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Street level - FT.com

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March 23, 2012 9:03 pm

Street level Review by Edwin Heathcote

The beginning of a new era in public protest

R

ebel Cities: From Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by David Harvey, Verso, RRP£9.99, 187 pages

In the past couple of years the squares and streets of the city have reemerged in the most dramatic manner imaginable as a forum for public protest. From Cairo to Athens, from Madrid’s “Indignados” to America’s Occupy Wall Street movement and right up to the recently removed protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, urban centres all over the world have resonated with the chants of those who feel economically and politically disempowered. Against this backdrop, David Harvey’s Rebel Cities could not be better timed. Harvey is a British-born, New York-based professor of geography and has been a consistent and intelligent voice on the left. His approach is resolutely Marxist – though never less than readably so.

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He begins with the “right to the city”, a concept formulated by the French sociologist and philosopher Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991) that was influential in the Paris événements of 1968. Lefebvre drew inspiration from the way people in the developed world had demanded access to the countryside. How much more important, he argued, was access to the city? By this he meant not just freedom to roam and use public spaces but to exert influence on everything from the types of businesses in city streets to the organisation of communities. Paris also provides Harvey with the best-known case study of urban regeneration for the purpose of controlling the population. Baron Haussmann was commissioned in direct response to the upheaval of 1848 to rebuild the city as a contemporary metropolis capable of facilitating a military response to revolution. The destruction of medieval alleys and markets to make way for broad boulevards was all part of a plan to keep the city under control and allow armies to march quickly, directly and en masse to quell dissent. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/8e94264e-7367-11e1-aab3-00144feab49a.html#axzz1q2I5V3kf

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Street level - FT.com

24/03/2012 12:18

But Harvey also points out that this new “City of Light” made room for the cafés, department stores and grand expositions that transformed urban life into a carnival of consumption. Such Parisian efforts at social engineering are compared with the programme of suburbanisation undertaken by the US after the second world war, in which cheap petrol and subsidised roads led to a huge building boom. This spurred development but also led to “white flight”, as more prosperous citizens fled to the outskirts, leaving the inner cities to an increasingly marginalised African American population. Subsequent urban planning exacerbated this, most notably in New York, where the powerful Robert Moses built freeways through poor neighbourhoods that acted as walls between suburban haves and urban have-nots. Like many Marxists, Harvey criticises both suburbanisation and urban regeneration – billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, he argues, has turned downtown New York into a “vast gated community for the rich” – while offering few answers beyond the usual proletarian revolution. He is good, though, on the changing nature of that proletariat, which he argues is no longer composed of Marx’s factory workers but of low-paid, insecure immigrants. Harvey covers the rest of the world – from the Mexican Zapatistas and Evo Morales’ Bolivian socialists, right up to the recent anti-austerity protests in Europe – though the Arab Spring is not given much attention. There is also disappointingly little consideration of the ways in which public space has been subverted – and where this has not been allowed. The St Paul’s protesters, for example, could not make camp outside London’s Stock Exchange because it turned out the square was privately owned. Who knew? Quite how movements such as Occupy will develop is uncertain. Yet for all the slightly woolly objectives of the self-proclaimed 99 per cent, it is clear that we are only at the very beginning of a new era in street protest. Harvey and his peers will need to work hard just to keep up. Edwin Heathcote is the FT’s architecture critic

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Cities by David Harvey

IQRebel book is a timely and closely argued (Verso, ISBN 9781844678822)

polemic in which David Harvey puts the case for a more economically just and ecologically sound reorganization OOThis of urban life. The author's contention is that cities have, throughout history, been the wellspring of social change and radical and utopian thinking. He gives examples from Johannesburg and Sao Paulo, among others, but a consideration of recent events in Cairo, Benghazi and Horns adds contemporary weight to the case. Beginning with the idea that cities are among humanity's most ambitious attempts to shape the world we live in, the author moves on to a critinne of cities

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as centres of capital accumulation; the environment built by and for developers and financiers, the end-game of which we are presently experiencing. Against this is advanced the concept of urban commons, restoring democracy and local decisionmaking to a central role. The disparate 'Occupy' movements that have sprung up worldwide are, of course, excellent examples of this and Harvey ends his book with an overview of the 99% and 'Occupy Wall Street'. Accessible and largely free of jargon, Rebel Cities is an excellent primer for those who want to engage with the ferment of ideas emerging from the urban centres of anti-capitalist resistance.

