Mark Kingwell on Toronto, justice and fauxhemian hucksterism

A harsh critique from one of Toronto’s best public intellectuals in The Walrus. [Hat tip: Joey , BlogTO and Kelly.]

Kingwell argues that there is nothing new about Toronto as a rich source of ideas and the shift “of Canada from being a resource basket to a linked series of communications nodes held together by thought”, and continues…

But the economic and social conditions of ideas have changed, here as much as elsewhere, putting the city on the brink of a certain kind of identity, and a certain kind of success: a creative-class boom town. My suggestion is that we are thinking about this possibility in exactly the wrong way. The question for Toronto now is not whether ideas can flourish in this place, because demonstrably they do, but what consequences in justice that flourishing will entail. On the edge of new identities and possibilities, what is our idea of justice?

It’s a good read. Kingwell describes the central creative era political faultline around the question “what is the city for?”. Is the city for glory or for justice? Kingwell argues,

Though a city in pursuit of glory may neglect justice, the opposite does not hold: a truly just city is always a glorious one, because it allows greatness even as it looks to the conditions of strangeness posed by the other.

Kingwell warns against a certain “hucksterism” in the creative city agenda that sees the city as a glittering entertainment space for the bohemian bourgeois. You can see this vision being realized everyday in the horrifying marketing campaigns of downtown loft condos targeted at the nouveau-hipster-doofus.

Another great quote:

Toronto is not a city in the modern sense of a unified whole. I suspect it never will be, and probably need not try. Toronto is, instead, a linked series of towns loosely held together by the gravitational force of its downtown core and the pinned-in-place effect of the surveillance rod we call the CN Tower. Like Canada in general, that triumph of communications technology in defiance of all nationalist sense, Toronto is postmodern in both its geography and its psychogeography. There is a physical centre, in the sense of a summing of vectors like a centre of gravity, but there is no normative or mythic one, no single agora or narrative. This much is obvious, and often said. But we continue to fail in grasping its political significance.

Great food for thought, the whole piece is a must read. I’m interested in your take on it.

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