Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cities, Homes, and the Middle Class

Congratulations go to Marco Kusumawijaya, who just launched his new book, titled Kota Rumah Kita (The City, Our Home), last night in Aksara Bookstore, Kemang. I'll write a review about the book later, but now I'll just highlight some points from the launch.

It's encouraging to have a book on (Indonesian) cities that has some theoretical dimensions, but is also very clear in its activist stand. A number of (Indonesian) urban planners and architects have also written books on a similar topic, but they tend to be highly theory oriented, and lacking any drive to push for change. Marco is one of the few activist-architects who writes well, and there's a good chance that this book can inspire people to do something.

Ayu Utami, author of Saman, gave a welcome note on this book. I only remember one thing about her speech: that efforts should be taken to build a "middle class consortium." Someone then questioned whether or not that is bourgeoisie instead. Marco then explained that for too long, the middle class has been helped by the lower class, in terms of advocacy for public interests. For example, it's the lower class who first protested the hundreds of million rupiahs allocated yearly for Jakarta governor's clothes and furniture. Any how, Marco views that an organized society (or society composed of organized people-based entities) is the way to go.

To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical of the "middle class consortium." Not many members of the "middle class" are like Marco and Ayu, who is relatively "independent" in terms of income. Most are working for large corporations, and highly dependent on such corporations to continue and enjoy their "good life." I do agree with the second part, though, that an organized society is a stronger society.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Muli, salam kenal :)

    I didn’t go to the book launch, and therefore I didn’t know what exactly was meant by “middle class consortium” as being proposed by Marco and Ayu Utami. But in my point of view, the upper-middle class has a big role in our society because they are the key-decision makers in the production and management of space.

    I often argue, including in my article here and here , that many upper-middle communities choose to fortress themselves from the rest of the society, which is unfortunate because in my view, it is more possible for the upper-middle class to initiate interactions with the lower-middle class than the other way around, considering the lower-middle class is often barred from the upper-middle commercial and residential complexes.

    I don’t think one must be an independent agent to be able to contribute to the society. Most people are dependent on companies to earn a living. Precisely because of this, change can and should happen from within these companies, communities, and even families. After all, a nation is made of millions of families/ communities/ companies. If things don’t work out in one company, there are many other communities/ families where one can make small changes.