Humanist Ethics in Planning in the Era of Capitalocene

Authors: Ihnji Jon*, University of Melbourne
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Human-Environment Geography, Anthropocene
Keywords: Humanist ethics, Hannah Arendt, Capitalocene, Anthropocene, Environment Planning
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The purpose of this article is to theorize ‘humanist city’ in the age of Capitalocene. In witnessing of the devastating fire seasons in Australia and California, or the overall accelerating degree of extreme weather events, human exceptionalism is being admonished to the point where the resurgence of neo-Malthusianism is justified. In urban studies, the ‘material turn’ in planning—which highlights the role of the environment, space, or non-human elements of what surrounds us—has been hailed as new ethos in environment planning. This material turn draws its philosophical tradition from structuralism and fatalism where human agency is downplayed; everything that exists today is seen as the result of historical processes whose trajectory could not be altered by human will. In this paper, however, I propose a return to humanist values in city planning; I argue that a renewed understanding of human agency and meliorism as a source of collective action is something that cities now desperately need in weathering through today’s ecological crisis. To make this argument, I draw from the towering insights of Hannah Arendt. Hannah Arendt’s vision of politics remains uniquely humanist in that she considered natality as a possibility of human action and intervention to the automated processes of the status quo. I sketch the major environment planning issues seen through the Arendtian philosophical angle, in order to project a vision of ‘humanist city’ that is radically affirmative about its future.

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