Cities in the pandemic, by Richard Sennett

Richard Sennett speaks about cities in the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the american sociologist and historian who teaches at the London School of Economics and New York University, this pandemic challenges us to think about questions related to the cities that will last longer than the crisis. Among the issues, Sennett analyzes the powers of the leaders, thinking of ways to combat inequalities between a middle class that can be considered “safe” and an exposed working class. Green cities and the use of technology to assert the power of communities are also part of the questions raised by the sociologist.

In raising questions exposed by the italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben and the french sociologist Alain Touraine about the state of exception and state regulations in people’s lives during World War II, Sennett highlights how power structures can exploit crises to legitimize expanded control. The sociologist emphasizes that we must not minimize the Covid-19 pandemic, but we must remain on the alert not to panic, as it can be an “opportunity” for this state exploration to be resumed.

With rules and regulations that can last longer than the pandemic itself, the regulators of public spaces that dictate social distance and the dispersion of crowds, can maintain these regulations, ensuring that such measures are a preventive way for new crises. According to the sociologist, “the social distance, necessary during the current crisis, threatens to become a norm, imposed by the government, even after people, thanks to an effective vaccine, no longer have a convincing reason to fear the proximity of others” .

Urbanists from different locations around the world need to find ways to make this social distance more flexible, thinking about the dynamics of cities and ensuring the participation of life on the streets. This is a challenge that, according to Sennett, may require an economic revolution, especially in cities that are in industrial development. Thinking about healthy and green cities, taking into account climate and behavioral changes in the lives of workers, has become essential at this time.