Free play and the foreclosure of New Babylon

Environment and Planning D 30:418-433 (2012)
Automation may be able to completely eliminate the need for labour. But how should we use the freed-up time? In his proposal for a future urbanism, New Babylon, Constant Nieuwenhuys thought people would engage in nonstop free play, remaking surroundings. I argue that at the core of New Babylon is an intuition about a satisfying life, that of Homo ludens. This intuition had a broad appeal in the 1960s. New Babylon is an intuition pump, not a utopia, and Constant wants Homo ludens to be possible and desirable. Possibility can today be most urgently equated with sustainability.I will argue that New Babylon is not sustainable. I will also argue Homo ludens is not desirable, and 1960s intuitions about the good life have dated. Constant forecloses on creative activity such as we might find in improving science and technology.
Keywords New Babylon  urbanism  Constant Nieuwenhuys  Situationist International  Surrealism
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