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Cities of Choice: Elective Affinities and the Transformation of Western European Urbanity from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s

  • MORITZ FÖLLMER (a1)

Abstract

This article discusses the meanings and effects of personal choice and elective affinities in Western European cities from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s. The first section shows how the notion of choosing one's surroundings and relations underpinned the development of ‘modern’ apartment buildings, suburban homes and road networks but also attracted significant criticism. The second section argues that this notion soon was not only criticised, but came under pressure by New Left activists, whose emphatically different elective affinities led them to create alternative spaces such as communal apartments and squatted houses. In so doing, they reinvigorated urban life, but also diluted their initial political project and triggered a conservative counter-reaction.

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1 Werner Hempel, ‘Neue Subjektivität und alte Innerlichkeit: Vorläufige Bemerkungen über die Lust am Biographischen’, Plärrer: Illustriertes Stadtmagazin Nürnberg-Fürth-Erlangen, 1980, no. 2, 24–5.

2 The term as it is used here comprises persons choosing how they are related to other persons, to things or to urban societies more broadly. It thus differs from Max Weber's notion of ‘elective affinities’ between certain types of Protestantism and capitalism. See McKinnon, Andrew, ‘Elective Affinities of the Protestant Ethic: Weber and the Chemistry of Capitalism’, Sociological Theory, 28 (2010), 108–26.

3 Prominently and explicitly in Harvey, David, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (London: Verso, 2012).

4 Simmel, Georg, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, reprinted in The Sociology of Georg Simmel (New York: Free Press, 1950), 409–24.

5 Fritzsche, Peter, Reading Berlin 1900 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996); Zelljadt, Katja, ‘Alt-Berlin in the Kaiserreich: History as Object of Consumption and Marketing Concept’, in Biskup, Thomas and Schalenberg, Marc, eds., Selling Berlin: Imagebildung und Stadtmarketing von der preuβischen Residenz bis zur Bundeshauptstadt (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2008), 117–34.

6 Giddens, Anthony, The Consequences of Modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 1990).

7 For a sociological approach that integrates discursive constructions – though not agency –, see Luhmann, Niklas, Theory of Society, 2 vols. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012–3).

8 With the notable exception of Moran, Joe, ‘Early Cultures of Gentrification in London, 1955–1980’, Journal of Urban History, 34 (2007), 101–20.

9 This even goes for the outstanding books by Wakeman, Rosemary, Modernizing the Provincial City: Toulouse 1945–1975 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998); The Heroic City: Paris 1945–1958 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). By contrast, Jerram, Leif's Streetlife: The Untold History of Europe's Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) incorporates the widespread aspiration for privacy in modernised domestic spaces as a factor in its own right.

10 ‘Wonen in Nederland’, Goed wonen: Maandblad voor wonen en woninginrichting, orgaan van de stichting goed wonen, 12 (1959), 3–10.

11 Föllmer, Moritz, Individuality and Modernity in Berlin: Self and Society from Weimar to the Wall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 114–7.

12 Schildt, Axel, Die Grindelhochhäuser: Eine Sozialgeschichte der ersten deutschen Wohnhochhausanlage Hamburg-Grindelberg 1945–1956 (2nd ed., Munich: Dölling und Gallitz, 2007), quotations 167, 183 (from interviews with tenants conducted in the 1980s).

13 Bonomo, Bruno, ‘Dwelling space and social identities: the Roman bourgeoisie, c. 1950–80’, Urban History, 38 (2011), 276300 (quotations 289, taken from interviews published by La Gazzeta di Casal Palocco in 1969/70).

14 Wohnen Heute [Swiss interior design catalogue, 1960], 6.

15 Schmid, Eva M.J., Unsere Wohnung: Einrichten und Gestalten (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1960), 2132, quotation 32. See also, on the rise of individualised advice literature in Belgium, Flemish, De Vos, Els, Hoe zouden we graag wonen? Woonvertogen in Vlaanderen tijdens de Jaren zestig en zeventig (Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven, 2012).

16 Bonomo, ‘Dwelling space’, 298 (quotations from an interview with a resident and from La Gazzetta di Casal Palocco, Dec. 1968).

17 See, for instance, ‘Scherpe reactie van de KNAC op de leus: “Auto's weg uit de binnenstad”’, De Telegraaf, 2 Apr. 1958.

18 This has been persuasively argued by Flonneau, Mathieu, ‘L’action du district de la région Parisienne et les “dix glorieuses de l’urbanisme automobile”, 1963–1973’, Vingtième Siècle, 79 (2003), 93104; see 98 on planner Paul Delouvrier's rhetoric of liberté de choix.

19 Reichow, Hans Bernhard, Die autogerechte Stadt: Ein Weg aus dem Verkehrschaos (Ravensburg: Maier, 1959), 16–7, 28–30, 47, 51.

