What is Manchester?
Manchester was probably the first town in the world to become known as an industrial town. By the mid-19th century it was known as the cottonopolis; now it is known as a foremost center of and trend setter in popular culture. Band Joy Division is perhaps better known for its influence than its music; the same can be said about its reincarnation, the New Order and the Smiths.
Football players David Beckham, and George Best already in the late 1960s were pop stars in their own rights. Indeed the fame of George Best in the late 60s was reminiscent of that of the Beatles (Best 2003, 175; 269), with whom Best socialized himself. Now perhaps the best known Mancunian is Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese football player.
The transition of Manchester from a rusty industrial town into a postindustrial pop-city will be studied by using the definitions of postmodernity and postindustrialism by Mike Featherstone, Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard. Also the importance of culture to the city branding will be studied.
As the Fordism and post-Fordism not only refer to production regimes but also to consumption patterns, cultural forms, individual and collective identities, and patterns of social and political regulation, this should result in a greater understanding of Manchester’s specificity (Mole 1996, 19-20). As Manchester is trying to seek pastures new after the collapse of the textile industries, the possible answer as the new main source of income is to be found in entertainment, investment, tourism and service industries (Haslam 1999, xi). As the industrial Manchester was defined by the daytime labor, and hooked on pleasure, now only the pleasure remains. Manchester now lives of consuming, not of producing (ibid., xiv-xvi). A Mancunian, Noel Gallagher of the band Oasis recalls his youth:
“When my generation left school, they had only three choices offered them: football, music or the dole. That’s why there are so many big rock groups from the North” (ibid., xxvii).
The dawn of the industrial town: Manchester the cottonopolis
Manchester didn’t rise from the ashes by the dawn of the industrialism. It existed already in the Roman era, but since the mid-16th century it gained in importance by the introduction of textile manufacturing, and its mechanization since the 1770s, furthermore contributed to setting up new manufactures in the Lancashire region. The seminal invention in this process was the steam engine by James Watt, first used in textile factories in 1783 (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SCwatt.htm). Manchester was the centre of the Lancashire region that was involved in the development. (Goodman & Chant 1999, 31-32.)
The networking of raw materials into Manchester and finished products into surroundings was made possible by then exceptionally developed transportation systems; the other towns of the region – such as Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Blackburn and Preston - were connected to Manchester by canals. A railroad in 1830 – one of first in the world -provided another connection for the Lancashire towns to Manchester and thus contributing greatly to birth of an industrial region. (ibid., 32-33; 43.)
However, the label of cottonopolis doesn’t do full justice to the industrial Manchester. It had a burgeoning engine industry, although largely fuelled by the needs of machinery in the textile industry. Although Manchester expanded during the heyday of textile manufacturing (from 70 000 in 1801 to 505 000 in 1891), still it employed less than one fourth of the men. (ibid., 34-35.)
The manufacturing process applied by the Manchester’s cotton industry might have had pre-Fordist features, as its textile manufactures concentrated each only in one stage of the spinning process (Mole 1996, 21). However, in scale it can’t be called as properly Fordist as it would have implied the domination of a few large, vertically integrated firms. The cotton industry in Lancashire was occupied by numerous small family companies.
By the 1920s the Lancashire cotton industry became forced out by American and continental producers, providing new products produced by using new technologies, in competitive price and quality. Even on the protected domestic markets it faced the rising, low-cost competition from India, Egypt and China, so indeed the decay of the Manchester’s cotton industry was due to Fordist mass production (Mole 1996, 22-23).
What about the cityscape of Manchester, then? Even the factories were overshadowed by warehouses in its urban space. The city was of extremes of poverty and wealth. Its centre was conceived as “dead” as it was filled with smoke. (Goodman & Chant 1999, 40.)
