politics”—which possessed, as far as the progressive reformers were concerned, too narrow of a conception of their own interests to rule effectively. Most municipal governments at that time operated under a “mayor-council plan” (also called the “ward system”), in which an elected mayor would work with council members who had been elected by individual districts. Because these council members represented the constituents in their particular districts, and districts often had firm political allegiances and ethnic and class compositions, the result was a highly antagonistic council in which very little could be agreed upon.14
Against this highly competitive form of government, reformers first proposed the commission form of government, and then, some time later, the commission-manager form of government, which tended to replace the purely commission-based governments as well as the “traditional” mayor-council form practiced in many cities. These changes came at the hands of several organizations, and a handful of notable reformers. Richard S. Childs—one of the intellectual influences of the National Municipal League—was at the forefront of such reforms. As one of the key proponents of separating the legislative from administrative functions of government, Childs, with the support of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, founded the National Short Ballot Organization, which sought to limit the number of elected officials and install a commission-manager governance structure in cities. As the organization put it in their 1913 pamphlet, “non-political executive functions would be delegated to an official appointed by the Commission to serve during their pleasure, to be known as the ‘City Manager.’”15 Consistent with Wilson’s early political writings, this “short ballot” form of democratic involvement in municipal governance sought to place the supposedly “non-political” tasks of municipal administration into the hands of a professional executive, who would efficiently delegate the various needs of the municipality to other experts.
While advocates of the commission-manager model of government endorsed this structure under the guise of “efficiency,” business associations and chambers of commerce were particularly eager to endorse the plan as an effective means of ensuring their own interests would be served. What these advocates wanted was, according to Schiesl,
the replacement of the ward system of public affairs with a centralized administration that would organize municipal services according to the business view of what was good for the community. City manager government promised all of this. Businessmen could then reduce the influence of lower-class groups in city government and advance their own notions of public policy.16
Another historian put it this way: “business elites almost invariably favored and laboring classes usually opposed the adoption of the commission,” and while support and opposition for this and the commission-manager form of municipal government was not black and white, the heavy leaning of these positions reveals whose interests the commission-appointed manager structure served.17 While many of its advocates came from the business world, a variety of “political reformers outside of business” were involved in advocacy as well, perhaps unaware of the fact that such a mode of government contributed “to the erosion of the structural bases of popular democracy and the power of lower-class elements which lay behind it.”18
In order to succeed in the placement of expert administrators at the helms of municipal governments, reformers needed to formulate a new foundation upon which to justify the authority of these experts. Whereas in the “ward” system, authority was rooted in the popularity or political affiliation of the administrator, reformers increasingly turned to technical expertise and “science” to legitimize the administrator’s authority. Dr. A.L. Lowell, one of the authors of the New Municipal Program, argued that specialized experts were more knowledgeable and better equipped to solve administrative problems than the average citizen; that, therefore, “the influence of the permanent officials is not due to any political authority. It is simply that which expert knowledge, when given a fair chance, will properly command and it makes for efficiency, honesty, and progress in civic welfare.”19 Lowell continued, “Above all he must take no part in politics, for politics naturally involves a not infrequent change of personnel which is quite inconsistent with permanence of tenure.”20 Scientific knowledge would serve as the justification for the properly political policies of municipal governance, shielding administration from controversy.
Earlier attempts to reform municipal governments had been heavily mired in controversy. The first Model City Charter of 1901 overtly stated its intentions to fairly mediate contentious issues, yet in the process failed to do so.21 The proposal failed because it did not depoliticize the issues at hand, and therefore could not build broad-based support for reforms. Commenting on this failure in 1908, the director of the League, Clinton Rogers Woodruff, stated the need for more unified efforts within the organization, whose “first object according to its declaration of principles has been to multiply the numbers, harmonize the methods, and combine the forces of all who realize that it is only by united action and organization that good citizens can secure the adoption of good laws and the selection of men of trained ability and proved integrity for all municipal positions.”22 Such “united action and organization,” resulting from a “harmonization of methods,” could only proceed if the debate about municipal affairs could effectively shift to one perceived as less controversial—both to reformers and to the public.
