Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Space by Margaret Kohn

By Margaret Kohn

Battling for First modification rights is as renowned a hobby as ever, yet simply because you will get in your soapbox doesn't suggest someone can be there to hear. city squares have emptied out as consumers decamp for the megamalls; gated groups preserve pesky signature amassing activists away; even so much net chatrooms are run by means of the foremost media businesses. Brave New Neighborhood sconsiders what should be performed to guard and revitalize our public areas.

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According to this position, the university, like a military installation or administrative office building, is not a public forum but rather a private institution owned by the government. Any activity that the relevant administrators feel disrupts the primary mission can be prohibited at its discretion. 49 Universities in particular have a special obligation to facilitate the free exchange of ideas and to foster critical viewpoints, the argument goes. ”50 In spite of this holding, public universities still have much latitude to protect their core mission from the disruption of protest.

Yet the state cannot fully realize abstract universal principles. There is always a gap between the abstract ideal and the specific laws and insti-tutions that are formulated to protect it. This unbridgeable gap between the legal and moral dimensions of rights can be the basis for a critique of state power. 30 The contradictions in the IWW’s position also reflect the fundamental dilemma of political outsiders. The experience of the disenfranchised suggests that power does not bend to right, but this realization does not make it any easier to gain power.

There are two possible answers to this question. The Wobblies might have fought for free speech in order to build alliances and gain support from moderate, civil libertarian groups. Alternately, they might have defended street speaking as a fundamental dimension of political dissent and labor organizing. All of the evidence in the two Wobblie newspapers suggests that the latter is the more compelling explanation. 19 The Wobblies were ambivalent about support from middle-class groups and rejected coalitions that would compromise their militant stance.

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