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I once quoted to my father, who is of a Marxist disposition and considers patriotism “the last refuge of scoundrels”, the famous words of Sir Walter Scott:
This is my own, my native land!
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Unwept - 'd
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.”
My father insisted that Scott’s censures did not fall on him because all these sentiments attached in his case to his home town for which he has – I can bear witness – a fierce love. Aristotle in Book VII of the Politics lays down criteria for the maximum size of a city which my and my father’s home town both greatly exceed.
Father - Home - Town - Liverpool - Century
My father’s home town of Liverpool was founded in the thirteenth century by bad king John. In two years my city, Newcastle, will be nineteen hundred years old, founded by the emperor who tried to wipe Jerusalem from the map and, nine hundred years later, re-founded by the Duke of Normandy who would go on to liberate Jerusalem at the end of the First Crusade.
The constitutional developments forced upon John by his barons and the eradication of the earthly Jerusalem and its reconquest in the name of its heavenly counterpart are not unconnected to the evolution of the city itself as an institution over the last two thousand years, an evolution in which the connection between the concrete and the abstract has been stretched to breaking point and perhaps beyond.
City - Concentration - Homes - Places - Business
What is the city? A large concentration of homes and places of business under defined political authorities? The quintessential human community? Both? What then of those human communities that exceed the visible city in dispersal and numbers?
The use of the category of ‘city’ for the quintessential human community surely implies...
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