Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Communicative Action, and Contemporary Urbanism

By Gary Bridge | Go to book overview

8

Cosmopolitan reason and the global city

In 'The Village of the Liberal Managerial Class' Bruce Robbins (2001) makes a comparison between two Booker-prize-winning novels - Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and Ondaatje's The English Patient, both of which feature cosmopolitans who are also aristocrats. In The Remains of the Day Lord Darlington out of loyalty to German fellow aristocrats cuts across national identity to produce a fatal complicity with Nazism. In Ondaatje's novel the aristocrat cosmopolite is Lord Almasy, the so-called English patient, who experiences a dream of the desert and a love affair that breaches national borders but is shattered by nationalisms and exclusions of the Second World War. Robbins links these treatments to discussions of cosmopolitanism defined as a kind of expertise and rationality, a framework of skills and knowledge that translate anywhere: professionalism as a new form of world aristocracy.

What unties all the main characters in The English Patient, Robbins argues, is the love of knowledge. The metaphor of education as exploration is developed through the story of an exploration in the desert, where the boundaries between Europe and Africa have become blurred, but also where there is a freedom from nation, and education and knowledge as erotic adventure. Thus 'Almasy's erotic bond with Katherine Clifton has the same content as his homosocial bond with Madox and the other men: an eroticising of cosmopolitan knowledge' (Robbins 2001:24; emphasis in original). The English Patient suggests for Robbins a 'postpatriotic love' (Robbins 2001:26).

In The Remains of the Day love and professionalism are set against each other. Stevens, the butler, sacrifices love with Miss Kenton for professional duty to his employer. It also extends to his moral failure in backing his employer's support for the Nazis. Lord Darlington convenes a conference of diplomats in 1923 to attempt to ease German reparations. In the following years his anti-Semitism and attempts to stop the war align him with the Nazis. Stevens' moral and personal failure is emphasized by his continuing with his professional duties in serving the diplomats as his father lies dying upstairs. Told of his father's death he responds by saying he is 'very busy just now'.

-147-

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Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Communicative Action, and Contemporary Urbanism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Reason in the City of Difference 1
  • 2 - On the Body 15
  • 3 - On the Street 39
  • 4 - In the Community 65
  • 5 - In the Public Realm 85
  • 6 - At Work and Home in the Urban Economy 105
  • 7 - In City Hall 125
  • 8 - Cosmopolitan Reason and the Global City 147
  • References 159
  • Index 172
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