Patrick Joyce / The rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City

This is a short blog post about the theorist Patrick Joyce, his book titled “The rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City” and how his book relates to my dissertation. My dissertation looks at specific typography and its connection to space and events at its time of use.

The general premise of Patrick Joyce’s theory is that in order to create freedom the system has to rely society to a specific type of person who lives their life in a certain way in accordance with the system. He believed that maps, sewers, markets, public libraries and parks all could be used as a form of invisible control that would direct society in an attempt to create the specific type of person the system was looking for.

Joyce looked at how these these ideologies were built into the infrastructure of modern life and how the mechanics of the city shaped culture and society. He was also concerned with the relationship between freedom and liberalism. The dates of when events happened where not so important but when people and things interacted differently.

Sociocultural history of govermentality (pg. 6)

This by Joyce’s definition is concerned with how things affect the social part of the city. The things he considered to be part of the affect were mobility, institutions and infrastructure.

During victorian britain freedom was an big issue. The freedom to move was seen to be a given right as well as something that must be protected. However many of the elitist felt that there was an certain way to engage with freedom. (Freedom and public spaces were interlinked) Freedom had to be taught especially to children or the poor who were seen to be of a lesser mental capability.

Due to the elites concern with freedom and it being experienced properly, it therefore had to be planned, structured, watched and policed incase those who were experiencing it took liberties.

This brings up the topic of the masses and social order as freedom is something that those of higher social class fear, as if “experience” of freedom gets into the wrong hands or the masses they then could be seen as a mob of uncivilised people. Therefore in an attempt to subconsciously control the masses the infrastructure of the city was embedded with structures and systems that would subconsciously direct masses to behave in a specific way. By using a subconscious and subtle method of changing people behaviour you then create a false sense of freedom.

A key theme that links from Patrick Joyce’s writing and my dissertation is the the topic of standardisation. Standardising something creates a system. The system that Joyce talks about is Mapping. Joyce refers to the modern map as standardised representation of an abstract space.

The modern map… measured against an abstract grid of space, what was represented – towns, streets, coastlines – became essentially one… This standardisation of space was further accentuated by the increasingly sophisticated printing of maps, especially in the ninetieth century. (pg. 36)

By creating maps of the city it created a classification system of roads and streets. This system created order of how one place related to another. Mapping documented places as well as missing out some. By creating a visualisation of the city it was therefore a way of controlling peoples movements. A map appears to be something that allows us to find our way as well as move around to new areas. However the routes are predetermined, as stated before the map is a system created by somebody else.

 

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