My latest article, ‘Gramsci and Foucault in Central Park: Environmental hegemonies, pedagogical spaces and integral state formations’, is now available online on the early view webpage of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (requires subscription).
The piece draws on the conceptualizations of power and the state by these authors to develop an explicitly political understanding of landscape struggles and the governmentalization of urban environments, using Manhattan’s Central Park as a historical illustration of such processes. In fact the article is articulated not only through the dialogue between both thinkers, but as a more open conversation that also includes Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer, architect-in-chief and superintendent of the park, as well as other figures and institutions related to its material and symbolic construction. The Greensward project and subsequent management of the park premises under Olmsted’s attention are depicted as a pioneering example of how design mediates new local state formations that reshape the boundaries between regulatory apparatuses, civil society and subjects.
The piece was a great opportunity to expand my previous research on Central Park (e.g. see here and here) and the parallels between Gramsci and Foucault (e.g. see here), but especially to focus more consistently on a —much needed, in my opinion— reflection on the nexus between design, landscape and the evolution of state-forms.
Here is the original abstract:
Gramsci’s and Foucault’s readings of power provide critical illuminations for understanding the linkage of state formations to urbanization and the spatial production of subjectivity. This article uses Central Park to illustrate how a combination of their insights helps to elucidate the emergence of pedagogical spaces and environmental hegemonies. I first propose a conceptual framework drawing on diverse parallels and tensions in Gramsci’s Quaderni del carcere and Foucault’s investigations in the 1970s, reassessed here from the vantage point of the implicit debate with Marxism in La société punitive. Urbanization and the built environment are theorized as material apparatuses of a form of capillary power that reconfigures the relations between state, civil society and individual subjects, striving to forge common senses of space that buttress political hegemony. This analytical toolkit is then applied in a political reappraisal of Central Park, exploring the role of design in the pedagogy of subaltern spatialities and the normalization of a consensual regime of publicity. The discussion pays special attention to the park’s assemblage of liberal and disciplinary spatial techniques, its connection to broader agencies beyond core state apparatuses, and their effect on the advent of an integral state formation.
As usual, you can contact me if you don’t have access to this piece from your institution.