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Down with small-is-beautiful Owen Hatherley on long-held ideas of urban protest whose time has come Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution by David Harvey 208pp, Verso, £12.99 The increasing urbanisation of the globe is frequently discussed and worried over. This is ironic, as there has seldom been a period less preoccupied with how to create the city as a positive, active, collective polis rather than an atomised, accidental antheap. Libertarian bores uncritically hail sprawl, the megaslum or the megacity depending on the occasion, and an environmentalist left seems terrified of the city and all it implies. Kent-born, Baltimore-based geographer David Harvey has long been an exception to both. Rebel Cities collects recent articles for journals such as New Left Review and Socialist Register with recent broadsides on urban protest, and has the slightly valedictory tone of an idea whose time has come. The essays here revise certain old-school Marxist judgments while making equally critical remarks on the young, “horizontalist” left dominant at, say, the Occupation outside St Paul’s. Such a position could easily sound embattled or rancorous, and Harvey’s precise, informative and sometimes droll prose tries to avoid angering his comradely opponents. This is less the case when he’s writing about a contemporary capitalism now dominated by “a disgusting excrescence of human lust for greed and pure money power”. He is forensic and ferocious in his dismantling of a recent World Bank report that upstandingly defended home-ownership as a route out of poverty and into urban citizenship, in the face of the chaos of sub-prime

and foreclosure, or more precisely, in the face of mass evictions of poor people from their homes because they’d been cheated into mortgages they couldn’t afford. He is very funny on the convenient belief that this is merely a response to unmediated popular demand: “home-ownership may be a deeply held cultural value in the United States, but cultural values flourish remarkably when promoted and subsidised by state policies.” Harvey’s reworking of Marxist political theory places the city first and foremost, in terms of its position as a generator of capital accumulation, as opposed to, say, the factory. This is justified by an economic argument around the importance to capitalism of land, rent and speculation rather than production; of all the essays here, it’s the one most tailored to the initiated. That’s not the case with his frequent recourse to the Paris Commune of 1871, a brief and bloodily-suppressed socialist experiment in working-class selfgovernment. This recourse is not out of sentiment, but due to its relevance. The communards were “a very different kind of proletariat to that which much of the left has typically cast in a vanguard role”. Like today’s workers, they were “characterised by insecurity, by episodic, temporary and spatially diffuse employment, and very difficult to organise on a workplace basis”. This has its own dangers, of course – the commune, as he notes, was an attempt at “socialism, communism or anarchism in one city”, which could be starved out and destroyed. His notes on contemporary movements, such as the people’s assemblies in Porto Alegre, bear this in mind. So how to connect the various metropolitan struggles?

For Harvey, there are two principal adversaries to organisation. One, the vanguard party of Leninism, is so distant a problem that he wastes little time dispatching it. However, he returns time and again to a critique of “horizontalism”, a “fetish of organisational form” that too often remains at small-is-beautiful, an almost narcissistic concern with process and personal interaction over wide-scale action, something that “can work for small groups but (is) impossible at a scale of a metropolitan region, let alone for the 7 billion people who now inhabit planet Earth”. This shying away from an organisation that isn’t at a face-to-face level usually goes together with “hefty doses of nostalgia for a once-upon-atime supposedly moral economy of common action”. For Harvey, the left must be modern and urban or it will remain powerless. Localism on a more municipal scale is analysed via some sharp remarks on the neo-Prussian redesign of Berlin, a conservative re-planning which, for Harvey, effaces the potential in the city’s position between east and west, not to mention the possible contributions of its Turkish population. There’s a refreshing willingness here to take post-68 urban politics to task; the urban conservation movements of that era are described as eventual handmaidens of gentrification, so that Michael Bloomberg can unironically talk of “building like Robert Moses with Jane Jacobs in mind”, ie creating a landscape of capital accumulation and class cleansing that is no longer massive and modernist, but which proceeds through urban traditionalism, smallscale and unobtrusive. The left, for Harvey, has not properly learned that “neo-

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liberal politics actually favours both administrative decentralisation and the maximalisation of local autonomy”. As a response, he lingers over the anarchist Murray Bookchin’s proposals for an association of democratic municipalities, a “confederalism” that resembles hundreds of Paris Communes. But how to get to that point? Rebel Cities contains short notes on three possible present alternatives. In his vivid description of China, he sets up an opposition between Shenzhen, moving towards an extreme freemarket liberalism, and Chongqing, which has taxed private capital to pay for council housing and social programmes. But this reproduces a “polarised choice between state and market”, where both remain undemocratic. The book concludes with very short, slightly hasty texts on the English riots and the Wall Street occupation last year. On the riots, he finds that the ubiquitous use of the word “feral” “reminded me of how the Communards in Paris in 1871 were depicted as wild animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were) summarily executed”; but he is surprisingly unwilling to attribute much political agency to the rioters. He’s much more optimistic about “OWS”, as a much needed direct and conscious claiming of public space against the “Party of Wall Street”. There’s no criticism here, which is fair enough; perhaps it’s a sweetener for the astringent arguments elsewhere in this book.

