Our experience of cities are shaped by Neoliberalism and our options are to succumb or find possibilities for resistance.
It is controversial to suggest that inactivity, tuning out or turning off are possible forms of resistance, but as the interests of the 24/7 economy – production and consumption – are prioritised, sleeping may soon become the only viable option to disrupt its impact.
To sleep or to a lesser degree to live in a self-contained fashion, is to refuse to take part in the dominant system.
Dutch artist Doris Denekamp wrote an article on the subject in 2011 titled ‘Sleeping as an act of non-cooperation in neoliberal times’ She states:
‘To sleep means to stop with what we were doing – to pause. We stop working, walking, travelling, eating, producing. When sleeping we suspend activity and therefore it is unproductive in an economical sense. Sleeping collides with the neoliberal ideal of the 24/7 economy, production and consumption that never stops, creating cities that never sleep. The sleeper neither produces nor consumes’.
One of the differences between Dutch and English cities is the visibility (or invisibility) of the homeless in the city centres. The reason for this is due to a policy that was introduced in 2006 in the four largest cities in The Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht). The policy enabled thousands of homeless people to find help and support and be re-housed. It also set in motion a process of restricting non-productive activity from city centres. It is illegal to sleep rough in the city centre and you can be arrested for doing so.
The lack of people at night in many areas of the centre of Rotterdam leaves city at play with itself. Looping video advertising and automated street and building lights illuminate spaces for users that rarely appear.