20 Suburbanisation in Western Europe remains insufficiently explored. For a good case study on Greater Zurich, see König, Mario, ‘Auf dem Weg in die Gegenwart – Der Kanton Zürich seit 1945’, in König, et. al., Geschichte des Kantons Zürich, vol. 3: 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Zurich: Wird, 1994), 350479, here 361–3, 395, 408–12.

21 Logemann, Jan, Trams or Tailfins? Public and Private Prosperity in West Germany and the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013). Flonneau, ‘L’action du district’, 101, similarly points out that among planners in Greater Paris, the fascination for the American model remained limited and the investment in public transport considerable.

22 See, for instance, Roodnat, Bas, ‘In de nieuwe stadswijken meer verre vrienden dan goede buren’, Goed wonen, 12 (1959), 31–2; Schildt, Grindelhochhäuser, 193.

23 Conway, Martin, ‘The Rise and Fall of Western Europe's Democratic Age 1945–73’, Contemporary European History, 13 (2004), 6788.

24 Bonomo, ‘Dwelling Space’, 289, quoting La Gazetta di Casal Palocco, July 1971 and an interview partner. See also Scrivano, Paolo, ‘Signs of Americanization in Italian Domestic Life: Italy's Postwar Conversion to Consumerism’, Journal of Contemporary History, 40 (2005), 317–40.

25 Eberhard von Wiese, ‘Frauen – immer mit sich und ihrem Leben allein: Ein Bericht aus diesen Tagen’, Berliner Morgenpost, 1 Oct. 1961.

26 Piero Ottone, ‘L’innesto di Metanopoli in un vecchio centro rurale: La fascia industriale Milanese’, Corriere della Sera, 3 May 1963.

27 Walter Schreiber in 1972, quoted in König, ‘Weg in die Gegenwart’, 380. On the ambivalent reception of American (sub)urbanity in Western Europe, see Axel Schildt, ‘Amerikanische Einflüsse auf den Wiederaufbau westeuropäischer Städte nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg’, Informationen zur modernen Stadtgeschichte, 2012 no. 1, 48–62.

28 Kloos, J.P., ‘Een modelwoning van Goed Wonen is nooit een “model”-woning’, Goed wonen, 9 (1956), 1921.

29 Stam, Mart, ‘Wel massawoningbouw – geen monotonie’, Goed wonen, 9 (1956), 220–1, 238.

30 ‘Nürnberger Bauten des Architekten Wilhelm Schlegtendal’, Bauwelt, 46 (1955), 648–9; B. Busse, von and Buddeberg, H.P., ‘Ein Appartementhaus in München’, Die Kunst und das schöne Heim: Monatsschrift für Malerei, Plastik, Graphik, Architektur und Wohnkultur, 56 (1958), 460–3.

31 Federal Minister of the Family Dr. Wuermeling to International Building Exhibition, 8 Apr. 1957; Secretary of the International Building Exhibition Dr. Mahler to Minister of the Family Dr. Wuermelling, 1 June 1957, both in Landesarchiv Berlin, B Rep. 167, no. 6.

32 Newsome, W. Brian, ‘The “Apartment Referendum” of 1959: Toward Participatory Architectural and Urban Planning in Postwar France’, French Historical Studies, 28 (2005), 329–58.

33 Wakeman, Modernizing, 96–100.

34 Mitscherlich, Alexander, Die Unwirtlichkeit unserer Städte: Anstiftung zum Unfrieden (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1965), quotations 12, 29, 20–1, 69–70.

35 Lefebvre, Henri, ‘Right to the City’ (1968), in Lefebvre, Writings on Cities, Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas, select. and trans., (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996), 61181, 80.

36 Chevalier, Louis, L’assassinat de Paris (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1977), quotation 52. For a similarly conservative view of the ‘murdered city’ West Berlin, see Siedler, Wolf Jobst and Niggemeyer, Elisabeth, Die gemordete Stadt: Abgesang auf Putte und Straße, Platz und Baum (Berlin: Herbig, 1964).

37 Reimann, Aribert, Dieter Kunzelmann: Avantgardist, Protestler, Radikaler (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009), 43122; Pas, Niek, ‘Mediatization of the Provos: From a Local Movement to a European Phenomenon’, in Klimke, Martin, Pekelder, Jakko and Scharloth, Joachim, eds., Between Prague Spring and French May: Opposition and Revolt in Europe, 1960–1980 (New York: Berghahn, 2011), 157–76.

38 See Mazower, Mark, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (London: Allen Lane, 1998), 290331; Judt, Tony, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (London: William Heinemann, 2005), 324–53; Stone, Dan, Goodbye to All That? The Story of Europe since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 81123.