One of the crucial ways in which A New Municipal Program differed from the failed first Municipal Program was in its introduction of city planning into the executive functions of administrative government. Cities, according to the new program, should be planned by experts, “having at their command, knowledge of the principles and practice of so controlling the physical manifestations of city growth as to meet the needs of the citizens and a proper ideal for the city as a whole.”23 The 1920 essay “The Law of the City Plan,” written by Frank B. Williams as a supplement to the National Municipal Review, made the case for city planning as an integrated department within the municipal government, stating that
a city is a huge agglomeration of social and economic interests, under many independent heads, each seeking, through the city government, its expression in the physical life of the locality. The aim of that city government should be to harmonize these interests in the unity of the locality, as the only method of giving the greatest expression to each of these interests that is compatible with the fullest expression of the interests of all.24
Yet despite its claims to objectivity, the “harmonizing” of city planning was anything but neutral. Professionalized city planning was increasingly preoccupied with the commercial value of urban reorganization, and plans like the landmark Plan of Chicago (1909)—commissioned by the Chicago Commercial Club—were justified on the basis that they would eliminate circulation costs, make the city more commercially efficient, and improve commerce generally.25 “Harmonization”—a staple term among the municipal reformers—was largely concerned with commercial efficiency and pacification, rather than an advocacy of everyone’s interests.26
The architect was demoted in the League’s revised vision of city planning. M.N. Baker—an engineer and author of a section of A New Municipal Program dedicated to city planning—lamented that historically, most city planning was conducted by architects, who emphasized “embellishment, adornment, and beautification, rather than fundamental knowledge of the city plan and its elements.” The result was a “city as a whole that has not harmonized the elements” that composed it—a harmony that was imperative for industrial and commercial advancement. Architects—in one of many historical assaults on their agency—like the rest of the public, would need to follow, rather than lead. Under the proposed commission-manager plan, Baker explained, the commission would act as “a policy-determining body,” with the commissioners bringing “trained administrative and technical men to the front in control of executive affairs.”
The city planning board would be appointed, rather than elected, because, “as matters stand to-day, city planning in the United States is too young, too much of an art in the formative period, too little a science, too much a series of elements yet to be worked into a harmonious whole…to be entrusted wholly to a political body, subject to sudden changes in membership and burdened with a thousand complex problems.”27 This could be accomplished in a variety of different ways, but ultimately it would be imperative, according to the League, that city planning be removed from political contestation and regime change.
The League was incredibly successful at installing city planning commissions in local governments. After the release of A New Municipal Program in 1916, municipal reform experts—including a new generation of professional planners—were rapidly being ushered into municipal governments around the country, because they had firmly established themselves as the arbiters of a new, “scientific” regime of truth. By 1920 there were “hundreds of official planning commissions in the United States”—a development that had its origins in the widespread adoption of city charters based on the League’s model legislation.28
In 1917—one year after the publication of A New Municipal Program—the American Institute of Architects (AIA), perhaps in response to criticisms that the discipline of architecture was “an art rather than a science,” released the Handbook of Architectural Practice, which offered a lengthy guide to the business and ethical dimensions of the professionalized practice of architecture. Like expert planners, the AIA believed that the architect should establish himself on the terrain of scientific neutrality, employing “the applied sciences necessary to sound and economic building, sciences that have generated and that attempt to satisfy many of the exacting and complex demands of modern life.” It was precisely in so doing that the architect would give “to his art the status of a profession.”29 Architecture was not to be a political craft. The Handbook stipulated that the architect’s “advice must be absolutely disinterested;” he “must act with entire impartiality,” for “he is engaged in a profession which carries with it grave responsibility to the public.”30 This duty would place the architect “in a professional rather than a commercial relation to contractors, to his assistants, to his fellow architects, and to the public”—a professionalism whose “swift and proper execution depends in no small part on the Architect’s ability as an administrator.” This responsibility would place him on a parallel path with the expert administrators who were being ushered into municipal governments at the same moment.31
According to the AIA, this new architectural administrator was to have a direct relationship with the administrators in municipal governments—a relationship that the AIA would articulate explicitly. The Handbook explained that the architect was expected to fulfill specific duties “to the public and to building authorities”—referring specifically to city planning commissioners—whose laws and regulations should be understood and followed. This would be a minimum alignment with the not-so-neutral commercial and state interests already being literally cemented into place by planners and civil engineers, whose technical training was being instrumentalized in the development of a particular version of urbanity under the guise of professional neutrality. In this battle for architectural agency, the Handbook stated that architects should “maintain a high standard of practice and conduct on the part of its members as a safeguard of the important financial, technical, and esthetic interests entrusted to them.”32 In the world of competing instrumentalized scientific and technical proficiencies, there was no room for “arts” that asked questions of “why?” or “for whom?” If the discipline of architecture was going to remain relevant in the process of designing and building cities, it would have to take a back seat to planning and governmental regulation, serving and not questioning the values that animated these.
