Nations, Cities and Organizations
Edited by Maddy Janssens, Myriam Bechtoldt, Arie de Ruijter, Dino Pinello, Giovanni Prarolo and Vanja M.K. Stenius
Chapter 8: Material Culture in the City: Consumption, Diversity and Sustainability in City Neighbourhoods
Susanne Küchler and Rossella Lo Conte 8.1 INTRODUCTION Sustainable neighbourhoods are generally believed to thrive under conditions rich in what Robert Putnam famously termed ‘social capital’: consisting of connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them – which may facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit (Putnam, 1993, 2000). Despite occasional criticism, no other argument has had such a broad influence on community-based funding applications for community-based arts programmes and their reporting as this notion of social capital (DeFilippis, 2001). Opponents often cite the slipperiness of the term ‘social capital’, but they rarely question the fundamental assumption concerning the relationship between diversity and sustainable development that is at the heart of the ‘social capital’ hypothesis. Like most good social scientists, opponents and proponents of the social capital thesis alike believe that it is social relations that make the greatest difference for sustainable development in communities, which is in turn shaped by social, economic and political constraints (see Bourdieu, 1984, 1985). Diversity, from this perspective, is seen as an external factor, intruding, at least potentially, into the connections upon which sustainable development thrives and undoing them. In this chapter, we attempt to formulate a different perspective of the relation between diversity and the sustainability of city neighbourhoods. Taking our lead from studies of material culture, we explore the connections that people create with one another and with themselves and the context in which they live in the course of the routinised tasks of...
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