Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Why is it wrong to be elitist?

  1. #1

    Why is it wrong to be elitist?

    From http://wrf.ca/comment/article.cfm?ID=146

    Finally, New Urbanism is accused of catering to a specific and exclusive demographic category: "'New Urbanism is essentially a white, elitist movement', claims theologian Glenn Smith, professor of urban theology at McGill University in Montreal" (K. Connie Kang, "New Urban Model Becomes Article of Faith," Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2005). Never mind that this same charge could be made - and rarely is - against the environmental movement. Such a critique represents a significant challenge to the long term significance of New Urbanism. I don't think that elitism and exclusivity are the intentions of the advocates of New Urbanism, but New Urbanists have become victims of their own success. There are so many bad, conventional, suburban subdivisions being built and, in comparison, so few developments that are built with a view to good urbanism, that demand for good urban planning tends to run away with New Urbanist developments as they come to the market.
    What's is the obsession with elitism? Is there no place for elites in society anymore? If elites can't be allowed leadership roles anymore, who else can?

    The attitude that elitism is a sin and must fought is viciously self-destructive.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Not Cliff Island, Maine :(
    Posts
    589
    I think we are talking about two different elitisms here. The article is talking about economic elitism and New Urbanism. I have a feeling that you are talking about intellectual elitism, where the best and brightest work in leadership roles.

    At any rate, both elitisms are about exclusion, which is the anithesis of planning. Planning is an inherently complicated topic that requires input from the masses. I think it is very easy for a planner to some across as elitist and arrogant when they are unable to accurately convey particular topics. This is probably exacerbated by the introverted nature of many of us planners.

    I can't tell you how many times fellow planners have simply given up trying to explain a concept to not only the public, but their own planning commissioners, simply because they believe they don't have the intellectual capacity to understand these topics.

    I guess what I'm trying to say, albeit in a long-winded manner, is that there's nothing wrong with being an intellectual elitist, but our job relies upon public education. If we can't communicate complicated planning topics to the layperson so that they are understandable, than being an intellectual elitist is a waste.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Cyburbias Brewpub, best seat in the haus!
    Posts
    2,681
    Ellitists should be hunted down, gutted, spitted, and eaten......

    OH Crap! gotta go... The peasents are coming and they seem to be angry!
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Townville
    Posts
    1,047
    Elitism in the sense I understand as a negative connotation is based in one group of people thinking they are better than others in an intellectual, moral, political or other manner.

  5. #5
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    427
    But at what point is someone truly an elitist? Is it just being intellectually superior, that warrents that tag? Certainly a level of compassion & understanding is required for a planner, in order to relate to the common person - but isn't the planner's role to be, 'right'?

    I just find the whole concept to be very grey, a planner should not only understand his subject better than the common man, but should be expected to express it to people. At what point is the planner prophesizing & just 'talking down' to people?

    I think my curiousity about the whole anti-elitist arguements is that our culture has adopted a dumbed-down 'common sense' attitude towards governing.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2003
    Location
    In a new discovered reality where it doesn't snow
    Posts
    14,041
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    Elitism in the sense I understand as a negative connotation is based in one group of people thinking they are better than others in an intellectual, moral, political or other manner.
    I think that in some cases yes, it is bad. As you mentioned, it can have a negative connotation. But is that a perception or how they really are? In many cases I think that the “elite” are pompous and arrogant, but in a few cases I think that it is because people are jealous. Maister and I get called “Elite” by many people we have code enforcement against because we of the presumed hierarchical that they feel is judging their life style.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  7. #7

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    "Elitism" per se is the wrong word here. We should be talking about "social class" (ducks and waits for jaws to lecture me on the evils of SOCIALISM). Class resentment is inevitable in hierarchical human societies. The difficulty is the failings of one class are subject to things like "code enforcement," while the even worse abominations of the upper class, self-defined elites are tolerated or even celebrated. For example, an inebriated bum pissing into a fountain is (rightfully) scorned (as well as pitied). The CEO of a major corporation dumping yello goo into the local river is still generally respected, if not exactly admired. Similarly, we laugh at the residents of the "town next door" who fill the dirt yard of their shack with junk. I would arguie that the failed ex-CEO who is building a 70,000 square foot house in an "elite" community is a creating a far worse impact on the community than said shack-dweller.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    7,061
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    What's is the obsession with elitism? Is there no place for elites in society anymore? If elites can't be allowed leadership roles anymore, who else can?