39 ‘Kommunarden über sich selbst’, konkret, 7 Oct. 1968, available in the German original and in English translation at germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=896 (last visited 17 Feb. 2014). For background, see Reichardt, Sven, Authentizität und Gemeinschaft: Linksalternatives Leben in den siebziger und frühen achtziger Jahren (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014), esp. 351459.

40 Tim Verlaan, ‘Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum: from Glitzerding to Profitwurm. The Urban Renewal Process in Berlin-Kreuzberg and the Growing Tensions between Local Politicians, Private Developers and Citizens 1963–1974’, MA thesis, University of Leicester, 2011; Davis, Belinda, ‘The City as Theater of Protest: West Berlin and West Germany, 1962–1983’, in Prakash, Gyan and Kruse, Kevin M., eds., The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 247–74.

41 Mathias Heigl, ‘Roma in Rivolta: Soziale Bewegungen im Rom der 1970er Jahre’, PhD thesis, University of Munich, 2011.

42 Much the same can be said about other Italian cities such as Milan or Turin, see Lumley, Robert, States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978 (London: Verso, 1990); Bracke, Maud Anne, ‘Building a “Counter-Community of Emotions”: Feminist Encounters and Socio-Cultural Difference in 1970s Turin’, Modern Italy, 17 (2012), 223–36.

43 I lavoratori studenti: Testimonianze raccolte a Torino (Turin: Einaudi, 1969), 71.

44 For pertinent analyses, see Schmidt, Daniel, ‘In Freiräumen leben: Hausbesetzungen und Hausbesetzer in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1970–1982)’, in Hellema, Duco, Wielenga, Friso and Wilp, Markus, eds., Radikalismus und politische Reformen: Beiträge zur deutschen und niederländischen Geschichte in den 1970er Jahren (Münster: Waxmann, 2012), 131–50, quotation 142; Haumann, Sebastian and Schregel, Susanne, ‘Andere Räume, andere Städte und die Transformation der Gesellschaft: Hausbesetzungen und Atomwaffenfreie Zonen als alternative Raumpraktiken’, in Balz, Hanno and Friedrichs, Jan-Henrik, eds., “All We Ever Wanted. . .” Eine Kulturgeschichte europäischer Protestbewegungen der 1980er Jahre (Berlin: Dietz, 2012), 5372; Reichardt, Authentizität, 498–571.

45 Fritschi, Werner, ‘Vorzeichen der Eruption’, in Zürich, SP der Stadt, ed, Eine Stadt in Bewegung: Materialien zu den Zürcher Unruhen (Zurich, 1980), 11–3; Christian Rentsch, ‘Plädoyer für die Unzufriedenheit’, in ibid. 29–30.

46 Shanne Marks and Helmut Reinicke, ‘Autonomie der Gasse’, in SP der Stadt Zürich, Stadt in Bewegung, 93–6.

47 von Wartburg, Achmed, ‘Bewegter’, in Nigg, Heinz, ed., Wir wollen alles, und zwar subito! Die Achtziger Jugendunruhen in der Schweiz und ihre Folgen (Zurich: Limmat, 2001), 189–90; see also the contemporary statements cited ibid. 312.

48 Als je leven je lief is: Vraaggespreken met krakers en kraaksters (Amsterdam, n.p., 1982), 18, 29 (quotation); ‘De stad is vrij de stad is vrij isn't it?’, Kraakkrant, 1980, no. 39, 3. For an analysis of the squatter movement within the broader history of leftist movements in Amsterdam, see Mamadouh, Virginie, De stad in eigen hand: Provo's, kabouters en krakers als stedelijke sociale beweging (Amsterdam, Sua, 1992).

49 Als je leven je lief is, 31.

50 For a sophisticated analysis, with relevance beyond West Berlin, see Häberlen, Joachim C., ‘Sekunden der Freiheit: Zum Verhältnis von Gefühlen, Macht und Zeit in Ausnahmesituationen am Beispiel der Revolte 1980/81 in Berlin’, in Schumann, Dirk and Rau, Cornelia, eds., Ausnahmezustände: Entgrenzungen und Regulierungen in Europa während des Kalten Krieges (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015), 195213.

51 See, for instance, various articles in Kölner Volksblatt, 1978, no. 5 en 8; ; ‘Buurt en anarchie’, Kraakkrant, 1979, no. 28, 19–21; Als je leven je lief is, 92.

52 de Certeau, Michel, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 91110, quotations 107, 106, 95.

53 See, for instance, the introduction to Gribaudi, Maurizio, Itinéraires ouvriers: Espaces et groups sociaux à Turin au début du XXe siècle (Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 1987), quotation 21.

54 Als je leven je lief is, 91; Markus Rüegg, ‘Die autonomen Lemminge’ (May 1981), reprinted in Nigg, Wir wollen alles, 286–91, quotation 290.