“Manchester is an agglomeration, the most extraordinary, the most interesting, and in some respects, the most monstrous, which the progress of society has presented. The first impression is far from favourable. Its position is devoid of picturesque relief, and the horizon of clearness. Amid the fogs which exhale from this marshy district, and the clouds of smoke vomited forth from the numberless chimneys, Labour presents a mysterious activity, somewhat akin to the subterraneous action of a volcano… All the houses, all the streets, resemble each other; and yet this uniformity is in the midst of confusion… The waters of the Irk, black and fetid as they are, supply numerous tanneries and dye-works…From this apparently indifferent combination, there results a great economy both of time and wealth in production. There is perhaps good reason for complaint that too little attention has been paid to the health and convenience of the inhabitants; of the want of public squares, fountains, trees, promenades, and well-ventilated buildings; but it is certain that it would be difficult task to devise a plan by which the various products of Industry could be more concentrated, or by which the manufactories should be brought nearer to the fuel which feeds them, or more accessible to facilities for disposing of the goods when manufactured… During the greater part of the day, the town is silent and appears almost deserted… You hear nothing but the breathing of the vast machines, sending forth fire and smoke through their tall chimneys, and offering up to the heavens, as it were in token of homage, the sighs of that Labour which God has imposed upon man. At certain hours of the day the town appears suddenly animated. The operatives going to, or returning from their work, fill the streets by thousands…but even at those times when the inhabitants relax from their arduous duties and give free course to their feelings, they lose nothing of that serious and angular stiffness, which a too exclusive occupation in industrial pursuits communicates to them… ” (Goodman & Chant 1999, 68-70; originally Faucher, L (1844): Manchester in 1844: its present condition and future prospects, London, Simpkin, Marshall, and Manchester, Abel Heywood, pp. 16-19, 90-93.)
Manchester for Europe – never mind London
The idea of Europeanness and cosmopolitanism and the aim of being number one in Europe or in the whole world is a way of by-passing the London’s cultural dominance. The Mancunian rock bands and football clubs are a source of pride for local people. Manchester United is not only the number one in England, but it aims continuously to be that in Europe and in the whole world. Manchester United is perhaps the best known football brand – or sports brand in the world, for that matter.
As London is by nature and history as the earlier capital of the British Empire essentially a cosmopolitan city, Manchester claims also cosmopolitan rights in a backward and rough Northern style. Yet it desperately imitates London or at least, relates itself to London and refers to London (Savage et al 2005, 132-133). The seminal influence of the rising rock culture in Manchester in the latter part of the 70s was Sex Pistols, a London band (Milestone 1996, 97-98). As Bernard Sumner of Joy Division recalls:
“I saw the Sex Pistols. They were terrible. I thought they were great. I wanted to get up and be terrible too.” (ibid.)
Manchester the popmodern city: a conscious strategy or did it just happen?
Does the transformation of Manchester result from conscious decisions or did it just happen? The fortunes of postindustrial or postmodern cities increasingly rest on culture and creativity in their image building, this assumed to have economical trade-offs. Culture as a “soft” industry (as a contrast to the traditional industry) is a major raw material for postindustrial societies (http://www.charleslandry.com/). The postmodern city reconfigures the metropolitan areas around selective connections of strategically located activities (Castells 1998, 144).
`where a bustling office and retail economy combines with a thriving and diverse cultural, entertainment, and visitor economy to provide a prosperity shared by the whole community' (City of Portland, 1991: 4).
This idea of diversity as presented in marketing of Portland is also applied in Manchester in order to attract lifestyle consumers. Cities compete and distinguish themselves by making themselves sites of consumption in which to satisfy demands for commercialized leisure, recreation and seeking for new experiences. (Lees 2003, 614.) Diversity promises a harmonious, win-win picture of future urban development that could attract a heterogeneous coalition of small business owners, corporate interests, arts and educational institutions, municipal officials and residents. (ibid., 622)
The strategic players essential to the forming of Manchester’s new identity are the labour-controlled local authority, the private sector, the Urban Development Corporation and the cultural intermediaries or the pop bohemians (Milestone 1996, 94). Much of Manchester’s recent inner-city activity has been fuelled by the urban development corporations and run by public-private sector partnerships, Task Forces and City Challenges.
