Conceptual Cluster 2: Disagreement and Agonism

by sandra695


Great expectations

Greatness is expected of the future Brunnshög area on the outskirts of Lund. Here the two big scale research facilities, MAX IV; a synchrotron radiation laboratory and European Spallation Source; ESS, are going to be established in the near future. The University, the research community and the Municipality of Lund are cooperating to secure the profit and offshoot of the enormous investment. Lund is expected to expand as a consequence of the research facilities and within 30 years make place for up to 50,000 persons to live, work and study in the area. In the promotion of the plans for this substantial expansion of the city of Lund a uniform and consistent picture is painted under the label of “the world’s prime research and innovation environment”. Inspiration for the plans is taken from the municipality’s need to promote the city of Lund and the research community’s demands on a global market. Little attention is focused on investigation of the area from an immediate standpoint and the potential of the area itself. When investigating potential in an urban evolutionary process J.J. Gibson’s Theory of Affordances[1] has proven useful. The affordances of the environment, Gibson states, are suited to the particular acting space of an individual and communicate the possibilities or capabilities for an individual to act. The consequence of accumulated possibilities is inevitably inconsistency and contradiction. The perception of an affordance always entails conflict – there is never one answer to a complex situation and things can evolve along various paths. What could then be the potential for an affordance-based method of investigation in an urban evolutionary process? The spectrum of potential and conflict, within an individual and between individuals could be associated to Chantal Mouffe’s concepts of antagonism and hegemony[2]. Mouffe states that liberal concepts fail to address the pluralism of the social world which always implies conflict with no solution, where the typical liberal stance is that a heterogeneous world can be assembled into a “harmonious ensemble”. Mouffe presents possibilities to consciously escape the demand of consensus where “antagonism reveals the very limit of any rational consensus”. Mouffe’s concept of hegemony is addressing the inability to see problems of the contemporary society politically which requires “recognizing the hegemonic nature of very kind of social order and the fact that every society is the product of  a series of practices attempting at establishing order in a context of contingency”. Parallels can be identified between the vision for Brunnshög’s “creative meeting places” and Mouffe’s assessment of neo-liberal production. In Mouffe’s critique the liberal ambition includes packaging of once disruptive values associated with counter-culture and transforming them into easily digestible claims for authenticity and originality. By taking over formulated critique Mouffe means that the producers in this manner neutralize possible conflicts. In the vision for the Brunnshög area the potential situations of diversity and antagonism are transformed into comfortable life style concepts ready to be consumed on a global market.

[1]  J.J. Gibson, The ecological approach to visual perception, LEA, Hillsdale,

N.J., 1986.

[2] Chantal Mouffe, ‘Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces’, Art and Research, vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 2007.