The Future City: cruel or consoling Utopia? LSE Cities Literary Festival discussion

Discussion of the LSE Cities Literary Festival series hosted by LSE Cities

The Future City, as an idea that often relies upon Utopian thinking to sustain itself, can be as cruel as it is consoling. Even as it makes possible investment into urban space as a site of future fulfillment, it regularly fails to deliver upon this promise. This panel asked what futures such Utopian thinking makes available for the city and what present realities it denies? It queried more specifically the Utopias that have come to structure London’s own particular futures. What Utopian thinking is operative, for instance, in a city so firmly structured around the logic of speculation intrinsic to finance capital? And what futures might present citizens be imagining for themselves?

The Future City: cruel or consoling Utopia? This event formed part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2016.

Event materials


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    Darran Anderson

    Darran Anderson is author of Imaginary Cities. He has written on speculative urban themes for publications such as Dezeen, Citylab and Aeon, on cities directly from Paris to Phnom Penh, and has given talks on the intersection of architecture with video games, science fiction, literature, politics and futurology at the likes of the V&A, the London Festival of Architecture and the Bristol Festival of Ideas.

    Matthew Beaumont

    Matthew Beaumont is is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at UCL and a Co-Director of UCL's Urban Laboratory. He is the author of two books on nineteenth-century utopianism and, more recently, of Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. He is also the editor of Restless Cities, among other essay collections.

    Rachel Cooper

    Rachel Cooper OBE is Distinguished Professor of Design Management and Policy at Lancaster University. She is Director of ImaginationLancaster. Her publications include Designing Sustainable Cities, Constructing Futures and Handbook of Wellbeing and the Environment. She is a non-executive Director of the Future Cities Catapult, and a Lead Expert for the UK Government Foresight programme on the Future of Cities, and is on the Academy of Medical Sciences Working group addressing ‘the health of the public 2040’.

    Richard Sennett

    Richard Sennett is Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and University Professor of the Humanities at New York University. His research interests include the relationship between urban design and urban society, urban family patterns, the urban welfare system, the history of cities and the changing nature of work. His books include The Craftsman (2008), The Culture of the New Capitalism (Yale, 2006), Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality (Penguin, 2003), The Corrosion of Character (1998), Flesh and Stone (1994) and The Fall of Public Man (1977). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Society of the Arts and the Academia Europea. He is past President of the American Council on Work and the former Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities. Recent honours and awards include The Schocken Prize, 2011; Honorary Doctorate from Cambridge University, 2010; The Spinoza Prize, 2010; The Tessenow Prize, 2009; The Gerda Henkel Prize, 2008; The European Craft Prize, 2008; and The Hegel Prize, 2006.