International Workshop

Misplaced Ekistics? - Doxiadis in Pakistan
Markus Daechsel (History, University of Edinburgh)
My paper will probe to what extent Doxiadis' Islamabad project can be read as a case of a 'second-order ideology' or 'misplaced idea' in Roberto Schwarz's sense. Aside from political compulsions - the need to compete with India's commission of Le Corbusier; Doxiadis' strong links to the US - Pakistan's rulers could employ ekistic planning in order to paper over an inherent contradiction between Pakistan's political economy and the State's ideological superstructure. The point was not so much to import an ideological representation of modernism in order to conceal backwardness (a first order ideology), but to use an iconic but quarantined representation of modernism in order to justify the continuation of anti-developmental political strategies.

Like the British colonial regime before it, the bureaucratic-military alliance that dominated Pakistan from the early 1950s onwards required some form of 'modernization' ideology to legitimize itself. At the same time, the regime was particularly vulnerable to the very pressures that such modernization would bring in its wake and preferred in practice to deal with the powerbrokers of an artificially stabilized agricultural society. This contradictory attitude was already visible in the general attitude towards urbanity and urban planning that had prevailed in the colonial era: the British saw urban India as a threat which they could not control with the help of caste- and tribe-based collaborating notables. Their idea of planning was thus focused on a mixture of colonization and containment. While politically sensitive sections of the population - whites, government employees, soldiers - were settled in newly constructed suburbs deliberately removed from 'native' areas, Indian city life itself was as much as possible fenced in by the building of canals, railway tracts and slum clearing measures.

Doxiadis' Islamabad project allowed the post-colonial rulers of Pakistan to continue a similar anti-urbanity policy - at a countrywide scale - while at the same time dressing it up as an espousal of catch-up developmentalism. Ekistics related to a number of ideological motifs and requirements: the very project of comprehensive planning generated a sense of total state control and satisfied the prevalent science fetishism of the bureaucratic-military elite. At the same time, the emphasis on building anew and from scratch reinforced the colonizing tradition of British city-planning, as well as a long-established but often overlooked strand in Pakistani nationalism. Particularly in middleclass eyes, the new nation could only exist as a new construct, built on a tabula rasa and against - rather than on the foundations of - local society as it then existed. Ekistics in other words, allowed the Pakistani elite to construct a modernity of their own, but one that did not really impinge on political and economic realities on the ground and thus could not undermine their political and social predominance.