55 Als je leven je lief is, 21, 37.

56 Als je leven je lief is, 48 (quotation), 81–2.

57 ‘“Geweld leidt alleen tot nederlagen”: Köhler, Frank, PSP-raadslid in Amsterdam, over de grenzen van de kraakbeweging’, De Groene Amsterdammer, 107, 2 (1983) 107 (1983), no 2, 89.

58 Joschka, ‘Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung’, Pflasterstrand, 93 (15–28 Nov. 1980), 11–12.

59 For a case study, see Kraushaar, Wolfgang, Fischer in Frankfurt: Karriere eines Auβenseiters (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2001), 3879.

60 See, for instance, Plärrer, 1980, no. 3, 40–5; Reichardt, Authentizität, 290–3, 659–74.

61 For a good case study, see Christian Schmid, ‘Wir wollen die ganze Stadt! – Die Achtziger Bewegung und die urbane Frage’, in Nigg, Wir wollen alles, 352–68, esp. 359–60, 362–4.

62 Seidman, MichaelThe Imaginary Revolution: Parisian Students and Workers in 1968 (New York: Berghahn, 2004), 216, 225–6, 257; documentary Keine Zeit um auszuruhn (1981), extracts on the DVD included in Nigg, Wir wollen alles, quotation at 23:07.

63 Cited in Hans Habe, ‘Rendezvous mit Berlin’, B.Z., 22 Apr. 1972.

64 ‘Dem Mäzen Staat wird ins Gesicht gespuckt: Keine Feier ohne Schreier’, Berliner Morgenpost, 23 Mar. 1969; ‘Gastarbeiter schoß vier Berliner nieder: Ein Todesopfer’, B.Z., 2 May 1972; ‘Unser Leben ist die Hölle! Wie die Drogensucht eine Berliner Familie zerstörte’, ibid., 7 Sept. 1978.

65 ‘Pennerparadies Kudamm-Eck: Umsatzeinbußen bei Geschäftsleuten’, Berliner Morgenpost, 18 Jan. 1981; ‘Keine Bereicherung für das Quartier: Unmut über das AJZ’, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11 Apr. 1981. In a similar vein, ‘Punkers gooien ramen in de hoofdstad in’, De Telegraaf, 1 May 1978.

66 ‘Leserbriefe’, Berliner Morgenpost, 19 Jan. 1981.

67 ‘Versteckspiel der Behörden’, B.Z., 22 Apr. 1972; ‘Nun dürfen die Senioren wieder in ihre alten Wohnungen ziehen: Bei der Modernisierung ging dem Amt das Geld aus’, Berliner Morgenpost, 24 Feb. 1981.

68 ‘Trecentomila sulle sponde dei due Navigli alla scoperta di una Milano più pittoresca’, Corriere della Sera, 2 June 1980; ‘Strassen und Gassen der Zürcher Altstadt: Trittligasse – “Wohnquartier für Eingeborene”’, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23 Apr. 1981; ‘Fahnen, Farben, Funken und Feuer: Fröhliches Sechseläuten unter wolkenschwerem Himmel’, ibid., 29 Apr. 1981; Hans Habe, ‘Rendezvous mit Berlin’, B.Z., 21 Apr. 1972.

69 ‘Vivere meglio a Milano: Un dibattito con tre voci’, Corriere della Sera, 25 May 1980.

70 There are thus far few studies that place right-wing populism in its local contexts, but see, on suburban Zurich, Zollinger, Lukas, Der Mittelstand am Rande: Christoph Blocher, das Volk und die Vorstädte (Bern: Berner Beiträge zur Soziologie, 2004).

71 Cf., from a rich and growing literature, Horn, Gerd-Rainer, The Spirit of ’68: Rebellion in Western Europe and North America, 1956–1976 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) with Stephan Malinowski and Alexander Sedlmaier, ‘“1968” – A Catalyst of Consumer Society’, Cultural and Social History, 8 (2011), 255–74.

72 See Andreas Wirsching, ‘From Work to Consumption: Transatlantic Visions of Individuality in Modern Mass Society’, Contemporary European History, 20 (2011), 1–26; Föllmer, Individuality and Modernity.

73 Harvey, Rebel Cities, 14.

74 See, among others, Crowley, David and Reid, Susan, eds., Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc (Oxford: Berg, 2002); Betts, Paul, Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Yurchak, Alexei, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

75 See Mandler, Peter, ‘New Towns for Old: The Fate of the Town Centre’, in Conekin, Becky, Mort, Frank and Waters, Chris, eds., Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945–1964 (New York: Rivers Oram, 1999), 208–27.

76 See, among others, Pinto, Pedro Ramos, Lisbon Rising: Urban Social Movements in the Portuguese Revolution, 1974–1975 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013); Foot, John, Milan since the Miracle: City, Culture and Identity (Oxford: Berg, 2001).

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