Echoes of the Paris Commune? The 2011 London riots

Owen Hatherley’s Uncommon is published by Zero. To order Rebel Cities for £10.39 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' - video David Harvey, theorist and author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, says that postwar capitalism can be understood with reference to the history of urbanisation and suburbanisation. Urban investment gets you out of a crisis but defines what the next crisis is going to look like, he argues. The emerging powers of the east are now in the midst of a massive urbanisation project and could fall victim to the same outcome Business

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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Latest 1 2 3 Next All GiulioSica 28 May 2012 9:13AM I'm sure David Harvey really appreciates the car advert I had to sit through at the start of this video piece! Always a pleasure and education to listen to his lucid descriptions of what is really going on. rusticred 28 May 2012 9:18AM Interestingly was Marx was right. when he said The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity -- and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally. cottagenone 28 May 2012 9:33AM does anybody have any idea on the alternatives?

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

rusticred 28 May 2012 9:38AM He also said the following The worker need not necessarily gain when the capitalist does, but he necessarily loses when the latter loses colddebtmountain 28 May 2012 9:40AM If you make something scarce then you increase its value. If you make something common then you decrease its value. It has been thus through history with the common person no more than a slave to circumstance. After the world wars we seemed to change but sadly the change didn't last. GeorgeBall 28 May 2012 9:40AM Once again, the whole premise of this article is just plain wrong. Forget the bloody banks and sub-prime - we are in a total muddle through countries having their balance of payments up the creek.

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Instead of pension contributions being directed to British manufacture via better technology, advanced machine tools and robots, we have sent capital to China and elsewhere for them to manufacture with cheap labour and with our balance of payments being heavily negative, we are in a downward spiral. This is the fault of government and the populace who vote for governments which promise to give them yet more cheap goodies for less work. Our exchange rate with all other countries should reflect being at or near balance. Cheap labour countries which buy little from us, should have an exchange rate so high that companies can compete in this country. It doesn't matter if few are employed in manufacture, the point is we could manufacture all our needs without getting into debt, paying for raw materials from services such as insurance and banking which we can do better than others. The Euro has shown, once again, this well known fact. The Med. countries cannot work their way out of the current crisis because they are not allowed an exchange rate with Northern Europe which can work. Before we can give ourselves all those wonderful http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2012/may/28/david-harvey-financial-crisis-urban-crisis-video

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

18/06/2012 19:37

things we would like, such as a full NHS, good pensions and so on, we have to have an economy which can pay for them, and we have to have cooperation between industry and government produce an enviroment where this can happen. Fat chance with any current political party, as they simply do not even begin to understand how we got where we are, let alone how to get out of the hole. rusticred 28 May 2012 9:42AM Response to cottagenone, 28 May 2012 9:33AM Pay better wages, the surplus capital is that which comes about from economic activity some obviously derived from labour, who would spend their wages thereby creating demand.

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Henry Ford understood this this and paid his employees more so that they could buy his products. Samvara 28 May 2012 9:55AM Excellent, and eminently applicable to the UK, despite DH's focus here upon the USA. The next crisis currently being whipped up by Cameron wanting to turn southern England into Singapore will be a very nasty one indeed. And not just economic - the inability of all the would-be property-owners to pay their longed-for mortgages. Covering the countryside with hundreds of square miles of housing will lead to congestion, water shortages, pollution, and the loss of countryside and the degradation of our ability to feed ourselves. When the next bubble bursts, and when the oil runs out, what sorts of lifestyle will our country sustain then?

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Be careful what you wish for. OliverLaughland 28 May 2012 9:57AM Response to cottagenone, 28 May 2012 9:33AM We've got a second part to this interview that we'll be running in the coming weeks where Professor Harvey looks at alternatives.

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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Katyia 28 May 2012 10:02AM This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs. 1nn1t 28 May 2012 10:04AM Response to GeorgeBall, 28 May 2012 9:40AM The Euro has shown, once again, this well known fact. The Med. countries cannot work their way out of the current crisis because they are not allowed an exchange rate with Northern Europe which can work.

