Daily rhythms and scenarios will usually drudge along in the formats in which they are long familiar. It is not as if the look and the characters of the immediate surroundings are remade with any great disjunction—few additions to either built environment, economic or social activity take place. At the same time there is a paucity of evidence for exactly how what remains and persists secures its apparent stability.
When city spaces are assessed in terms of their continuity or change, it is possible to point to certain “devices” such land valuation, wages, cadastral, zoning, municipal policy, fiscal frameworks, or census as a series of road marks. Of course narratives and records can be compiled that identify certain stability of belonging or association—e.g. certain households have long resided in a particular plot or parcele, and these are often subdivided to accommodate more temporary residential stays. Various associations exist, organized around particular ascriptions, loyalties, beliefs and identities that anchor capacities to represent neighborhoods in ways the facilitate predictability and a sense of order. Many residents have had the same occupation (and preoccupations) for most of their urban lives and, as such, they “show up” in the same place every day. They buy similar items from steady suppliers and pass their time in the same bars or houses of worship and, as such, the districts amass and reflect well-worn “grooves” of individual trajectories. Often looking at the built environment—the streets, the infrastructure, the buildings—it is possible to read the histories that have been made.
At the same time, inhabitants are subject to (and made subjects by) a series of “tipping points” where everything they must do in order to put together and reproduce a viable existence potentially undermines it, and as such they must adapt to ruptures and recalibration of life that go beyond contingency. Ways of doing things that otherwise would just fall into place can sometimes slip, lose conviction or become unthinkingly habitual raising certain doubts, even panic.