Positions 1997_1

Hans Joachim Harloff and Raffaela Blöink

Ecological Change in Urban Planning: Psychology’s Call

on Industrial Society’s Housing and Settlement Design

In the following text we present a model for making social changes. They will be profound and diverse, requiring the knowledge of subject areas in addition to our own fields of psychology and macroeconomic theory if our image of necessary and desirable social development is to be rounded out and made feasible. We do not regard our proposed ideas as complete or perfected but rather as a concept to spur further thought and work.

Global Ecological Problems and the Enduring Economic

Crises of Mature National Economies

It is no secret that current global ecological problems are primarily caused by the nature of economic life in the wealthy industrialized nations. They, not the populations of the economically underdeveloped countries, hold the key to elimination of the trouble.

It is not so well known that the economically wealthy countries are mired in a long-term crisis that many renowned experts do not think can be eliminated with traditional methods of controlling the economy. The rate of unemployment in the whole of Germany, for example, ranges around 10 per cent and is likely to rise. One increasingly hears about the "two-thirds society," a term suggesting that up to one third of all working people will eventually become unemployed if present economic conditions are maintained. In the long-term, care for the unemployed, retired people, the sick, and welfare beneficiaries is not affordable at prevailing levels. These facts give added cause to attempt social changes in the wealthy industrialized nations.
Those changes must be sustainable. The term is generally taken to mean that such changes are designed to improve the earth’s ecological conditions and ensure the long-term survival of human beings in the "Third" World as well as the "First" and "Second."

Ecological Change in Industrialized Nations

General Demands

In the 1970s it was asked what an ecological change might mean in the industrialized nations of the world. Then, as now, certain calls were repeatedly heard in this context: the idea of self-sufficiency, increased self-administration and grass-roots democracy, and the formation of small, manageable units. In what manner can demands like these be acted on in a highly developed society such as that in the Federal Republic of Germany? What do people stand to gain?

Unfortunately, psychological mistakes were made when these demands were elaborated upon. Advocates spoke of compelling people to reduce consumption, striving for zero growth, and renouncing affluent society. People automatically rejected all these demands. They do not want to be forced, do not want to give up things. They want to develop freely and improve their quality of life.

Only now is it clear that ecological change is indeed compatible with an increase in affluence and the quality of life. The crucial point is the psychologically correct definition of these terms. Along with physical health and the satisfaction of basic biological needs, affluence, quality of life, or, quite simply, happiness primarily means self-actualization in the social and intellectual domain and in the productive (active) economic realm. The latter means that a person wishes to make a meaningful contribution to his or her own livelihood and that of society, that is, wishes to do meaningful work. Self-actualization in the social domain is achieved when the individual is satisfied with his or her interpersonal relations. In the intellectual domain, it means something like living in harmony with one’s own moral and cultural values.

Making ecological change thus means that as many people as possible—

can perform what they recognize as personally satisfying work,

can develop optimally in the intellectual and cultural respect, and

live in harmonious, satisfying social relations. (One thing called for in this third point is that children be given ideal conditions for development; that adults find sound opportunity to form partnerships and establish friendships, and that old people may age and die with dignity.)

These first three conditions would pave the way well for the self-actualization of people and for their psychological health. At the same time, the social setting of human life must be shaped in such a way that—

the physical health of all individuals can be ensured on the broadest possible basis,

the human being’s basic biological needs (especially food, water, and shelter) can be satisfied, and
all human humans can live without fear.


Dual Economic and Social Order

To make ecological change a reality in the industrialized nations, we propose introducing a dual economic and social order. Our point of departure is the continued existence of the western capitalist economic and social system, that is, the retention of the market as the driving force and guide of the economy. However, half-time employment should be introduced. This change need not be imposed through government fiat; it could be achieved instead through low taxation of half-time jobs combined with very high taxation of full-time jobs, the intention being to reduce the motivation to work more than 20 hours a week. Couples with children would be granted additional relief, but only if both partners have half-time jobs.
Instituting half-time employment as the standard work time helps solve a number of problems. First, or course, is unemployment. Second, it would bring the goal of equal rights for women and men a quantum step closer to being achieved. Women could pursue their self-actualization in the world of work just as men could, and men would have more cause and opportunity to perform their domestic responsibilities and engage their talents in child-rearing and childcare. Third, as we shall see, a need is created for adults to pursue additional productive activities in the neighborhood. This is nonpaid work not recorded in the national accounts. Yona Friedman (1978) attempted to introduce the term "modernized quarternalization" (Modernized neighborhood production structure) for this dimension.