The UK urban regeneration was imported into Britain in the early 1980s from the United States by the second Thatcher government. The targeted inner city areas in mostly Northern industrial cities were mainly held by the Labour party, and urban regeneration was to be seen as a response to post-war failure of socialist policies of the 1960s and 1970s. The Thatcher government wanted to encourage free enterprising for ideological reasons, this unfortunately being done at a time of a massive de-industrialisation. This urban regeneration was despised by the Left as a symbol of Thatcherism, hardly supported let alone implemented by the local governments for this reason. Later urban regeneration from the early 1980s was based on a conscious and explicit shift of the economic base from manufacturing to service industries (Mole 1996, 16-18). The Northern Urban Agenda aimed at upgrading the ailing industrial towns of Northern England since the mid-1990s (P. Hall 2002, 417-418). Manchester’s recreation as a cultural city was deeply involved with de-industrialisation and the re-imaging process associated with competition for inward investment (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 71).
A new order?
How has the new cultural turn succeeded? In a study by Young and Lever (1997) it was found that rather few companies relocated to Manchester due to the Northern Urban Agenda, which used culture to promote the image of Manchester. However, Manchester has been quite successfully marketed to customers, referring to tourists. (T. Hall 2006, 94.)
Perhaps the main manifestation of urban renaissance is gentrification. Urban revitalization strategies aim to attract the middle-class back as residents and taxpayers, but also as consumers. Gentrification of the centre implies the shift from production to consumption, and such entrepreneurs as restaurants and (exclusive) shops are crucial to this. It happens within global economic shifts, including the increasing abstraction of the market, the internationalization of capital and the centrality of consumption to the structuration of the economic system. (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 51-52)
The fordist spinning factories in Manchester have been replaced by post-Fordist ”pop” designers with flexible and specialist production methods (Purvis 1996, 118). The pop fashion designers are durably successful because they are embedded in their cultural scenes, with their consumers and with other cultural sectors, which, in turn are networked with intelligentsia (Magatti 1993, 35-36; O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 9; Milestone 1996, 102). Gentrification is not just about the redevelopment of the inner city areas, but it also provides a higher profile for groups within the new middle class not only as consumers but as well as producers and carriers of alternative and minority lifestyles by attracting them deliberately (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 77). In Manchester, the new middle class should be replaced with bohemians (Milestone 1996, 105).
Factory for sale - “Hang out with rock stars”The plan by The Central Manchester Development Corporation (CMDC) to present the image of the new city to developers, private entrepreneurs and the people of Manchester, ear-marked the area between Castlefield and the centre of a large area of disused land and parking lots for a “cultural quarter”. Also a large Victorian goods warehouse was to be developed into a “Festival shopping centre”. The CDMC became a cultural intermediary by justifying cultural value to have economic trade-offs (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 67).
Previously a working class area of Oldham street was neglected in the 60s and 70s as many workplaces closed and residents left. Later Manchester’s “youth cultural” scene has developed the area with shops, bars and clubs. Afflecks Palace, previously disused three story building, has been converted into low rental units for producers and consumers of the “pop” culture. And what has now become a gay village had previously been a neglected area. (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 73-74.) An old warehouse can be converted into a hotel, advertising itself with the rock stars that had been sleeping there (Haslam 1999, xix).
In 1978, the fortunes of a run-down inner-city area of Factory club’s changed suddenly to the better by the launching of its Friday Nights; later on, one of the founders of the Factory set up a record company with the same name, exporting Joy Division. According to Bernard Sumner of Joy Division, the spatial and social dislocation in Manchester played a role in the formation of the sinister music of Joy Division. (ibid., xxiii-xxiv).
“The place I used to live, where I had my happiest memories, all that had gone. All that was left was a chemical factory. I realized then that I could never go back to that happiness. So there’s this void. For me Joy Division was about the death of my community and my childhood.”
If factories can be sold, traditions, values and societies are not for sale. The identity forming in the global information flow era takes forms of reactionarism, defensiveneness, fundamentalism, nationalism, territorialism and anti-commercialism. (Castells 1997, 65-66.) Re-emphasizing the locality as a source of meanings and identity is a counter-reaction to the globalization (Featherstone 1995, 95-96).