While the architect was to internalize and perform the notion of their own neutrality, the AIA insisted that they should also actively advance the causes that would increase their power and influence as a profession. Not only should an architect “be mindful of the public welfare,” the Handbook explained, but he should also “participate in those movements for public betterment in which his special training and experience qualify him to act.”33 In this sense, architecture as a professional practice was invested in a reformist project, whose fate and future was to ensure the discipline’s reproduction34 (as well as ensuring capitalist reproduction)—an investment that, despite diminishing returns, persists today.35
Peter Marcuse, the critical planner, has observed these same techniques of power in operation today among advocates of sustainable urban development (though it could certainly be argued that these techniques are operative in all of the myriad professional organizations and academic disciplines that condition professionals to a specific set of standards and instill certain “expert” knowledges). These techniques operate through what Marcuse calls a “one-dimensional language of standard analysis,” which creates and embellishes a certain type of reality, just as the reform discourse of the League problematized certain issues and ignored others.36 According to Marcuse, this depoliticizing language—language that has “unintended and often subliminal meaning”—is being deployed more and more in urban planning.37 And for Marcuse, these unintended meanings are “more harmful than if they were intended and overt.”38 He is not concerned with an Orwellian critique of overtly political speech, with its heavy use of euphemisms and intentional vagueness—the language of political propaganda (the corollary, for our purpose, is the clearly corrupted professional practice, with its obvious endorsement of corporate or state interests). Instead, he says, “the problem raised here is when words and language is used in all sincerity, innocently, but with implications not intended by its user but effectively having important political implications supporting the legitimacy of the status quo.”39 This “one-dimensional language” operates through a set of techniques that Marcuse lists, among them being the following:
The tyranny of facts: giving exclusive consideration to the “facts,” to hard data, priority for the quantifiable that can be empirically demonstrated claiming objectivity for the findings and presentations of research.
Homogenization of entities: canceling out the internal variations and diversities that are contained with a single term, such as city or public.
Harmonization, the denial of conflict, the unspoken assumption of unity of interests, of a single ultimate public interest, of an achievable harmony of interests and consensus among conflicting forces, groups, concerns, around concepts such as “sustainable,” “healthy market,” “mobility,” “choice.” 40
This “one-dimensional language has a clear political impact,” Marcuse concludes. “It supports the status quo, implicitly suggesting that, if there are difficulties, they are subject to correction within existing structures and with existing means.” This one-dimensional language enters into our everyday vocabulary, he explains, and yet “they have become depoliticized not by a conspiracy of those whose interests they serve, but rather by their quiet acceptance in established discourse.”41
The early political scientists, whose work influenced the League’s strategy, like many reformers, sought to preserve upper class privileges with their endorsements of depoliticized administrative governance. Woodrow Wilson, for example, stated outright that he admired the Napoleonic form of government in France, and especially Baron Haussmann’s manipulations of Paris, because these authoritarian structures maintained political order. Reflecting on the French regime with little concealment of his admiration for its accomplishments, Wilson argued that the leaders there, engaging in administrative forms of governance, not only “made themselves too efficient to be dispensed with,” but they also succeeded in becoming “too smoothly operative to be noticed, too enlightened to be inconsiderately questioned, too benevolent to be suspected, too powerful to be coped with.”42 Wilson was not critical of this invisible, indispensable administrative power. He wanted to “Americanize” it—to “get the bureaucratic fever out of its veins; so that it could inhale much free American air.”43 The “science” of municipal governance was precisely such an Americanization—using unquestionable experts to circumvent public interference.
