Consumption and the City, Modern and Postmodern


Whilst consumption has frequently been associated with the postmodern city, insufficient regard has been paid to the systemic logic of consumption. It is argued here that consumption takes on an increasingly significant role in this respect. Specifically, we have been witness to a profound social transformation whereby the active repression once centred on the city as a locus of production has given way to a new mode of social integration, which accords to the logic of seduction. By tracing the development of the modern city in terms of the imposition of the law and its transgression — figured in terms of cognitive space and the ‘spectral presence’ of the stranger — the significance of the postmodern is theorized in terms of the systemic appropriation of an aesthetic space initially traced out by the flâneur. The ludic existence of the flâneur has thus been translated into the general condition of a society oriented around consumption. This condition implies a new form of cybernetic control, governed by the aleatory play of the code, rather than the direct surveillance characteristic of the modern city. As a consequence, urban space has itself undergone a transition, which we might begin to address in terms of a ‘posturban’ hyperspace.