Academic journal article Social Justice

Community Goes German: The Displacement of the Sex Trade in the Name of a Neoliberal Concept

Academic journal article Social Justice

Community Goes German: The Displacement of the Sex Trade in the Name of a Neoliberal Concept

Article excerpt

IN ENGLISH-SPEAKING COUNTRIES, IN PARTICULAR THE UNITES STATES OF AMERICA, THE popularity of communitarian ideas means that the concept of "community as a local collective is generally well known. Criticism of the concept is also well established (albeit more recently). A philosophical approach discusses community independently of its specific historic formation as a mechanism for discipline or exclusion in accordance with the rules of the (local) society (Young, 1986). Studies on neoliberalization seek to understand why the concept of community became so popular during a specific phase of capitalism. From a political-economic perspective, they criticize references to local community as an ideology that views social relations--seen as "social capital" (Putnam, 1995)--through the lens of economic exploitability (Mayer, 2001). Governmentality studies problematize the current invocation of community as a neoliberal form of government--"governing through community" (Rose, 1996), which mobilizes group identities to create "responsible" subjects that cost the state as little as possible. In the research field of urban policies of control, which is the focus of this issue of Social Justice, the practice of "community policing," which is now widespread in English-speaking countries, has been heavily criticized in recent years: such policies exclude marginal groups from public spaces (e.g., Fischer and Poland, 1998), and represent (often fruitless) attempts to pass on to citizens tasks formerly carried out by the state (Herbert, 2006).

In Germany, the local community, which in an urban development context is most often called a quarter or neighborhood, became a buzzword again beginning in the late 1990s, i.e., somewhat later than the English-speaking role models (Schnur, 2008). The interest of urban experts in the community was boosted by a German federal Lander program, the "Socially Integrative City" introduced in 1999. By intervening in several fields of action, the program aims to counteract the aggravation of social exclusion in disadvantaged districts that--in the eyes of supporters of the program--are seen to have a "discriminatory" impact on their residents due to segregation (see Haussermann and Siebel, 2004:160-171). (1)

Early criticism of the "Socially Integrative City" program interpreted it as part of a neoliberal or post-Fordist transformation of the local state (Lanz, 2000; Eick and Grell, 2002; Mayer, 2003; Eick, 2004; Kunkel, 2004). "Activation" and "empowerment" are invoked to reduce the redistributive elements of the welfare state (the "rollback neoliberalism" of Peck and Tickell [2002]) and an activating social regime is developed ("rollout neoliberalism"). But the program also expands the repressive, punitive side of the neoliberal state (Ziegler, 2002), e.g., by increasing state sanctions on the unemployed ("workfare") or by increasing "cleanliness and security" in public spaces, whereby behavior that deviates from hegemonic norms is controlled and spatially excluded. These empirical studies, based primarily on an analysis of media discourse and program descriptions, offer important social-theoretical categories. Yet they provide little empirical information on how the programs are embedded locally in the affected neighborhoods.

In recent years, numerous authors from the field of governmentality studies (e.g., McKee, 2009) and political-economic urban studies (e.g., McCann, 2010) have criticized this neglect of "local embeddedness" and the contested nature of neoliberal urban development policies. They called for the increased application of ethnographic methods to complement the analysis of program texts and media discourses. With the aim of attaining a better understanding of the embeddedness of neoliberal policies, a growing number of empirical and theoretical contributions to urban studies look at the issue of trans-local policy transfer, i.e., the exchange of knowledge, policies, or administrative structures between cities and municipalities. …

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