While football clubs represent societies, as transnational corporations they can be sold. When the American tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought the major share in Manchester United, the loyalist and localist supporters founded a new club, The United of Manchester. It can be seen as a reaction to the global capitalism, as an example of new rise of territorialism and anti-commercialism (http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=1961184755).
Manchester – a victim for a belated and deliberate Fordism
Due to booming economy – based on declining industries - of the post-WW II Great Britain, the underlying societal problems were neglected. “Cynics might compare the postmodern spectacle of Manchester’s canal, Whitworth Street and Piccadilly Village with the Potemkin villages along the river Niva, built to impress the Tsar and obscure the squalor and deprivation behind them”. Favouring of private over public consumption has lead to widening inequalities in income, wealth and life chances (Mole 1996, 40-43.)
The stalling of the continuous economic growth in the 1970s was perhaps nowhere as evident as in the UK towns. The labour government of 1964-1970 belatedly forged a Fordist mass scale system into Manchester when the Fordism was beginning to disintegrate. Local labour markets collapsed, whole areas declined and became dependent on declining subsidies from the state, student occupancy and underground economic activity (ibid., 23-27). Greater Manchester’s economy, its labor market and industrial structure, is still suffering from the consequences of a failed national political strategy. Its consequences are:
- continuous and massive loss of manufacturing employment
- service industry employment increases but not sufficiently to compensate for the decline in manufacturing employment, itself suffering job loss in the recession of the late 80s and early 90s
- the proliferation of poorly-paid and part-time work, especially suffered by women
- high aggregate levels of unemployment approaching 50% in some wards of the city, for some age groups and ethnic minorities. (Mole 1996, 31.)
Besides the non-desirable social and economic consequences, the disintegration of Fordism also has lead to great cultural disruption, especially in the Northern towns, where identity has largely been based on manual and industrial labor. In his comparative analysis of responses to industrial competition in Italy’s Ticino Olana and Lancashire, Magatti found out that in Lancashire, “industrial transformation destroyed not only the traditional specialization in cotton but also local industrial identity” (Magatti 1993, 216-217)
Is Manchester a postmodern city or just postindustrial?
According to O’Connor and Wynne, there have been three interwoven main themes in the postmodern urbanity discussions in the 1980s and 90s:
1. A process of restructuring in which many of those activities deemed peripheral to the activity of the “productive” or “Fordist” city have now moved centre stage and become a major concern for cities; culture, consumption and image
2. A gentrification, whereby a reversal of the movement out of the city centre by the affluent classes results in a “re-centralisation” of previously “marginal” areas of the city centre
3. The process whereby previously “marginal” groups and their activities have been made central to the city and/or have made the city centre central to themselves – not just residentially, but also by their uses of the centre, and by such usage being promoted, by themselves or others, as a primary sign of the “centrality” of that centre. (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 4.)
The new entrepreneurship meets the following challenges in a postmodern Manchester:
- do they (new cultural enterprises) represent a different logic of the city’s economy or are they marginal and superficial?
- is their potential scope and significance greater that is indicated in the statistics?
- are they anything more than the lifestyle choice of an unrepresentative, urban middle class? (Magatti 1993, 38-39.)
If Manchester is a postindustrial city, is it postmodern? In a Featherstonian sense it might well be. Firstly, if consumption has a growing importance in forming Manchester and its economy, as postmodern cities are characterized by the expansion of the cultural sphere and leisure consumption, spaces of play and entertainment (Featherstone 1991, 96-101). Not only the use value of products is consumed but also mediated cultural activities and signifying practices, signs and images. (Featherstone 1995, 75.)
An empirical research by Wynne (1992), emerging from a consultancy document by the regional arts board in conjuction with the local city economic regeneration agency, The Economic Importance of the Arts Cultural Industries in Greater Manchester (CER, 1989) examined new forms of cultural consumption and the construction of lifestyle in the contemporary Manchester. These forms were associated with the following trends:
1. the dramatic increase in the production and consumption of symbolic goods
2. the shift of consumption from use value to sign value
3. the destabilization of established symbolic hierarchies through the articulation of alternative tastes and styles
4. the rise of popular and commercial cultures as alternative forms challenging established “high culture”
5. the emergence of new urban spaces creating “play spaces” for new forms of sociability, leading to;
6. new forms of display and social mixing representing a movement away from rational goal directed activity, permitting a more playful, carnivalesque exploration of emotions – a preoccupation with the esthetization and “stylization of life” as opposed to more fixed lifestyles (Mole 1996, 4.)
