But malice aforethought: cities and the natural history of hatred

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Abstract

I take as my starting point the fact that Western cities are often depicted as on the brink of catastrophe. Indeed some contemporary authors would argue that they have never been closer to that brink. The first part of this paper argues against this tendency by focusing on the preponderance of activities of repair and maintenance. Having looked at the state of this forgotten infrastructure, in the second part of the paper I turn to an examination of why this Cassandra interpretation is so prevalent. I argue that, in particular, it draws on wellsprings of misanthropy which are rarely voiced in writings on cities because sociality is too often confused with liking. Yet it seems vital to me to tackle misanthropy head on. Then, in the third part of the paper, I argue that currently there is a coming together in cities of all kinds of affective politics of concern which can act, through all manner of small achievements, as a counter to misanthropy but which do not mistake the practice of this politics for a search after perfection.

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