Based on quotes by pragmatists Rorty and Reesen, we focus on the idea of “creative political act” as a lens for viewing the connection between people’s actions and what occurs in cities, specifically highlighting circumstances of urbanism (transformation). “Creative political acts” are actions taken by a group of people, (political), to make something new, (creative), which can be an idea, a policy, or something as tangible as a sewage system. These actions are neither right or wrong, but rather they are the stories of humans acting from their understanding and perspective of “what is good, and worthwhile to do” for themselves, their loved ones, their culture, their nation, or any number of other scales.
Pragmatism supports that our choices of actions reflect the philosophy that we hold true. Kai Nielsen uses a little “p” in philosophy to express the action of philosophical thought that all humans take part in. He explains that philosophy can mean simply what Wilfred Sellars called “an attempt to see how things, in the broadest sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest sense of the term.” This is not Philosphy, which subscribes to a form of philosophical tradition, especially dualistic approaches to the world. Ones’ philosophy, as it transforms and changes over time, cyclically influences ones actions, and by utilizing the tools of human communication (language and action) to transfer information to others, you have politics. Politics, as we defined it in class, is “a process by which a group of people make collective decisions”. Political acts happen all the time; they are amplified in urban settings partly due to the close proximity of people to one another and to common places.
Historically, urban settings are centers for great political movements usually supporting extreme ideals of some kind. But the pragmatists, specifically Richard Rorty, allude to the idea that moral choices of different, subtle, sophisticated, and complex moral actions exist within any given situation. These given situations come in a wide range of scales and present the opportunity for creative political action that is not based on dualism or “the best choice”. Rather, actions and reactions can come from the plethora of options of “goods”.
While urban life provides many opportunities, both for the innovative use of physical space and cultural developments, it also brings with it a need to negotiate complex issues such as resource use and safe waste disposal. This is where, and why, design needs to enter the conversation. Design can be utilized to create solutions that aid in the negotiation between opportunities and issues. Design, if used democratically and in a participatory manner, has the ability to democratically consider scales the way one single entity could not.
So, I understand design (speculating, planning, and creating “what could be”) and urbanism (the transformation of spaces, attitudes and culture within a city) to be a “creative political act” in that the very nature of this kind of transformation or change inherently empowers many. The fact that actions taken by collective groups of people in agreement have been driving forces of urbanism, makes design and urbanism a “creative political act”.