Alongside the production and control system of the market economy, we propose introducing a second system characterized best with the terms self-sufficiency and self-administration. By these expressions we mean that people living in the same neighborhood work together on their own in an organized fashion to provide for existence. This activity is pursued as a complement to the supply process that continues to operate via the rather anonymous macroeconomic production and distributional processes controlled by the market. The groups themselves decide which additional production is to be pursued at the neighborhood level. It seems reasonable, however, to apply this type of arrangement to such "goods" and activities as can be pursued especially well on the basis of knowing and living next to each other: not only for childcare, education prior to formal schooling, and the care of sick and disabled persons but also for many crafts bearing on the care and maintenance of dwellings, other buildings, and the quarter’s outdoor spaces. Under certain circumstances it is also imaginable that farming (of herbs, fruits, and vegetables, for example), food preparation (communal kitchens), and the altering and manufacturing of apparel could be engaged in. Basically, all these proposals are unspectacular. Most of them have already been made in one way or another and in other contexts. What is new is the proposal to introduce such a second, complementary neighborhood production-structure everywhere and thereby try simultaneously to—

eliminate imbalances of the current social order (unemployment), relative pauperization of retired persons and welfare recipients, the impossibly high cost of health care and institutional care of the sick and aged, and
contribute to a global ecological change.

The Task of Psychology

The introduction of such a modernized neighborhood production structure (quaternalization) can only succeed if the knowledge of psychology is kept in mind. As pointed out above, it was a psychological mistake if ecological change in the industrialized nations of the 1970s was often described as "back to the countryside" and/or "back to simple, work-intensive production methods," and if talk was of forcing people in wealthy countries to reduce or forego consumption and give up economic growth.
No one would like to return to quasi-medieval living conditions, no one would like to give up something, and no one likes being forced into something, even for one’s own good. It is therefore very important to emphasize that prosperity should not be reduced but that living standards should be increased by adding immaterial goods of the kind mentioned above. It must be stressed that the intention is not to renounce quantitative economic growth but to achieve qualitative social growth. It is important that people not be forbidden to work full time (because prohibitions create reactance) but rather that taxation be structured so that income from full-time employment is scarcely higher than that from half-time employment. People (men included) give up nothing if they work only half-time in the anonymous and often alienated structure of the market economy; they gain instead the opportunity to perform meaningful work for themselves and the members of their own group. That is, they can experience productive self-actualization.

For this objective to be met, however, it is necessary for work to be performed communally in the structure of self-sufficiency (i.e., each person can have a voice in discussion and decision-making) and for the responsibilities to be shared on the basis of each participant’s preferences and interests. In addition, it is psychologically important to grant each person the opportunity to work half-time in the basic structure of the alienated market economy because working there is ultimately still associated with much more prestige than working solely in the complementary structure of self-sufficiency because one is "unemployed."
Drawing on psychological knowledge, one also needs to remember that no person must be compelled to join the quaternary structure of self-sufficiency when it is introduced. Anyone can remain outside the groups that are to be formed (see below). The only disadvantage for those who do so is that they forego the advantages that membership offers.
Likewise, insights of psychology must be applied so that people do decide to join the quaternary structure complementing the market economy. In terms of housing management, for example, it is known from residential psychology and sociology that granting tenants a say in administering and maintaining all the dwellings of their building complex is not enough to move them to undertake small maintenance measures around and near the access points (such as changing a light bulb in a stairwell). That kind of behavior is elicited only in return for material advantage such as rent reduction or the granting of long-term protection from eviction coupled with protection from unjustified rent raises. To cite another example, it is known that a high level of environmental awareness is not enough to instill ecological behavior in a person. Savings in time and costs are required as additional incentives to acquire and switch to new, environmentally sound practices. It will therefore be necessary to offer material incentives for joining quaternary structures of self-sufficiency, at least in the beginning. The act of joining would, for example, entitle members of the structure of self-sufficiency to free use of its services, facilities, and output, whereas nonmembers will continue having to do business with the expensive commercial craft and service organizations. Further ideas about material incentives are presented in the next section.

Specific Demands Addressed to Urban

Planning and Housing Design

Basic Aspects Pertaining to Ecological

Structures of Self-sufficiency

The creation of the recommended structures of self-sufficiency draws on what is already familiar and what already exists and is completely voluntary. It builds, first, on traditional family and single-member households, which can join together in neighborhood groups ("small networks") and "ecoquarters" to support themselves (see below). Second, it is based on the housing and settlement structures that exist in the various parts of the city.
With our model for a complementary quaternary structure of self-sufficiency, the point of departure is thus people’s residential domain (as opposed to the domain of work and leisure) and the self-sufficiency (e.g., food preparation, childcare, and child-rearing) that always exists there in the context of many different residential activities. We facilitate or broaden them by including production suited to neighborhood communal supply processes. This focus on the residential domain is recommendable because social and environmental psychologists know that spatial proximity is a factor that can greatly promote the inception of neighborly and even friendly relations among people.

