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Cambridge City Seminars: Shaping Cities for the ‘Nightwatchman’ State?: The Sale of Council Housing, Thatcher's Most Successful Privatisation

Professor Nick Bullock and Dr. Felipe Hernandez
When Oct 11, 2016
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Boardroom at the Department of Architecture, 1-5 Scroope Terrace, CB2 1PX.
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‘Our middle classes conceive the moral purpose of the state in narrow terms: that it exists exclusively and solely to protect personal freedom and property. This is to think of it as being like a nightwatchman, because the state can only imagine the totality of its role being limited to the prevention of theft and robbery.’
Ferdinand Lassalle, Berlin 1962

The intention of this seminar series is to explore the way in which we shape our cities in the context of the more limited role played by the State in many western countries since the beginning of the 1980s. These are issues that have direct relevance to current debates as cities across Europe and North America find themselves unable to deliver the employment, housing and health that all citizens should have a right to expect. 

The starting point of the seminar will be to investigate the collapse in confidence during the 1970s in the ability of the Welfare State to deliver the promise of cities that answered to the demands of both Modernity and social justice. During the thirty or so years after the war these expectations were to be delivered across Europe by the benign combination of economic growth and the Welfare state, a product of the post-war social-democratic consensus. However, by the mid 1970s the prosperity that underpinned the Welfare state was being called in question as a result of the impact of the oil crisis of 1973 and the growing force of globalisation. Was it inevitable that the challenges to the interventionist State and its management of cities would give rise to the Neo-Liberalism that increasingly came to dominate economical and political thinking from the 1980s onwards? 

To frame an answer to this question, the seminar will not only look at the effect on European and North American cities of the retreat of the state but will also draw on examples from further afield, from Latin America and Africa, to illustrate the variety of ways in which cities may operate and different social groups find a way of surviving – even of flourishing – beyond the formal machinery of city government that Europeans and North Americans tend to take for granted.

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