Category Archives: Urbanisation

Nowhere To Go

Becoming-Indian-

Ankit Chandra, who lives in the USA, tells through this poem how alienated he feels living so far from his country and though he might have all material comforts needed, how much he misses the daily activity which was a part of routine while he was in India. A touching poem, must read. 

I don’t think I know my India any more
And that hurts

there are things which came into being after I left,
and now it takes a while for me to make sense of things…
And that hurts

It’s like something you owned, and it owned you.
something you identified yourself with.
now it seems to be moving on, leaving you behind.
And that hurts

with time, they say, things are forgotten.
But I am not a thing!
When with every morning light, I open ‘The Hindu’ and call home
Home is still somewhere in India, but I seem to be losing my place
And that hurts.

Over the past years, as I came far away,
got stuck in the puzzles of life, struggle everyday,
In the struggle to grow with time, both of us seem to be too busy to catch up
And that hurts.

New roads have come about. New cell phone companies.
Nokia is no longer the leader, and new ways to make money
I feel like a stranger, looking at a foreign land… once my home.
I don’t seem to belong to anywhere anymore.
And that hurts.

Discussing Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati over dinner on weekends
and playing Antakshari every ‘potluck’,
going to pooja every ‘Thanksgiving’,
it seems we are somewhere stuck
By the time we force our way out,
there would be nowhere to go
And that hurts.

india

The How of Happiness

happiness-sheet1

Sharon Andrew, Happiness Evangelist at Happiest Minds Technologies, Bangalore, writes on What makes us happy? How can we become happier? Is happiness sustainable?

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology addresses these fundamental questions in her book “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want”, a book of strategies backed by scientific research that can be used to increase happiness.

Our individual level of happiness springs from three primary sources:

  1. Our Genetic Set Point:  50% of our happiness derives from a genetically determined “set point”. Those of us with low happiness set points have to work harder to achieve and maintain happiness, while those of us with high set points will find it easier to be happy under similar conditions.
  2. Our Life Circumstances determine only 10% of our happiness. In our quest to become happier, many of us focus on changing the circumstances of our lives in the misguided hope that those changes will deliver happiness. Research shows that trying to be happy by changing our life situations ultimately will not work because we human beings readily, rapidly and remarkably adapt to positive circumstantial changes
  3. Intentional Activities – The remaining 40% of our happiness is determined by our behaviour – intentional activities that we can call “happiness strategies.”

We cannot alter our genetic set points; changes in life circumstances don’t have a lasting impact on our happiness, but we can increase and sustain our happiness through these happiness-increasing strategies.

Expressing Gratitude – Counting your blessings for what you have or conveying gratitude and appreciation to others

Cultivating Optimism – Practicing to look at the bright side of every situation.

Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison – Using strategies (such as distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself with others.

Practicing Acts of Kindness – Doing good things for others, whether friends or strangers, directly or anonymously, spontaneously or planned.

Nurturing Social Relationships – Picking a relationship in need of strengthening and investing time and energy in healing, cultivating, affirming and enjoying it.

Developing Strategies for Coping – Practicing ways to endure or surmount a recent stress, hardship or trauma.

Learning to Forgive – Keeping a journal or writing a letter in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment toward the one/s who have hurt or wronged you.

Increasing Flow Experiences – Increasing the number of experiences at home and work which are challenging and absorbing.

Savoring Life’s Joys – Paying close attention, taking delight, and replaying life’s momentary pleasures and wonders, through thinking, writing, drawing, or sharing with another.

* Committing to Your Goals – Picking one, two, or three significant goals that are meaningful to you and devoting time and effort to pursuing them.

Practicing Spirituality

Taking Care of Your Body – Meditation, Physical Activity, Smiling and Laughing

It is important to choose happiness strategies that address the source of our unhappiness, that take advantage of our strengths, talents and goals, that can be adapted easily to our needs and lifestyle.

happiness

Globalization And The Role Of The Urban- 1

dharavi_2 globalisation

Malathy Madathilezham in two parts would be discussing two authors while trying to elaborate on how the urban or the city is playing a role in the process of globalisation and aided by the neoliberal process. In the first part she discussed Brenner’s approach to this urban question.

Neil Brenner’s writing and teaching focus on the theoretical, conceptual and methodological dimensions of urban questions. His work builds upon, and seeks to extend, the fields of critical urban and regional studies, comparative geopolitical economy and radical sociospatial theory. Major research foci include processes of urban and regional restructuring and uneven spatial development; the generalization of capitalist urbanization; and processes of state spatial restructuring, with particular reference to the remaking of urban, metropolitan and regional governance configurations under contemporary neoliberalizing capitalism (http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/#/people/neil-brenner.html).

