Brett Scott, financial activist, London The natural domain of the expert professional is the scaled-up, centralised, formal and powerful institution. Is the domain of the amateur the localised, decentralised, informal and non‑hierarchical institution?
There is a big overlap between the amateurism and neo‑communitarian concepts like peer to peer, open source, and the commons, as well as with non-hierarchical or informal institutions. However we also look critically at the DIY and maker movements, as well as other citizen initiatives and visions of the participatory society, in that they appear to be a response to the withdrawing state instead of an honest urge of people to become more embedded in their local communities. We also fear that a complete focus on the local, decentralised and informal bears the danger of tribalism and bubbles of exclusivity. We should strive for a healthy distribution and fairness across various scales of government.
Can you relate the concept of the amateur to alternative management philosophies – such as sociocracy – in which every person may get a chance to be a leader, or might rotate in areas that they are not specialists in? Could you imagine a city governed in this way?
Badiou1 wrote that “Real politics is to engage to resolve problems within a collective with enthusiasm. It’s not simply to delegate problems to the professionals. Love is like politics in that it’s not a professional affair. There are no professionals in love, and none in real politics.” We often refer to this quote because it reminds us that governing a city is deeply political. It implies a vision of what the society could and should be. It is not a technical matter with a single solution. In that sense, everybody should be entitled to shape this vision and their coexistence with others. There are already experiments taking place in local communities and even some elements of sociocracy that are present within the existing dominant system. What we miss and would be really curious about, is to explore, in practice, alternative management philosophies on a larger scale.
Brendan Cormier, curator, London Are consultant cities the antithesis of amateur cities? If not, what is?
If we would have to summarise the multiple opposites to amateur cities, it would be the cities where no one cares. Even worse, cities like Terry Gilliam’s dystopian Brazil, where administration becomes the ruling class. Consultant cities are, in a way, part of that scope and so are cities obsessed with efficiency; managerial cities, bureaucratic, consumerist, technocratic cities and all those cities where most people don’t seem to fit in any more.