The Uncontrollable Parts of Society

The discussion on Ebenezer Howard’s book Gardens of To-morrow and the other utopian plans touched on in class has proved to be a fascinating discussion. However, it can be argued that the ideas of these utopian writers perhaps did not leave room for the unpredictability of human behavior in society. When these plans began to emerge in the 19th century, the thinkers behind the ideas witnessed the problems of a city and believed it was due to the lay-out and construction of a city that induced many of the complications, thus deciding that rather than placing a Band-Aid on parts of it, it was vital to create an entirely new one. It is true that the structure of the city can produce different outcomes; freeing traffic due to wider streets for example. There is a lot of planning and control over the imagined city in order to produce the ideal society. Howard, for example, is quite meticulous in the details as he seeks to demonstrate how his idea would be functional in a real life scenario. Although he was lenient in areas such as the aesthetics of the buildings, he still put quite of a bit of thought into making sure there were as little unpredictable situations as possible. When Howard was creating the Garden City, he believed it to be a possible reality, and it is true that the plans of the city could produce positive effects. However, I do believe that Howard and many other Utopian writers depended heavily on the rationality of man, rather than making room in their ideas for unpredictability and man’s irrational, emotional behavior. They expected the people in these societies to be utopian in thought as well as the cities. Utopian cities attempt to control what is hard to control, and often do not leave a lot of room for irregularity. Unfortunately, I believe it reaches utopian status because of the idealism that people will do things justly and accordingly, forgetting that whether people react a certain way due to nature versus nurture, some things cannot be planned for. His idea of a city layout can improve many aspects of life, but may be unable to survive for long. These utopian societies offer great ideas and can be a model for dealing with problems such as traffic congestion, urban sprawl, health issues, and slums but they become utopian due to the unpredictability of humans, demonstrating that not everything in a society can be controlled.

2 thoughts on “The Uncontrollable Parts of Society

  1. A very well thought out blog, with in-depth observation of the beneficial/negative outcomes of Howard’s experiment. And like you said, Howard and the utopian designers of the time did indeed rely too much on the rationality of mankind; they were reluctant, or unable, to grasp the harsh reality of humanity and its violent past.

    Very enjoyable to read. Keep up the good work.

  2. Do you think people would start acting justly and rationally if they lived in an ideal place? Like would they not have any “problems”; therefore, no need to act in any other way than predictably?

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