Perfection: Does it lean toward balance or perversion? How democracy and the urban grid inform about the human condition

Gert De Roo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Universal, complete and pure, these criteria for 'closed' perfection, captured in a static, closed system environment, are often seen as ideal. It's an illusion, and that is explained through the urban grid. 'Competitive' perfection is another illusion, represented by neoliberalism. With reference to the urban grid, neoliberalism and democracy, this contribution makes it clear that perfection easily leads to perversion. The alternative presented here is to see the 'ideal' not only in relation to the 'real', but also to the 'relative' and the 'relational', a total of four philosophical connotations that value our perceptions in complementary ways. This alternative does not explain the world in terms of closed or open systems, but instead aims to add a third perspective, the complex adaptive systems, which represent dynamic environments within which tendencies toward temporarily balanced situations can be seen. The urban grid can not only be understood in terms of closed systems but as well in terms of open and complex adaptive systems. Neoliberalism allows self-interested individuals to cannibalize the open system of public decision-making, hijacking democracy and resulting in a faulty balancing of interests. A healthy democracy, on the other hand, can be seen as a complex adaptive system that constantly seeks balance in a process of collective decision-making, at least if it wants to remain fair, humane, responsive and vital. Perfecting democracy then means perfecting the balancing processes of 'free' and 'equal' decisions under conditions that are as well empowering and emancipated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Crisis of Democracy in the Age of Cities
EditorsJuval Portugali
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages40
ISBN (Electronic)9781803923055
ISBN (Print)9781803923048
Publication statusPublished - 17-Oct-2023

Publication series

NameCities series
PublisherEdward Elgar

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