Three significant results from this research suggest that:
1. the emergence of a “mix and match” lifestyle amongst the 18-35 age group who are the most prominent in the use of the cultural and leisure facilities of the city centre, usually associated with artistic, bohemian or counter-cultural milieus
2. the extension of the notion of “cultural intermediaries” from the new middle class to a much wider range of the population, through the increased involvement of popular culture in the creation of the new city centre sites of consumption
3. these new and extended forms of cultural consumption, characterized by rapid turnover and complex distinctions, were feeding directly into involvement in cultural production to supply these new markets (Mole 1996, 5.)
Secondly, we have to assume the everyday life in Manchester to be estetized, a typical condition in postmodernity, especially in large towns (Featherstone 1991, 23.) These towns are places for flaneurism, artistic and intellectual counter-cultures, bohemians and artistic avant-garde, being the essential intermediaries of meanings and experiences of places. (Featherstone 2001, 80-87). Nevertheless, gathering of bohemians, avant-garde and counter-cultures in big cities is nothing new. They were already found in big cities in the mid-19th century.
The displacement of the industries in the many industrial towns in 70s and 80s Britain suggests that if modernism is to be treated synonymously with industrialism, cities like Manchester are now certainly living a post-industrial era. However, Manchester will be unable to develop a sustainable post-Fordist economy without fundamental changes in policy and social institutions and support from local governments. If Jameson is right, it is not postmodern. If postmodernity is deemed to be a reaction for modernity, a proper postmodernity is an alternative to modernity, requiring a radical break of it. It is not a revised edition of modernity, modernity 2.0 or mature modernity. (Jameson 2002, 215.) Jameson uses the term of postmodernism as there is no better alternative available at the moment, neither for Jameson or for Manchester.
As for Jameson this break primarily is an aesthetic one rather than a break from social or societal conditions of modernity, he has no answer for the challenges of postindustrialism. In a Baudrillardian view, the current era is of a simulation, where social reproduction replaces industrial production as the organizing principle of the society. Labor is not primarily productive but a sign of one’s social position and way of life. (Kellner 1994, 7-9.)
It would indeed be out-of-place to claim that the collapse in industrial production and the erosion of industrial work based identities would represent anything else than a void in social relations, emptied meanings in everyday life and indeed in the deprived livelihoods of the many of the Manchester’s working class. There is nothing ironic in their fates. It would be absurb to claim that their everyday life world would be fittingly called as esthetisized, or that they would have become all of a sudden from consumers to producers of the public urban space. Besides, consumption is not just a matter of wants, desires, attitudes, culture etc.; but of money too! (Mole 1996, 42).
The entertainment industries that mark Manchester – football and music – employ by spin-offs in advertising, marketing and designing, as networking is typical of this branch (Haslam 1999, xv). Nevertheless, the scale importance of these spin-offs is exaggerated. Magatti suspects that post-Fordist economy would ever employ significantly in Manchester, the “celebrated cultural industries employing less than 1% of the workforce” (in 1992). And stamping of cultural industries or fashion as postindustrial is by no means unproblematic as they produce in their own rights as well (Magatti 2003, 31-34).
If the new centre of Manchester has gentrified into cosmopolitan and diverse, this is in a contrast with the largely unchanged livelihoods of its suburbs, with concentrated poverty, unemployment and intolerant tendencies (O’Connor & Wynne 1996, 71-72.)
From the effects Magatti refers to are excluded the impacts on Mancunians’ self-perception of their city as lifted up by the celebrated Prides of Manchester. The best known “palace” of the entertainment industries in Manchester, the football stadium of Old Trafford is a theatre of dreams indeed! (Moore 2003, 199).
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