The Civic City in a Nomadic World

The nomadic life and worldview has re-emerged with relentless force. Balancing the commonvalues of civility and collective involvement with the uncertainties the nomadic world evokes will be a defining issue of the current age.

Everything in this emerging world is about mobility and movement, virtually and physically. People move, both rich and poor; ideas, philosophies and ideologies move, the good and the bad; goods move, the shoddy and the sublime; money moves and the displaced move in ever greater numbers. More people for more reasons than before are criss-crossing the globe, from one city to the next in search of better work or life, the excitement of another place, or with no option but to flee from violence, or just to be tourists.

Old certainties are crumbling and systems are breaking at escalating speed. Apprehension is in the air as we seek to invent a different kind of city. Periods of history involving mass transformation can produce confusion: a sense of liberation combined with a feeling of being swept along by events. It takes a while for new ethical stances to take root or to establish a coherent world view that makes the most of our increasingly nomadic world.

Taking an eagle eye view of change-making projects across the world you detect an eager longing. It is bursting out for this ‘Other City’ where the dictates of finance are curtailed; one that resolutely, yet with imagination and verve, addresses the faultlines and dilemmas of urban change and seeks to bend the market to a bigger picture and more ethical purposes.

This is a city that: contains the ever-widening gap between haves and have nots; that prefers to open out to the world rather than closing in; that sees the opportunities in problems so might lead the way in creating the 4th clean, lean, green industrial revolution; and that has the courage to deal with the creeping corruption and criminality that pervades so much of public life and erodes the civic fabric.

This is perhaps the Civic City where togetherness in difference meet and mix well. It tries to find a pathway through the major faultlines, dilemmas and potentials of our time – shared lives, inequality, environmental distress, urban vitality, the desire for involvement and engagement and most importantly, at a personal level, the longing for meaning and a sense of wholeness. So, this is a place where we reinvent anchorage, an urban commons, connection, possibility and inspiration.

"The Civic City is perceptive, important and clearly written."
Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky

"Utterly timely. Charles takes on the some of the most urgent subjects of our time, using imagery to tell a powerful story."
Carol Coletta Senior fellow with the Kresge Foundation and formerly Vice-President of the Knight Foundation

"The visual experience of Charles’ book brings the urgent issues facing our cities alive".
Martin Parr, photographer