2003 Abstracts Stage 2

To establish whether or not a sense of place can create a moral/ideological culture of resistance to a dominant liberal individual culture

Sami Robertson, 2003, Stage 2

1) In the book of change I want to briefly discuss the philosophic possibilities between the concept of a particular place and the ideology or philosophic approach of the people who inhabit that particular space. 2) My approach (and this is the one I intend to follow for the extended essay) is to divide the subject into the following 4 sections: A. A sense of place and the problems associated with this concept. B. The dialectical relationship between the place and the people who live and work there. C. The philosophic or ideological issues, which arise upon the basis of this relationship. D. Some critical reflections. I have considered basing my study on the East End of London. This is a place, which has almost entered popular folklore for a variety of reasons ranging from notorious crime/criminals (Jack the Ripper/The Krays) to its allegedly heroic defiance of Hitler’s bombers during the Second World War. Yet when we use a phrase like the East End precisely what do we mean? In fact even in the most limited sense the area is vast ranging from Spitalfield/Liverpool Street at its far western fringe; to Poplar/Limehouse in the South; to Hackney/Walthamstow in the North; to Stratford/Leytonstone in the East. The area covered is an astonishing 100 square miles and the population is 2 _ million. This is about twenty times greater is size than Newcastle/Sunderland combined with a population 6 times greater. One obvious problem with an approach like mine is: can we state definitively that such an area has common features? Surely there is such diversity within this vast area that there can be no single ideological or philosophic project identifiable in the area. There may be a multiplicity of philosophies possibly competing approaches – but one approach. This is something I intend to explore. It was Marx who once famously remarked that without people there is no history. Certainly as diverse / colourful the East End is, it does not get its character. History / ideology from buildings / the river / parks / streets etc. Its philosophy comes from the people. Again can there be a common approach from 2 _ million people consisting of ordinary working class people / middle class liberal intellectuals / a smaltering of revolutionary socialists / similarly small numbers of Ultra Right activists / small time crooks, gangsters, hard men as well as people from just about every country in the world. Again we shall see. If a common philosophy can arise what exactly can it be? Arguably it takes a myriad of forms but probably includes: A. A sense of difference from the rest of London based not only on geography but factors like working class solidarity / common sacrifice and deprivation etc. B. Thus a kind of ‘them and us’ approach brings out a sense of moral rage against ‘outsiders’. C. Arguably it also takes different forms for example a refusal to accept bourgeois ‘legality’ and a refusal to accept that certain kinds of crime especially property are real crimes. D. This may even inform the radical political tradition in the area. One sees deprivation at first hand and decides only a radical approach can challenge it.

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