From the grandiose histories of monumental state building projects to the minutiae of street signs and corner cafés, from the rebuilding of capital cities to the provision of the humble public toilet, Clean Living under Difficult Circumstances argues for the city as a socialist project.
This essay collection spans a period from immediately before the 2008 financial crash to the year of the pandemic. Against the business-as-usual responses to both crises, Owen Hatherley outlines a vision of the city as both a venue for political debate and dispute as well as a space of everyday experience, one that we shape as much as it shapes us.
Incorporated here are the genres of memoir, history, music and film criticism, as well as portraits of figures who have inspired new ways of looking at cities, such as the architect Zaha Hadid, the activist and urbanist Jane Jacobs, and thinkers such as Mark Fisher and Adam Curtis. Throughout these pieces, Hatherley argues that the only way out of our difficult circumstances is to imagine and try to construct a better modernity.
“The clear-sighted vision, analysis and optimism of a writer like Hatherley shines through when we need it most.”
“An antidote to the market-dominated colonisation of our cities. [Hatherley] celebrates the civic values that drove politicians, civil servants and architects to build good quality affordable homes, well-stocked public libraries, hospitals and schools, where people had universal access to healthcare and education.”
“A valuable exploration of the many modernist projects that have defined our society and politics.”
“Modernism’s most prolific and persuasive contemporary advocate … One of the joys of Hatherley’s writing is that he so often focuses on the unusual and eccentric.”