The Disappearance of the State from “Livable” Urban Spaces



Abstract:  This paper examines the absence of the state from the discourses and practices of “livable” urban spaces. Drawing from an ethnography of Atlantic Station, the USA's largest new urbanist infill development, we argue that “livable” urban spaces are increasingly arenas for luxury, theater, and consumption, and that the state, while an important actor in the creation of urban spaces such as Atlantic Station, has largely been made invisible. We see this in the absence of public institutions, such as schools, parks, and libraries, and in the absence of a collective political identity among Atlantic Station patrons. The disappearance of the state in the material spaces of the city suggests that the neoliberal project of individualism and consumerism is transforming the very notion of livability and the democratic possibilities of what makes urban space “livable”.