The Philosophers' Magazine (2022)
COVID has transformed city life. We see each other differently; many of us, for a while at least, didn’t see each other at all. We meet each other in different places. We’ve discovered or invented whole new classes of heroes and essential workers. Housing prices are up (along with the prices for everything else), access to mortgages has tightened, and we are only just recovering from a steep increase in unemployment. A rise in labour militancy has followed suit, from the Starbucks and Amazon unionization drives to the RMT strike. The general state of agitation kindled the reaction to the murder of George Floyd, the anti-crime backlash, and public protests of lockdowns and vaccination policy. We’ve taken to the streets in other, less overtly political ways; in New York City, where I live, the Open Streets program and changing regulations have allowed pedestrians and restaurant-goers to seize space previously reserved for cars. And of course, the ongoing public health crisis, which has played out very differently in different economic strata, has brought us nose to nose with the failures of our basic institutions.
What should we do with these changes? Which should we maintain or accelerate, and which should we roll back? If cities have failed to rise to the challenges of COVID, how can they succeed in the future?