Capitalism vs. Capitalism

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Abstract

The case against the application of the humanities theories developed in the West to non-Western societies is made by many thinkers, who broadly argue that non-Western countries have developed under different sets of circumstances to which Western-developed theories are not applicable. Similarly, the models explaining the present-day global capitalism working mechanisms are deemed inapplicable to countries outside mainstream globalized economies. They include the ways in which the capital appropriates the built environment to its own mechanisms of commodification and “wealth generation,” the ongoing transformation of the concept of “home” to “property,” the densification of urban areas to speculative ends, and thereby, inter alia, the promotion of mixed use developments to maximize land development profits. They also include the elimination of urban public assets by selling them off to the private sector and therefore suppressing the social life into more isolated, atomized spatial formations, and the devastation of humane built environments to facilitate (private, motorized) transport routes. Such developments date back to well before Henri Lefebvre’s call for the right to the city [run on sentence, please break up into multiple sentences for clarity. Looking at examples of how built environments are reshaped and transformed in contemporary Tehran, the capital of a country largely unintegrated into global capitalism, this article argues that when it comes to commodification strategies, the locally-followed models are very similar to those employed in cities more closely associated with global capitalism. This is evident in the gradual loss of open spaces—public and private, the prominence of vehicular traffic in the planning and design of urban built environments, the relaxed attitude towards allowing the sale of urban green spaces, and, most importantly, the selling of over development rights. The difference, the article argues, is not so much in essence than in degrees, notably in the local inertia if not reluctance of the urban governance system to mitigate the impacts of its excesses for its own good.