The names given to the identified Cultural Traits are those labels
currently used in our language for various social principles; these
appear to most closely correlate with the processes found within the
Understanding the Framework
Maslow proposed that, in relation to his Hierarchy of Human Needs,
a healthy human being would attribute increasing importance to the
higher levels of the Hierarchy as he/she grows and develops. A baby
is exclusively interested in satisfying its physiological needs
(food, water and warmth). As infant grows into toddler, then personal
security needs gain in importance and so on. At the stage of the
mature adult all needs will, on average, be treated with equal importance,
giving precedence to specific needs as circumstances dictate.
It is proposed that the Sustainable City Framework be considered
in a similar manner. Starting from tens of thousands of years ago,
as human groupings and latterly cities develop and evolve, they
progress up the Framework from the base level. Incrementally, over
generations, the Culture of the society in a healthy city matures
and places greater emphasis on fulfilling the Cultural Traits that
lie higher up the Framework. Cultures in history, and others present
today, can be seen to have faltered at different levels of the Framework
and been unable to progress. For example, through heavy reliance
on slavery, Ancient Greek culture failed to achieve inter alia Social
Mobility. For various reasons, Roman culture failed to embrace Sustainability.
At each Level of the Framework, positive feedbacks exist, such
that achievement of a cultural trait (and the other associated factors,
under City and Population) reinforce each other to continually improve
performance in each column at that Level. It is proposed that there
are, however, also negative feedback mechanisms that can erode performance
at a particular level and can ultimately lead to pathological behaviour
of a city society.
Analysing our modern cultures in cities of the Western world, it
can be seen that we have partially achieved all levels of the Framework.
However, there is clearly room for improvement in order to ensure
that our cultures fully embrace the higher levels of the Framework,
enabling individuals within our populations to achieve their own
human aspirations. Other modern Cultures are clearly still struggling
to embrace Critical Thinking and Justice, leave alone the higher
levels. The caste system in India is a good example of hindered
Explanation of the Cultural Traits
The value of this Framework is that it shows the importance that
Culture has on the progress of development of cities. This is a
factor which has heretofore been largely ignored within studies
of the sustainability of cities, but which is nowadays being taken
seriously by businesses and corporations in terms of their own success.
The Framework identifies distinct cultural traits and provides a
means to define much more clearly what (for example) Sustainability,
as a cultural trait or social principle, represents.
According to the ideas of Jane Jacobs, cities were originally trading
centres. Through this they have always been the centres of economic,
technological and cultural development within society. She identified
that a defining feature of cities is their role as cultural mixing
pots, bringing together through trade peoples from diverse cultures
and geographical locations. The first hint, and eventually the full
revolution, of Giddens’ Modernity became evident within cities,
because of their ability to break down cultural barriers and emancipate
individuals to achieve freedom of thought. The manifestation of
this is Science.
A good example of the generation of Justice arose from the need
of mediaeval European cities to build city walls for their own protection.
The process of constructing a city wall required social organisation,
which in turn necessitated the implementation of a basic legal system.
The outcome of the whole process was a city wall, which protected
all the inhabitants of the city. Social organisation requires justice,
based on some form of legal system. In turn this enables economic
activity and social structures to exist and grow.
Sustainability has been loosely described as the balancing of social,
economic and environmental aspirations (the Triple Bottom Line);
the Framework does not conflict with this definition. It infers
that Sustainability is a process where individuals working together,
or in close proximity, to improve the quality of the environment,
develop closer and stronger communities. Hence social capital and
environmental quality are linked and mutually reinforce. The outcome
of the actions at the individual and community level is regeneration
of the wider city. In contrast, social and environmental decay can
be seen frequently to go hand-in-hand.
Freedom of Information
Level 4 of the Framework addresses the flow of information through
society. At the individual level, access to information enables
people to become educated and find out about the opportunities in
the economy and society which may be available to them. At the business
level, this allows companies to access markets and is particularly
beneficial for small enterprises. The outcome of this is a thriving
and continually diversifying economy and individuals are able to
access employment, which gives them self-esteem and self-confidence.
While Freedom of Information will enable people and businesses
to become aware of opportunities, they may not be able to take advantage
of them unless the culture in the society allows them. In highly
hierarchic societies (such as the Indian caste system) large proportions
of the population are excluded from being able to succeed and advance
themselves because of their birth. Embracing Social Mobility breaks
down the social hierarchy and allows everyone to follow their own
ambitions and aspirations. In this way the whole of society can
participate in the adventure of creativity, innovation and exploration,
enabling society to advance socially, environmentally, technologically