Friday quote: Super-Cannes by J G Ballard

A street in Cannes, autumn 2005

J G Ballard, Super-Cannes, chapter 29:

Thousands of people live and work here without making a single decision about right and wrong. The moral order is engineered into their lives along with the speed limits and the security systems.

Re-reading Ballard’s excellent Super-Cannes, since the way the winter afternoon sunlight suddenly caught a building a few days ago made me think sharply, momentarily, of the vast technology parks of Sophia-Antipolis. The above quote describes, essentially, architecture of control in a structural, sub-surface, context: in the sense of Robert Moses‘ low bridges, perhaps. Not just artefacts with politics, but entire environments and systems with agendas.

More on Ballard at the brilliant Ballardian.

(This is the first Friday quote for a long time. In fact there’s only been one previously; I’ll try to make it a regular feature of the blog. They won’t always be about architectures of control, but I’ll endeavour to make sure they’re always interesting.)


  1. Don

    Thanks for that. I’ve been asking myself what to read (fiction wise) when I finish my books for work. I have a copy of Super-Cannes that I picked up last year, so that it is!

  2. Adrian

    Another Ballard (not bollard) fan here…

    This quote made me think of Foucault’s “governmentality” – the idea that not only can the moral order be architected into the built environment, it can also be built into the way people think about and “govern” themselves.

    So neat, clean and efficient – no need for bollards, just “techniques of the self”.

  3. People collectively establish their own moral order (qf human rights).

    That ‘moral’ order can be imposed or architected into a community is an illusion. Architecture is either sympathetic to the predominant moral order or it is not. In the latter case, it then needs reinforcement by the state (whose doom is hastened in proportion to its lack of sympathy).

    A good example is copyright – an attempt by the co-opted state to persist a commercially oriented ‘moral’ order between publishers into one applying to society at large, that never actually existed.

    There is no predominant moral order that constrains people in making copies of art to share with their friends.

    Plagiarism bad, promotion good.

    ‘Thou shalt not copy’ was an economic artifice, and as an uneconomic artifice it shall end.

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