Patrolling the plaza: Privatized public space and the neoliberal state in downtown Los Angeles

Peterson, M.

Peterson, M. (2006). Patrolling the plaza: Privatized public space and the neoliberal state in downtown Los Angeles. Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, 35(4), 355-386.

Privatized public space reflects a current moment in the ongoing negotiation of the relationship between the state and the market that is a central concern of liberalism. The configuration of this relationship has consequences for the nature of citizenship and democracy in theory and practice. Emblematic of a shift to the privatization of urban public space, California Plaza provides a case by which to examine the multiscalar interests and machinations of the neoliberal state in practice. Exploring the meanings of public and private that are produced by a corporate plaza enables an assessment of how privatized public space helps constitute contemporary citizenship. Institutional and legal frameworks serve as a foundation for the relative publicness of the corporate plaza. Techniques of exclusion and control through design features and security measures exclude errant bodies and regulate the seamlessness of the desired public. At the same time, counter practices indicate the emergence of spaces and subjects that destabilize presumed notions of public and private.

Main finding
The author finds that the "general public" served by California Plaza is defined as intended users of the space, such as owners, workers, and consumers. The subtle fortification of certain entrances, the security, and constant surveillance discourage non-users from entering the space. Security guards were found to target individuals who did not exhibit practices or presentations of normal users. However, a rare protest by a security workers union revealed the possibility of circumventing established regulations and using the disruption of a sanctioned space to bring attention to political issues.

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted observations and interviews from 2002–2004.

Of practical use

Organising categories