The result of the reformist “administrative developments” that Wilson and others helped to inspire was an institutionalization of various professional roles into the government, and a “permanency of tenure” for administrative control, alongside the spread of professional organizations and academic departments charged with producing and expanding the influence of increasingly technical and ostensibly objective knowledges. The following decades witnessed a massive diffusion of technical expertise, erected in the pursuit of “how-oriented” questions, with relatively little regard for “why-oriented” questions. The National Municipal League helped to institutionalize a “regime of truth” through the suspension of socio-political matters and the embrace of technical research.
In this sense, and following Foucault, I believe it would be a mistake to object to certain instances of professional practice on the basis that their alignment with obvious interests compromise their truth value. Instead, we should contest the very regimes of truth upon which the reigning conceptions of “common sense” and “best practices” rely. Such a project would necessarily demand a recasting of the “Progressive Era,” which is typically remembered fondly as a period of objective fairness, expanded political liberty and civic efficiency, and rational social development—the historical plinth upon which our society sits. It’s important to imbue this memory with the recollection of the political technologies of control that were forged at that time, in the very institutions that are usually celebrated. “The ‘Enlightenment’, which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines,” wrote Foucault.44 The Progressive Era, which was, in many ways, an extension of the Enlightenment, witnessed an adaptation of power that rendered control more effective and less costly, if also simultaneously less offensive and brutal. Top-down control, corresponding to ostentatious sovereignty—those “traditional, ritual, costly, violent forms of power…soon fell into disuse and were superseded by a subtle, calculated technology of subjection.”45 The wide range of professions that came into being during this period, and which are still with us today, represent an historically new, and largely unquestioned apparatus of power, whose entire basis should be critically reexamined in the twenty-first century.
The effects of depoliticized, expert-administered programs of urban and architectural development can be seen in just about every American city, with their rampant inequality, their harsh lack of provisions for human needs (restrooms; places to rest; places to be quiet or intimate; spaces that inspire, delight, and excite, etc.), their capitulation to narrow and short-sighted profiteering, and their rigid governance by the dysfunctional (yet somehow unquestionable) dynamics of real estate. Expert administration is first and foremost the production of stable and knowable objects (territories, cities, economies, cultures, etc.)—objects that are discursively co-constituted with the professional. Perhaps by historicizing professionalization–and not just criticizing “bad actors”–we can begin to reveal the fundamental contingency of spatial practice in general, in ways that open it up as a site of transformative political action.46
- 1. Thomas Frank, “Rocking the Clampdown: Creativity, Corporations, and the Crazy Curvilinear Cacophony of the Experience Music,” in Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture, ed. William S. Saunders (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 60–77. ^
- 2. Michael Sorkin, “Brand Aid; or, The Lexus and the Guggenheim (Further Tales of the Notorious B.I.G.ness),” in Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture, 22–33. ^
- 3. Reinhold Martin, The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003). ^
- 4. A number of texts describe, theoretically, what must occur in order for capitalism to be reproduced, but relatively few studies explore how this has occurred historically. For theoretical discussions of reproduction, see Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, (London: Verso, 2014); Henri Lefebvre, The Survival of Capitalism: Reproduction of the Relations of Production, trans. Frank Bryant (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973). ^
