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David Hickey’s “Dialectical Utopias”, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 768

Essay

David Hickey’s “Dialectical Utopias” investigates the architecture of desire in human beings in various ways. If granted the opportunity, humans always construct and pursue their dreams that become a sort of personal utopia, a tile within a mosaic full of tiles. Within the context of the modern city and the vagaries that undergird modernity itself, all urban dwellers construct their own personal utopias. However, Hickey pinpoints Santa Fe, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada as two major cities in which a unitary dream permeates as two of the most auspicious enterprises located in American deserts since the touted Persepolis. Hickey dubs these respective cities as “dialectical utopias” despite the fact that these urban centers can be discursively framed as complementary and/or contrapositive utopias. However, Hickey argues that the term “dialectical utopias” is the most accurate since the two urban centers are in constant dialogue with one another, although neither side acknowledges the other. The author thus articulates his arguments based on his empirical experiences in these locales while attempting to subdue his personal utopian visions, although there is a reason that he chose to live in Las Vegas with all of its glibness and superficiality over Santa Fe.

At the core of this article is a diachronic analysis and comparison between Las Vegas and Santa Fe and what these so-called dialectical utopias represent within the context of modernity. Hickey posits that there remains a ceaseless tension between hierarchical elites within American democracy and its associated commercial culture, which is evident in the popular cities of Las Vegas and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He points out that in the context of Santa Fe, people are able to exercise their preferences that are elitist and stringently hierarchical devoid of the confusions that are innate in the realm of commercial democracy. In the city of Las Vegas, dubbed “Sin City,” an individual can experience the vagaries of commercial life devoid of the burden of wasted time, or, as Hickey states, eternal values. As such, the author marvels at the fact that in Las Vegas and Santa Fe, social elites mingle with others who belong to a different culture and social echelon. These two locales, Hickey argues, are liminal locales in which the poor can join the ranks of the wealthy and rich with just one turn of the card gambling in Vegas. Thus, Hickey contends that there are two distinct sides in urban America, each of which is pure and unsullied by the other . Both of the sides of the coin are glamorous because of the pure shock value of extravagance therein.

Hickey did a great job succinctly tracing the fundamental and structural differences between Las Vegas and Santa Fe. Santa Fe germinated as a tourist destination, which the railroad facilitated therein, as the city of Santa Fe is quite old. The mob, via the highly, essentially invented the city of Las Vegas. Despite the fundamental differences between the cities aforementioned, it is clear that they are both microcosms structured by a unitary paradigm of the so-called Great American Desert. The competing mythologies analyzed above are eerily similar, which indicates that of Santa Fe and Las Vegas amalgamated, the product would resemble a typical urban center in the American West. Hickey opines that the product of fusing Santa Fe and Las Vegas, arguing that Santa Fe would supersedes Las Vegas as the “upper crust” in the new polity in addition to leading a “guardian liberal establishment and the indigenous lower depths—the white top and the brown bottom…–while Vegas would provide the green middle—the vast mercantile center of American society.” Such a diachronic analysis of major metropolises and cogent juxtaposition is quite fascinating, which reveals Hickey’s preferred locale.

This article is polemical by nature which means readers must view his articulated opinions with a grain of salt. Such a discursive approach to urban studies is fascinating and unique, although it somewhat detracts from the currency of the central thesis. Indeed, Hickey admits that “at the outset to my preference for the real flakery of Las Vegas over the fake reality of Santa Fe—for the genuine rhinestone over the imitation pearl.” This comparative article is well-written and insightful regarding urban spaces and related discourses. While well-written and in-depth, the overwhelming amount of theory applied in it in addition to pedantic lexicon often foments confusion in students who are unable to discern what Hickey means by “architecture in relation to major cities.

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