Urbane Ethiken

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Jeannine-Madeleine Fischer & Michael Grieser

Clean, slow, good? Ethical subject formation in Tokyo and Auckland

Jeannine-Madeleine Fischer & Michael Grieser

Concepts of the 'good urban life' address sets of 'good' practices and, thereby, certain kinds of 'good' subjects that are defined in contrast to undesired 'counter-ideals'. We argue that the formation of subjects is increasingly framed in ethical terms, especially in regard to movements that promote slow and eco-friendly lifestyles. We will discuss how ethical subjects are shaped and which implications and conflicts go along with these processes.

Drawing on our case studies, we firstly shed light on the formation of the 'eco-friendly citizen' in Auckland: being the biggest agglomeration in New Zealand and still sharing the national image of being '100% pure', the city faces severe environmental challenges that are fueled by an ongoing population growth. Referring back to the ideal of being 'clean and green', an emotional relationship towards urban nature is promoted not only as an urban practice, but also as an identity marker. The concept of being green defines both ideal and deviance, insider and outsider, and can therefore serve as a powerful tool of urban governance.
Secondly, we will discuss Tokyo, the functional and fast-paced city. Following the burst of the bubble in the 1980s an era of unprecedented economic growth came to an end in Japan. Since then socio-economic problems, which are exacerbating in urban areas, are increasing, thus leaving a growing number of individuals struggling to participate in what has been coined as kakusa shakai 格差社会 (society of socio-economic disparity). The reluctance to change on the city planning level together with the events of 3.11 increased the significance of ethics in the discourse about the ‘good life’. The rigidness of the system is ultimately leading citizens to take matters into their own hands and initiating changes towards a more sustainable, slower and cleaner city on a local level, while developing their own concepts and practices of ‘good life’. Utilizing the evolvement of the transition town movement in Tokyo this process will be exemplified.