- 5. Foucault describes the importance of the “specific intellectual” in his interview with Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino, published as “Truth and Power,” in Power Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, Kate Soper (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), 129–130. ^
- 6. “Truth and Power,” 131. ^
- 7. See Martin J. Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency: Municipal Administration and Reform in America: 1880—1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). ^
- 8. Frank P. Prichard, “The Study of the Science of Municipal Government,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 2 (January 1892): 19. ^
- 9. Woodrow Wilson, “The Study of Administration,” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 2 (June 1887): 215. ^
- 10. Model City Charter and Home Rule, as Prepared by the Committee on Municipal Program of the National Municipal League (March 1916), 34. ^
- 11. Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency, 2. ^
- 12. Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency, 2. ^
- 13. Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency, 2. ^
- 14. Bradley Robert Rice, Progressive Cities: The Commission Government Movement in America, 1901-1920 (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1977), xi. ^
- 15. The National Short Ballot Organization, “The City Manager Plan of Municipal Government” (pamphlet, 1913), 4. ^
- 16. Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency, 176. ^
- 17. Rice, Progressive Cities, 110. ^
- 18. Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency, 143. ^
- 19. A.L. Lowell, A New Municipal Program, ed. Clinton Rogers Woodruff (London: D. Appleton and Company, 1919), 31, emphasis added. ^
- 20. Lowell, A New Municipal Program, 31. ^
- 21. National Municipal League, A Municipal Program: Report of a Committee of the National Municipal League (London: The Macmillan Company, 1900). ^
- 22. Clinton Rogers Woodruff, “The National Municipal League,” Proceedings of the American Political Science Association, vol. 5, fifth annual meeting (1908): 132, emphasis added. ^
- 23. M.N. Baker, “City Planning,” in A New Municipal Program (New York and London: D. Appleton and Company, 1919), 218. ^
- 24. Frank B. Williams, “The Law of the City Plan,” National Municipal Review (October 1920), 663. ^
- 25. Eric Wycoff Rogers, “The Development of Professionalized City Planning,” Progressive Cities: Planning, Reproduction and Power in and through Discourse on the American Metropolis (thesis, Yale University School of Architecture, 2015). ^
- 26. In an investigation of the efficiency sought by municipal reformers, Martin J. Schiesl, in The Politics of Efficiency, argues that, despite the fact that municipal reform advocated “nonpartisanship,” and a genuine interest in eliminating corruption from government, “involved also a significant redistribution of political power in American cities. To the structural reformers [of the municipal reform movement] it meant equal access to formal power for middle and upper-class groups whom they felt were not being represented by machine government.” Schiesl, The Politics of Efficiency, 5.
Insofar as pacification was concerned, in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, the National Municipal League hosted a session at its 1918 annual conference addressing the Bolshevik threat—one that its members posed municipal reform as a potential alternative to. “For the purposes of the session,” Charles A Beard, the director of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research explained, “Bolshevikism (sic) was defined as a ‘dangerous unrest—a tendency to disregard the established political mechanism in efforts to secure results by unlawful short cuts…A municipal government that is tied hand and foot with red tape and complex charter limitations in the hands of a tight political ring which capital can easily control gives considerable excuse for the kind of impatience that wants to kick the whole fabric of society into the discard.’ The question to which the speakers were invited to direct their attention was ‘What things should we do to set our house in order so as to make government so responsive, effective, and obedient that the shortest and easiest way to get social and economic progress will be by way of lawful and orderly governmental action.’” Charles A. Beard, “Introduction,” in “The Bolshevik Session of the National Municipal League Annual Conference,” National Municipal Review, vol. 7, no. 5, September 1918): 449–450.
