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Official Reactions to Graffiti in New York City: Making Spaces of Distinction
Unformatted Document Text:  This generates two new questions. First, given the insignificance of graffiti, what factors do shape a city's economic structure and social composition? And, second, do all the inhabitants of a city benefit as is often claimed by the political elite? In answering these questions we will be able to offer an explanation for the moral panic over graffiti in New York City. According to Logan and Molotch (1987) the economic and social climate of a city is very much determined by the coalitions that form between local political elites, land owners, developers, financial institutions, multi-nationals and speculators. Logan and Molotch refer to such coalitions as ‘growth machines’. What unites these diverse social actors is a common interest in maximizing the ‘exchange-value’ of land at the expense of ‘use-value’. That is, they are interested in obtaining the maximum profit possible from ground rent and the buying and selling of land, as opposed to using land to satisfy basic needs (‘use-value’). In terms of possible profit from land-use, there is obviously a big difference between building a thirty story structure of office space and building a low rise unit that accommodates a small business. It follows that ‘growth machines’ are more interested in having large companies, multi-nationals, corporate agglomerates and residential developers as clients than those who use land in relatively modest ways. This leads us to the second question we posed earlier: Do all the inhabitants of a city ‘benefit’ when ‘exchange-value’ dictates land-use policy? While Peterson (1981) has argued that facilitating the accumulation of capital through public-private partnerships generates wealth that is eventually distributed throughout the social body, thereby promoting the well being of those who reside in the city, most social scientists disagree. Whereas Squires (1996) has suggested that Peterson's view is ideological, others have 20

Authors: Kramer, Ronald.
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     This generates two new questions. First, given the insignificance of graffiti, what 
factors do shape a city's economic structure and social composition? And, second, do all 
the inhabitants of a city benefit as is often claimed by the political elite? In answering 
these questions we will be able to offer an explanation for the moral panic over graffiti in 
New York City. 
     According to Logan and Molotch (1987) the economic and social climate of a city is 
very much determined by the coalitions that form between local political elites, land 
owners, developers, financial institutions, multi-nationals and speculators. Logan and 
Molotch refer to such coalitions as ‘growth machines’. What unites these diverse social 
actors is a common interest in maximizing the ‘exchange-value’ of land at the expense of 
‘use-value’. That is, they are interested in obtaining the maximum profit possible from 
ground rent and the buying and selling of land, as opposed to using land to satisfy basic 
needs (‘use-value’). In terms of possible profit from land-use, there is obviously a big 
difference between building a thirty story structure of office space and building a low rise 
unit that accommodates a small business. It follows that ‘growth machines’ are more 
interested in having large companies, multi-nationals, corporate agglomerates and 
residential developers as clients than those who use land in relatively modest ways.
     This leads us to the second question we posed earlier: Do all the inhabitants of a city 
‘benefit’ when ‘exchange-value’ dictates land-use policy? While Peterson (1981) has 
argued that facilitating the accumulation of capital through public-private partnerships 
generates wealth that is eventually distributed throughout the social body, thereby 
promoting the well being of those who reside in the city, most social scientists disagree. 
Whereas Squires (1996) has suggested that Peterson's view is ideological, others have 
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