Thematic axes Global Challenges

Conference with Daniel Innerarity

The city and the experience of the diversity

"We must value diversity in cities, since the opposite leads to segregation and radicalization." This was one of the recipes of the philosopher Daniel Innerarity to move towards more democratic, heterogeneous and egalitarian city models. Daniel Innerarity was in charge of closing the “For an intercultural future” cycle of the Re-City platform on June 22, organized by the Fundació Catalunya Europa with La Caixa, the Club Roma and the support of the Barcelona City Council, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The professor of political philosophy at the University of the Basque Country gave the presentation "The city and the experience of diversity" which was moderated by the coordinator of the cycle, Gemma Pinyol, director of migration and diversity policies at Instrategies and coordinator of the RECI -Intercultural cities. Gemma Pinyol explained that “the cycle has wanted to approach diversity management with a local perspective, focusing on the city, since it is the place where real coexistence occurs. Furthermore, we want to make visible the multiple diversities in a context of growing inequalities that the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated. ” Despite the potential of cities, "they do not always have a sufficient voice at the international level, but they always have the responsibility to manage diversity," Pinyol also stated.

Without a doubt, Daniel Innerarity, is one of the most authoritative and prestigious voices to analyze the management of diversity from the cities, for his extensive academic career and international recognition. In addition to being a researcher at Ikerbasque at the University of the Basque Country, he is the director of the Institute of Democratic Governance, he has been a professor and researcher at various European universities, he is a collaborator with various media and is considered one of the 25 greatest thinkers in the world by the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. As for his most recent work, it is worth highlighting books such as "Understanding democracy", "A theory of complex democracy" and the most recent "Pandemocracy. A philosophy of the coronavirus crisis ”that highlights the deficiencies in our system that covid has highlighted.

The city, synonymous with civilization and coexistence.

Daniel Innerarity described the city as the place that throughout history has symbolized civilization, diversity and coexistence. “The city's great contribution to culture has been the ability to create a place of coexistence for strangers. By nature it is the most appropriate place for strangers and to create the culture of difference, diversity, mixing and novelty. The city is a vast juxtaposition of the poor and rich, young and old, native and foreign, etc. and it allows a heterogeneity that does not occur in the countryside and the towns ”. As an anecdote, the Basque philosopher said that “the city is a place where the surprising thing is to meet someone you know, unlike what happens in towns where you know everyone. What is strange in town is meeting someone strange. In the city, on the other hand, the strange thing is to meet someone you know. "

The city, according to Daniel Innerarity, is a group of strangers, strangers and foreigners. And for this reason, it has always been “a utopian promise of economic and political emancipation, and from a social and cultural point of view it has been a place of integration, acceptance of difference and liberation from the coercion of the family clan or from controls of rural communities ". In this sense, he recalled that the German sociologist Georg Simmel already wrote in 1903 in the book "The big city and cultural life", as in cities "we establish impersonal and functional relationships, according to our common interests, regardless of ideology, religion or sexual orientation of people, which facilitates the integration and acceptance of those who come to it. " In fact, the city "invents" the concept of privacy, in front of the public space, which allows anonymity and discretion, even having a secret life or starting a new life before the indifference of our fellow citizens. As the French philosopher Charles Montesquieu said "the city is a place of relative and general indifference", that is, where indifference can be a virtue, said Daniel Innerarity.

At the same time, along with this vision of a place of emancipation, the speaker also recalled that the city has been described by "the most reactionary imaginary, as a place of loneliness, lack of protection and corruption as opposed to the rural community as a place of natural purity and good customs. A widespread view, for example, in the United States, where farmers were considered good Americans. 

Urban transformations.

Historically, according to Innerarity, cities have been characterized by three elements:

Centrality: the idea that there is a relationship between the center and the periphery, where there is the cathedral, the City Hall, the police and the market.
The contrast between the city and the countryside, between itself and the outside.
The functional and social mix, that is, a juxtaposition of homes, businesses, political, religious, or social institutions, all in the same rather limited space.
These three dimensions have always been deeply rooted but over time they have been disappearing with the urban transformations that cities have undergone.

“Currently, the center of cities no longer concentrates political, economic, military or religious power, but has dispersed in different parts of the city, and has become the symbolism of an expression of anachronistic power and far from our current model of life. At the same time, the contrast between the city and the countryside has been lost, since we can live in a town but be close to a city without giving up the benefits of urban life. ” At the same time, according to Daniel Innerarity, we are witnessing a process of "fragmentation and segregation where differentiated areas are created, unrelated to each other, where there is hardly any combination between strangers and strangers, and there is a search for the like in homogeneous environments . Thus, we find, for example, neighborhoods where the ethnic factor, sexual orientation, the elderly, families with children or immigrants from a certain country predominate, or other neighborhoods affected by the phenomenon of gentrification, or where they carry out certain business and high-tech activities that are empty on weekends. ”

For this reason, the philosopher warned of the risk of building "walls" or "bubbles" where we only surround ourselves with our fellow men and are losing the ability to relate to those who are different from us. “It is a phenomenon that produces radicalization. I think what radicalizes us the most is the construction of bubbles or neighborhoods in the urban sense but also in the mental sense, of people similar to us. If we enter spaces of people who share the same type of leisure or think in the same way, it is reported through the same means of communication, etc ... in the end we end up irritated with everything different. On the other hand, if we live in heterogeneous spaces, where we receive diverse messages and that do not always ratify us with what we are, that creates democracy almost inevitably. While if we go towards segregation, differentiation, specialization, functionality, not allowing any kind of heterogeneity in our environment, that democratizes and can lead to various types of radicalization in our contemporary society. ”

Precisely, Innerarity explained, we must build an "urbanity" based on the coexistence of these differences "without being perceived as threatening." "Building walls against complex phenomena is not only the best way of doing nothing, but, as I was saying, the Polish sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman, the only thing that generates is more hostility and making a certain situation more explosive," added Innerarity. 

Towards network cities.

At the end of the conference the philosopher reflected on what the cities of the future should be like. “We cannot repeat the classical city, nor the model of opposition between the city and the countryside, since that would not make much sense. We must think of new environments of mobility, globalization, technology, culture, etc. The current project would be more a reticular city, a network-city model, than a city with a very powerful center and a periphery around it ”.

According to Innerarity, the city is no longer just a physical space but rather a concept based on "the project of an urban life" and on a way of "living urban, living with the virtue of urbanity, rather than living in a city in the literal sense. The city is rather something symbolic or a metaphor of the place where coexistence between the different is possible ”. In conclusion, Innerarity stated that "urbanity should be a value that could take place anywhere in any way." For this reason, he predicted that more and more people will live in cities or live the urban model in our social relationships and our environment, also thanks to digitization.

Another characteristic of cities will be their great potential as a global actor that has been in place for some time. “We are talking about global cities that are increasingly related to the world without going through the structures of the states. Cities, networks, NGOs, universities and certain organizations are called to better manage Europeanization than not nation-states ”. But a very important challenge will be managing the growing social inequalities that the coronavirus has even more exposed, for example, in terms of different types of housing, resources, public spaces or Internet access and new technologies.

Given all this, Daniel Innerarity has a clear recipe: “we must mix, people of different ages and backgrounds. The concentration of immigrants in certain schools or neighborhoods must be balanced. At all levels we must have positive experiences of difference away from the idea of ??conflict or negative connotations. We must recover, with a multiple strategy, the opportunity to value the need for the common, for diversity and for what is different ”.