Thomas H. Reed, an academic of civics and the one-time city manager of San Jose, California, explained that “we must have a government which the average man in the community believes is responsive to his will—a government everyone knows is on the level; and if we have got that, we don’t need to worry very much about the Bolshevik thing.” Thomas H. Reed, “The Bolshevik Session of the National Municipal League Annual Conference,” National Municipal Review, vol. 7, no. 5 (September 1918): 452. ^
- 27. Baker, “City Planning,” 219–22. ^
- 28. Williams, “The Law of the City Plan,” 667. ^
- 29. American Institute of Architects, “Preface to the Handbook,” A Handbook of Architectural Practice (Washington DC: Press of the American Institute of Architects, 1920), unpaginated. ^
- 30. American Institute of Architects, “A Circular of Advice Relative to Principles of Professional Practice and Canons of Ethics,” A Handbook of Architectural Practice. ^
- 31. American Institute of Architects, “Preface to the Handbook.” ^
- 32. American Institute of Architects, “A Circular of Advice Relative to Principles of Professional Practice and Canons of Ethics,” A Handbook of Architectural Practice. ^
- 33. American Institute of Architects, A Handbook of Architectural Practice. ^
- 34. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, in The Undercommons, claim that “public administration holds to the idea both in the lecture hall and the professional journal that its categories are knowable. The state, the economy, and civil society may change size or shape, labor may enter or exit, and ethical consideration may vary, but these objects are both positivistic and normative, standing in discrete, spatial arrangement each to the other. Professionalization begins by accepting these categories precisely so competence can be invoked, a competence that at the same time guards its own foundation.” Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2013), 36. ^
- 35. Today, professional practice and the business administration of architectural practice is taught in most architecture schools. The American Institute of Architects, revealing their ongoing connection to their 1920 organizational ethos, hosts a list of “best practices” on its website—the top hit among the “tools” it furnishes to its members. The majority of these best practices, like the practices offered in the 1920s, have to do with business, financial, legal, and governmental matters—a revealing reminder of the persistence of the professional structures set in place in the reformist developments of the Progressive Era. ^
- 36. Peter Marcuse, “Depoliticizing Urban Discourse: How ‘We’ Write,” Cities (2014): 3. ^
- 37. Marcuse, “Depoliticizing Urban Discourse,” 1. ^
- 38. Marcuse, “Depoliticizing Urban Discourse,” 1. ^
- 39. Marcuse, “Depoliticizing Urban Discourse,” 1. ^
- 40. Marcuse, “Depoliticizing Urban Discourse,” 2-3. ^
- 41. Marcuse, “Depoliticizing Urban Discourse,” 2. ^
- 42. Wilson, “The Study of Administration,” 203. ^
- 43. Wilson, “The Study of Administration,” 202. ^
- 44. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage. 1977), 222. ^
- 45. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 220–221. ^
- 46. In the interest of a strategic investment in the future, I would like to offer a small insight into possible futures for architecture. In a section of the AIA Handbook entitled “On Offering Services Gratuitously,” the authors explained that “the seeking out of a possible client and the offering to him of professional services on approval and without compensation, unless warranted by personal or previous business relations, tends to lower the dignity and standing of the profession, and is to be condemned.” See American Institute of Architects, “A Circular of Advice Relative to Principles of Professional Practice and Canons of Ethics,” A Handbook of Architectural Practice. In order for the profession of architecture to maintain itself as a profit-generating venture, it would need to maintain a hegemony over the value produced by architectural designers. In this sense, it was much like any other profession that seeks to monopolize a sector of the economy. Perhaps, in an era in which the performance of capital is paltry and vicissitudinous at best; an era that has witnessed a systematic divestment from the governmental structures that the reformers of the Progressive Era erected; an era that, no longer faced with the threat of Bolshevism, is content with leaving massive portions of the population outside of and superfluous to production; we should be looking for ways of producing and circulating value outside of monetized relations in emergent and self-valorizing economies that grow in proportion to capital’s losses and failures. ^
Eric Wycoff Rogers is a writer, strategist, and designer. Eric’s research focuses on American history—specifically the history of social reform during the Progressive era, and the ways that reform organizations shaped everyday life, from municipal governments to urban layouts, the definition of home and domesticity, leisure, families, cultural constructions of sexuality/desire, financial infrastructures, and collectively-held aspirations.