Home ownership, small networks, and ecoquarters are the pillars of the quaternary structure of self-sufficiency. Let us now describe these three elements in greater detail and explain why they are necessary.

A Basic Right to a Dwelling

Adults or families have a basic right to a dwelling. This should be made a constitutional right. It is given its full due only through home ownership, which is why executive acts should be used to grant tenants the right and opportunity to buy their rented accommodations if they so choose. Home ownership eliminates the fear of eviction and gives erstwhile tenants the right to do with their residential space whatever their needs and desires dictate. Home ownership by all tenants can be achieved if they are given the right to rent or lease their dwelling with an option to purchase it. The rent paid would henceforth be divided into an appropriate return on capital investment, which the tenant gradually amortizes vis-à-vis the owner, and a payment for maintaining the dwelling (and, on a prorated basis, for maintaining the exterior spaces that go with it). The rent-purchaser "saves" this premium and is henceforth responsible for the condition of the dwelling. The community of the building’s owners, made up of all rent-purchasers and home owners, see to the maintenance of the building as a whole and to its exterior spaces, including associated structures (e.g., garages and storage rooms).

The Formation of "Small Networks"

A "small network" consists of up to 30 families (including communes) and single-member households living next to each other. Drawing on Rusterholz, Harloff defined small networks as "ties or unions involving several proximate households whose residents pursue some form of communal self-sufficiency. The self-sufficiency aspired to and practiced can pertain primarily to material things . . . , it can be a social support system . . . , or it can involve joint intellectual-cultural activities." Depending on the type of housing and settlement structure, the small network of residents can consist of about 20 neighboring single-family houses. With blocks and free-standing rows of apartment houses with fewer than seven stories, the small network will consist of the residents of up to three buildings. With free-standing rows of apartment houses having seven or more stories and with point houses and slab houses in tall structures, the small network will consist of residents of one building, of one of its floors, or perhaps of several floors. The small network can thus be larger or smaller than, or identical with, the previously described community of owners of a multistory building of apartments that used to be rented.
The small network is the first-order structure of self-sufficiency. At that level the forms of self-sufficiency and self-help that take place are those in which participants know each other well and have at least good neighborly, if not friendly, relations. Such relations can mean, for example, giving moral support in emergencies; sharing leisure time; helping each other out with materials, appliances, and the like; looking after the children together; and going shopping for the other person. They can also range to caring for the sick and aged. All these forms of mutual support were practiced in classical small networks. These relations now also include simple interior maintenance work and joint care and repair of semipublic spaces in and around the house(s). Small networks have (sometimes in agreement with communal owners) the power of disposal over the use of hallways, stairwells, parking places, courtyards, and similar semipublic spaces belonging to the dwellings.
Much of the self-support in small networks will take place informally, as in traditional, functioning neighborhoods. For long-term, recurring tasks, however, a formal organizational structure such as an association, a civil corporation, or a cooperative is needed. In this context it is important that the residents of the small network have a large multipurpose room in which everyone can meet.

Formation of Ecoquarters

Ecoquarters are the second-order units of self-sufficiency. They consist of 200 to 500 neighboring households or anywhere from 15 to 30 small networks that belong together. These numbers, too, are only rough approximations. The group must be manageable in scope. The members still know each other, but in many cases only by sight. The ecoquarter is the place where all the services and output that cannot be produced in the single network are produced for the members or networks of members. Take major repairs and remodeling of the buildings, for example. At the level of the ecoquarter, the individual networks pool and exchange their expertise and specializations, including services in the social or leisure domain. If the share of children is high in the quarter, for example, childcare will take place at the network level; if there are but few children, one or two childcare facilities will be set up for the ecoquarter as a whole.
Ecoquarters emerge through ecological transformation and continued development of existing quarters. As with the small networks, ecoquarters start from physical structures that are already present; existing spatial conditions must be taken into consideration. This recommendation stems from the fact that a building’s physical structures promote the formation of groups. People living in the same multistory apartment building usually know each other. They happen to meet up at the entrance to the building, on the stairs, at the mailboxes, at the trash bins, and so forth. These chance encounters and the knowledge that they live in the same building creates affinities, we-feelings, and, hence, a loose group. These ties would serve as foundations for small networks and ecoquarters that one might wish to build. The same loose relation arises, for instance, among residents at the end of a residential street, around a cul-de-sac, or, in relatively large neighborhoods, by coming across each other when going about their daily affairs, sitting in the doctor’s office, standing at the counter in the drugstore, and so on. Because knowing each other and getting along is important to the residents of the ecoquarter, the architecture at this higher-order (second) level, too, should be designed to promote the rise of a we-feeling among residents of the same ecoquarter. It is not problematic where there are clearly delineated, appropriately large units, such as a "slab" high-rise containing 500 dwellings or a suburban settlement that is set apart from other developed sites by virtue of architectural style and/or a green belt. Where such delineation from the surrounding architecture is not present, it should eventually be created through structural alteration and rebuilding.
Whereas small networks have disposal of the semipublic spaces of and between their houses, the ecoquarters have disposal of the public spaces of the area they occupy, except, of course, where that jurisdiction is limited by the administrative authority of the city and, sometimes, the district. The ecoquarters require a permanent organizational and administrative structure more than the small networks do. This circumstance reminds one somewhat of the political structure in village communities, although the responsibilities in an ecoquarter are more diverse and different in nature. The organization and administration of ecoquarters is concerned with production management and the harmonization of needs from one small network to the next. The objective is to provide for the members of the ecoquarter and increase their prosperity, not so much to exercise sovereign functions. Nevertheless, there is a need for a council for the quarter and, sometimes, an administrator.