    The attitude that elitism is a sin and must fought is viciously self-destructive.
    I think accusations of "elitism" are just another slur. I can't recall the last time someone told me they wanted to find the worst doctor they could to treat their serious medical problem. I can't recall the last time someone announced their intentions to hire someone totally unqualified for the job.

    As for the quote in the first post: I think the environmental movement is not accused of "elitism" because the fantasy is that everyone will benefit from an improved environment, not just the folks driving the movement (and is a fantasy: poor folks and people of color disproportionately live near NIMBY projects which are hazardous to their health). New Urbanism is accused of elitism because people feel that only a fortunate few will benefit and jealous types would rather make sure no one gets any. I like to be as inclusionary as possible and I think we need to change policies at the state and federal levels to lower the bar to entry so that disappearing middle-class can grow again. Home-ownership is one of the things that makes a person middle-class. But I think those issues fall outside the scope of this thread.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Townville
    Posts
    1,047
    The CEO of a major corporation dumping yello goo into the local river is still generally respected, if not exactly admired.
    jeez bkm at least put a smiley face by this.

    I think we are all mixing and matching definitions here. Planners aren't elite because they know more about planning than the average joe, just like Alex Rodriguez isn't elite because he can hit a 95 mile an hour fast ball and i cannot.

    Elitism is by stereotyped example --upper west siders of Manhattan who think southerns are stupid because they did not go to Yale, read the New Yorker, and drive pick-up trucks.

    Is it just being intellectually superior, that warrents that tag? Certainly a level of compassion & understanding is required for a planner, in order to relate to the common person - but isn't the planner's role to be, 'right'?
    Elitism is not being intellectually superior--its assuming one is intellectually superior without basis.

    And just to finish--I would argue that the planners role is not "to be right" but to use one's expertise to help a community make decisions. By definition, for me, as long as process is transparent etc. etc..the decision a community makes is the right one.

    Assumming the planner is always "right" is in fact elitist.

    boy, that came around nicely

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Not Cliff Island, Maine :(
    Posts
    589
    By and large, I think that it comes down to communication. If a planner can effecitively communicate their ideas, they come across as a hero of the masses. If they can't, they are elitists trying to impose some theoretical ideal.

    I don't really understand the connection between environmentalist elitism and new urbanist elitism. Seems like there may be some editorialization on the part of the writer in trying to connect the two. But undoubtedly, the writer views both as negative.

    I think the term elitists, at least in its negative sense, comes from the person who is feeling excluded. I don't think a planner (or anyone else) says, "You don't understand it because I am an elitist."
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 1998
    Location
    On the Mother River
    Posts
    4,630
    This thread reminds me of the time I called an anti-Walmart activist an elitist. That sounds bad, but we really had a good relationship, so it wasn't that bad. He sort of had to agree with me too. I had just as many calls from the lower income folks wanting the new super walmart. (It ended up going to the town 20 miles away)
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  12. #12

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    jeez bkm at least put a smiley face by this.


    And just to finish--I would argue that the planners role is not "to be right" but to use one's expertise to help a community make decisions. By definition, for me, as long as process is transparent etc. etc..the decision a community makes is the right one.

    Assumming the planner is always "right" is in fact elitist.

    boy, that came around nicely
    LOL.

    Your second major point is right on. Looking at the past detritus of planner and architect expertise this century, I'm not so sure we can talk about "being right" with a straight face.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 37
    Last post: 05 Apr 2013, 4:31 PM
  2. Replies: 76
    Last post: 29 Dec 2010, 3:10 PM
  3. What's wrong with my car?
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 14
    Last post: 05 Jan 2008, 5:28 PM
  4. Wrong Song or Wrong Singer?
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 24
    Last post: 06 Nov 2006, 5:40 PM
  5. Replies: 0
    Last post: 03 Sep 1998, 11:55 AM