Privatizing the Public Sphere
The privatization and fragmentation of space in post-industrial urban America is a widespread social problem. As society becomes even more globalized as a result of technological advances, the rampant spread of a privatized public realm is ever-increasing. Public space is needed as a center in which to bring people together to share a common place. It is within public spaces that public life unfolds and without public spaces such as parks, streets, and buildings, the mixing of classes will become increasingly uncommon. Society is made up of two sectors: the private and public, and it is essential that both remain separate entities. However, through the use of fear tactics especially the threat of violent crimes, privatized settings are spreading throughout the public sphere. In this analysis, it is my intent to explore the various tactics being used to impede upon the public sphere. In doing so, I will explore the causal factors that contribute to the increased privatization of urban public life.
Historically, the city was an all-encompassing entity. At the dawn of industrialization, large masses of people flocked to the city in hopes of a better economic life for themselves and their families. It was within the city limits, particularly closest to the areas of commerce and exchange that people took up residence, worked, and pursued various social activities. The city served the needs of all its citizens. However, as industrialization moved further along, there was a major shift in urban economics. While many businesses flourished, so did wealth and as this increased, society faced an evolving class system. Three notable classes emerged: the lower/working class, the middle class, and the upper/elite class. While these class divisions grew, a large amount of money was being invested in the creation of public venues. Public institutions were designed to bring education, culture, and in many ways, a sense of community to modern city life. A public park or library was a place that people of various classes could come together and share space. However, by the end of the Twentieth century and into the Twenty-First, true public space is becoming almost extinct, as is the middle class. Privatized public space has become the new trend across many American cities.
There are many interrelated factors that contribute to the elimination of a public sphere, these include but are not limited to: corporate ownership of property, gentrifying of neighborhoods, an ever increasing disparity between the rich and poor, and new landscape designs. All of these factors work cohesively with one another by instilling a sense of fear into the lives of everyday citizens. Society is becoming more and more policed through the use of surveillance cameras on public walkways, gated communities, but especially, through systematic approaches used to create the feeling that public spheres are unsafe and something to be feared.