Brenner looks at globalisation with a critical perspective on neoliberalism as it is practiced in the context of globalisation and the inherent contradiction that are reflected in cities by exploring the ongoing ‘urban restructuring’ processes. His focus lies mostly on old industrialized world, the practice of neoliberalism in the urban space and the process of creative destruction. He explores the localization of this practice in urban space and how it has resulted in an urbanization of neoliberalism itself.

According to Brenner, the global imposition of the neoliberal ideology has been uneven and the forms and socio-political consequences have also varied across spatial scales and in different ‘supraregional’ zones of the world. Neoliberal ideology became the dominant political and ideological form of capital globalization by mid 80s through international organisations and institutions like World Trade Organisation, World Bank etc who had become agents of transnational neoliberalism. These organisations institutionalised and extended market forces and commodification into the so called Third world nations through a process of structural adjustment programs.

The main tenets of the neoliberal ideology are ‘minimal state intervention’, market regulation, free trade, economic redistribution, individual liberty, etc. This neoliberal doctrine is used to justify deregulation of state in major industries, reduction in taxes, privatization of public services, liberalization etc. In actual practice however, on one hand it has given rise to intensively coercive state intervention to impose the ‘rule’ of market on all aspects of social life. This can be reflected in the way property taxes laws are being revised in India where they are now dependant on property prices rather than the date of construction. Thus the state occupies a very important role in the neoliberal practice as the enabler of capital by providing subsidies and acting as an arbitrator between capital and labour. In addition, the application of corporate practice to the functioning of the state has also lead to the state becoming entrepreneurial in nature.

For example the move from housing as a welfare function to an activity which would generate revenue for the state as can be seen from a perusal of the national and state housing policies. On the other hand, instead of optimal allocation of investments and resources through self regulating markets, the political practice of neoliberalism has generated market failures, newer forms of social polarization and a greater range of uneven development across different spatial scales The removal of barriers of exit and entry of capital leads to creation of a hierarchy of places in the world where certain places are preferred for investment and exchange. These places then form a network which are generated and maintained consciously. Thus the practice of neoliberalism is rampant with contradictions to the ideology that it claims to support.

Brenner also talks about creative destruction in the practices of neoliberalism which is basically the partial or complete destruction of existing institutional arrangements and political compromises and creation of new infrastructure for market oriented economic growth, commodification and rule of capital. Cities have become strategically crucial and central to the unfolding of creative destruction in recent years. The contradictions of the practices of neoliberalism are embedded with the frame of the urban.

The interplay of capital and state activities heighten and enhance the importance of the city. The creation of new cities, inter urban areas gaining importance have been observed as part of this change. The accumulation of capital, markets and fragmentation of production brings more and more changes both in within (intra) and between (inter) cities. As a result while the scale of production goes down, the scale of consumption increases at a rapid rate which makes cities the sites of consumption. It can also be seen that accumulation of capital at both intercity and intracity levels happens in an uneven manner; with centre of accumulation or concentration of capital created due to the attractiveness to invest in certain spaces than others.

Thus according to Brenner, cities on the one hand are in a highly uncertain economic geography which is characterised by financial disorder, movement of capital in highly speculative manner, high interlocal competitiveness. On the other hand, neoliberal programs have been embedded in urban policy regimes through deregulation, privatization, etc. Here he essays how during different eras of neoliberal practice have impressed upon major cities and city regions. In the post-war growth regime and initial phase of ‘proto neoliberalism’, cities were sites of economic dislocations, social and political struggles. Thus while economic initiatives were taken in old industrial cities so as to bring economic growth, the established social, political and redistributive arrangements were maintained. Cities in the era of roll-back neoliberalism of the 80s’ were subjected to cost cutting policies of the municipal governments like privatization of infrastructure, reduction in public services to lower cost of state administration along with promotion of administrative efficiency, direct and indirect state subsidies to corporates and privatization of social reproduction functions as ‘best practices’. This not only led to increased polarisation in segments of populations but declining effectiveness with respect to economic rejuvenation.

This was followed by roll-out neoliberalism which according to Brenner can be viewed as an evolutionary reconstitution of the neoliberal practices due to its own contradictions and crisis tendencies. Thus, on one hand the dominant political project for municipalities globally was about the city space as an arena for capital growth, commodification and market discipline. On the other hand, the conditions for promotion and maintenance of economic competitiveness were reconceptualized to include diverse administrative, political and economic criteria. Brenner does not see these practices resulting in a linear transition from a model of the ‘welfare city’ towards a new model of ‘neoliberal city’.

He looks at them as contested, trial and error processes of change including neoliberal strategies that are mobilized as a response to problems afflicting advanced capitalist cities. But even these strategies sometimes aggravate problems such as economic stagnation, unemployment, etc.

Brenner argues that cities have become central to the reproduction, mutation, and continual reconstitution of neoliberalism itself during the last two decades and the urbanization of neoliberalism has been occurring during this period. The cities have become strategic targets for broad range of neoliberal experiments, institutional innovations and political and ideological projects through which the global dominance of neoliberalism is maintained.

Global and Urban