Concluding Observations: The Change in

Consciousness in Human Beings

It may be admitted that the economic crisis and imbalances of the highly developed economic society can be eliminated by means of the measures we propose. In particular, it seems certain that unemployment would end; that retired persons and welfare beneficiaries would cease being decoupled from society’s increase in prosperity; and that the exorbitant cost of caring for the sick, the handicapped, and the aged would be countered (because responsibility for such care would largely be returned to families and neighborhoods). But what about environmental protection, consideration for Third and Fourth World countries, ecological awareness, and consideration for future generations? These goals have not been forgotten. We have intentionally emphasized primarily the aspects of coping with crises and enhancing prosperity. We have also stressed the idea of meaningful work in the quaternary structure and self-actualization as it relates to group life and leisure. We are certain, however, that ecological objectives will be included as a kind of by-product.
The link is there. Many people who have heretofore worked 40 hours a week, especially singles, will earn less in the proposed dual economic and social order because they are either "employed" only half-time (in the basic structure) or taxed at a higher rate than used to be the case. It is true that they will be compensated somewhat through self-sufficiency if they join a small network, but they may nevertheless have cause to economize. The same thing may be true for a few others as well, but not everyone. For example, couples in which only one member has "worked" because, say, they had small children to care for, should not be worse off after the dual economic order is introduced, for they would be earning two half-time incomes. Indeed, their material well-being is likely to improve because of quaternary supplemental benefits. The same is true for welfare recipients and retired persons as long as their government benefits are not reduced.
More important is that additional "pressure" to save comes from the formation of small-network groups, from the midst of the group as it were. Take, for instance, the motor pool of a small network: twenty cars, motorcycles, motor scooters, and mopeds and forty bicycles. Each motorized vehicle, whether or not it is moved, incurs costs in taxes and insurance (perhaps also rent for garage space). And many of the vehicles sit motionless more than they travel. Because people in the small network constantly meet to organize the process of self-sufficiency and to see to concomitant quaternary "production," trust, the feeling of belongingness, friendships, and so forth grow. It would therefore be almost a miracle if people in the small network did not begin to reduce the costs of the motor pool by gradually using it communally. Basically, vehicles are not the only things characterized by this linkage. It is likely, therefore, that the strengthening of psychological ties within the small network will be paralleled by more and more encouragement for the members to regard themselves as a genuine group and exploit all the economic advantages thereof (i.e., savings on the consumption and use of material goods).

There is a third point as well. As people draw closer together, consumption behavior declines, for parts of consumption in today’s society are surrogates for social relations. Moreover, the chances that ecological objectives will prevail are much higher in a society where singles and small families are joined in small networks and ecoquarters than if individuals and small groups become or remain anonymous. These dynamics have to do with the pull and push effects of groups. These effects involve three aspects: (a) positive images are perceived better than in the anonymous, traditional neighborhoods (b) commitment (to try adopting different, more ecological behavior) is much stronger if declared to a group than only to oneself, for private resolutions can be broken without loss of face; and (c) in small, manageable communities there is pressure on deviant members. That is, adherence to stated ecological group goals is achieved by social pressure, too.
The comment about social pressure in small, manageable communities prompts us to point out that this pressure will never be all-encompassing in an urban setting. This is the beautiful thing about bringing ecological community structures into the city. The city has innumerable small networks and a host of ecoquarters (along with theaters, sports stadiums and other leisure facilities serving the city as a whole) that are so close to each other that the individual can pursue many highly individual interests of a spiritual and cultural nature by participating in the activities of a wide range of groups. Exploiting the city’s advantages, one can repeatedly find partial escape from the pressure of small, manageable communities and thereby maximize individual self-development, something that is unlikely in the village or other small social unit.
It may not be easy to gain acceptance for the dual economic and social order we propose. In political terms, however, there will eventually be no choice but to head in the direction just indicated. Of that we are virtually certain.