Johnson didn't forecast the vulgar and scandalous connection the mortgage banksters had with the ensuing housing crisis but it's ironic that the subtitle of his book, "A Blueprint for Survival in the 1980s, prescribes frugality as the 'pill we have to swallow' to dump the evils of hyper-consumption,
Paolo Soleri was convinced that we (gringos - but not just gringos) must adopt 'Frugality' as a central principle. Frugality is what will make it possible for the industrialized world to get on with the essential task of dealing effectively with its problematic over-consumption. Not an impossible hypothesis but I'd like know if we are sure precisely what, exactly, is going to be put in place when we have managed to adopt frugality as a principle.
"Frugality?" How do we come to agree what "frugality" requires? Might I have a detailed explanation, please?
How do we know it? How do we recognize differences between what's needed and what's wanted? What limits do we place, what limits can be placed, on how we make provision for material comfort, for our ourselves as well as for people who matter to us? People we know is one group; people we don't know is another group, right? That group of people we don't know is practically guaranteed to be a group with a larger number of people in it than the group of those whom we do know.
There are how many billion people on this planet? Of that number, you know - you've met - exactly how many? 1000? 10,000? A million? How many do you know by name?
The case can rest right there. But here's another test for you: Who gets to decide what's important? And: How do those deciders come to their decisions? Should every person be able to want or demand more than just what is needed for survival? How about aesthetic satisfaction? Or gratification of feelings about what is sacred? Honoring whatever people see as sacred?
'Frugal' seems an odd word to put anywhere near, for example, the stained glass windows of Chartres, the Shang bronzes, the intricate hand-knots of a Persian carpet.. The penmanship required for a sefer Torah. The musical manuscript notation of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven in a climate-controlled glass case.
Is it ironic that frugality as a conceptual basis for arcology implies political and social constraints as well as economic ones?
Paolo Soleri by his own admission had no social plan for development of the 'prototype' (model) he envisioned, hoped Arcosanti could/would become. Does it not seem incredibly naive, now, that he imagined an entire complex "urban laboratory" that would house 5000 people could be completely constructed by volunteers with only the oversight provided by the semi-skilled labor of the 'Mom and Pop' organization that their (Colly and Paolo's) Cosanti Foundation had available?
How such a complex hyperstructure could be totally built before any practically viable "community" existed to build it. is staggering, as assumptions go. But what is even more amazing is how that particular aspect of Paolo Soleri's legacy has served not only to impede his own aspiration to complete construction, but to have infected many of the volunteers whose efforts helped to construct the "Old Town," what is now in place on the site of Arcosanti.
Coming up with a practical development plan has been anything but straightforward and simple. Comparisons may be odious but it seems pointless to avoid them when there are available examples that are easily emulated.
Two I like, sophisticated and elegant (in the mathematical sense) can be seen in the link below, but Majora Carter isn't the only effective organizer in the world. Brilliant though she is, there are others, including spirited entrepreneurs who are operating as a collective. The Baba Yagas in France set a new standard for a type of 'co-housing' that is working very well. Jonathan Rose is not the only savvy modern developer, although he's a fine one, and Witold Rybczynski describes several, makes an excellent case for the bona fide capitalist variety in Urban Harvest.
All of which doesn't add up to a formula for developing Arcosanti as a prototype for arcology. If we don't know what sort of social organization makes arcology as much of a social structure as it is a physical container, stticky points can't help but turn eventually into sticking points. And then they turn into stuck - remain there like burrs on a woolly sweater or - worse - jumping cactus in the skin.
I've said before, I'll say again: What makes sense to me, to support the frugality intention of Arcosanti, is to form some type of a Workers Cooperative Members will be those who can commit to work together, share aspirations and skills, develop their ideas and actualize them, make them manifest in real time. At Arcosanti.
Lord love us - the place will practically build itself. Cooperation has always been a core value that shared aspirations cannot live without. Check out the videos below, from Praxis Peace Institute.