GONE WITH THE WIND: PHYSICAL SPACES IN THE THIRD GENERATION METROPOLIS
This paper makes an attempt to deal with the description, and possibly the explanation, of the profound transformation of the city, and of the changes in urban experience and practices, connected with the shape of contemporary urbanization. I stress the term description, because as it occurs in all periods of fast social changes, our conceptual tools tend to become blunt before we realize that normal science keeps failing us. The city is a complex and ambiguous object, as it is constituted by two parts, or orders of facts, inextricably bound. One is visible, i.e. observable through physical wavelengths: the other is not physically visible and can be grasped only by intellectual tools. Arrangements in the second order of facts, though, are responsible for arrangements in the first one, in the sense of producing them, and these in turn affect the former ones, although in ways and in degrees that are far from being clear. In general, decoding between the two order of facts is hazardous and has not produced a set of rules widely consented upon. This is why I remain very skeptical and in some cases outright critical of models stressing continuities in the concepts of civic organization, by referring to traditional urban forms. Reminiscent of Anthony Gidden's sharp statement that the city is one of those social forms that display "a specious continuity with pre-existing social orders" (Giddens, (1990) The Consequences of Modernity, Stanford University Press, Stanford, p. 6) I will try to etch analytical tools capable to clarify at least a few processes that are shaping civic life in contemporary metropolis.
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