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Greece is a few percent of the Euroarea economy which is overall solvent and not suffering a balance of payments crisis. What you say of Greece is also true of Liverpool's relation to the south of the UK. We went through all these problems in the C19 when the Poor Law attempted to provide relief parish by parish and the rich fled the parishes where the poor lived or drove the poor into neighbouring parishes. What we have now is a system where the rich can take their untaxed money out of Greece while leaving the Greek Government to be responsible for those who remain in the country. The US deals with this problem by taxing its citizens regardless of where in the world they live and earn. Want the citizenship, pay the taxes. If the Greek rich will not repatriate the money they have taken untaxed abroad over the last thirty years, and will not pay taxes on property they own abroad, revoke their citizenship. They can wander the world on Stateless Person papers. MarcusMoore 28 May 2012 10:12AM Harvey is a voice of sanity in an increasingly sad and strife-riddled world, where everything is based upon/relies upon/revolves around money - even though it has, in itself, no intrinsic value

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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whatsoever. We worship at the altar of a false god that best serves only the high priests who perpetuate the mythologies of capitalsim. As for fairness and justice... huh; forget it. GeorgeBall 28 May 2012 10:23AM Here is quite a short piece from a professor of Economics who gives, to my mind, a good summary:

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http://www.cesifogroup.de/portal/page/portal/ifoHome/Bpolitik/05stp/_stp?item_link=stp126.htm splat64 28 May 2012 10:26AM At last a proper thinker in the guardian...can we continue this trend please? To Melvin King and politicians and mainstream 'commentators' ...alongside many others on the Left Harvey has been predicting this current crises for years...of course he is mostly ignored due to his political affiliations. splat64 28 May 2012 10:37AM Response to GeorgeBall, 28 May 2012 9:40AM You will not get a sustained and rational economic programme under capitalism...that is the point Harvey makes in his work...if you don't like his angle then you could look at another marxist Prof Andrew Kliman who critiques Harveys view with an analysis of US govt financial stats to show that a long term and steady decline in production lies at the heart of current woes. Our woes are systemic and can be addressed but not within the forms presnted by capitalist dogma. Harvey is a geographer, which gives him his unique take.....trouble is that Marx and Engels wrote about all of this stuff 150 years ago and nowt has changed. Perhaps the 21st century has a chance ...but with expanding material consumption as the only driving force offered at present, resource wars, climate change and huge demographic shifts will necessitate economic reform or complete economic and social revolution...to edit an old phrase if we don't abandon our individualism and work fetishism

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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we will face a stark choice..... collectivism or barbarism......there is no middle ground. rusticred 28 May 2012 10:51AM Response to splat64, 28 May 2012 10:37AM I presume to not understand the failings of capitalism other than as a mode of organized production, it provides the most efficient allocation of resources.

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The problem is really about who controls the mechanisms for the allocation and the channels by which this takes place. In simplistic terms winner takes all. winn.And like some game cheating is apparent, and institutionalized by governments, nationally and internationally for non altruistic purposes. The result is large corporations and wealthy individuals place their income and wealth in tax havens to minimise their contributions to general society, while exploiting resources and labour internationally. All globalization is;is imperialism in sheep's clothing. The illusion is that we are better of because of it, rather than inspite of it. Duno 28 May 2012 10:59AM Great stuff. One person who helped me understand how little our politicians seem to know about the very 'system' we have. Though i'm sure it's more wilful ignorance. It's not really what I would call a system anyway, they are just flying by the seat of the pants, Scooping up the money where they can for the minority capitalist class. .

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The online course on Marx analyses is excellent, A really interesting take to bring in the elements of geography as he does. Should we expect anything else for our so called system when it's obvious nobody is really taking this long type of view, It's just patchwork by people who don't look or understand... sickchip 28 May 2012 11:05AM Mis-judged distribution of wealth/profits is what screws our economy. Reducing wage differentials is the only logical fix. Nobody should be allowed to

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

earn more than 15x the lowest paid - of course this would mean entirely re-jigging wage structures, and some would suffer wage reductions (not just at the top - but also in the middle) and some would get wage rises (minimum wage should be ÂŁ11ph); and of course that will never happen.

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And, of course, that means we will continue to slide into the mire. englishhermit 28 May 2012 11:28AM Response to cottagenone, 28 May 2012 9:33AM does anybody have any idea on the alternatives?

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Yes. Energy consumption can be dramatically reduced by replacing the car with an efficient and effective public transport network. Work out which journeys are regular like the daily commute with streams of vehicles stuck in traffic jams and only one person in each vehicle. Fleets of minibuses are hooked up to GPS and mobile phones via a server. Book ride in advance. Bus sends text to passenger in the morning when 5 or ten minutes from pick up point which can be at end of street and at work in the evening. Utilisation of buses and planning of routes can be optimised on a daily basis. feanelwa 28 May 2012 12:17PM Any chance of a transcript or some subtitles so people with hearing impairments and/or having crisps with their lunch can share it too? Minimus 28 May 2012 12:22PM My poor laptop speakers, even at full volume, barely elevated his voice above a murmur.

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fr0sty 28 May 2012 12:34PM 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' No, the financial crisis is an urban myth.

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

ReturnofQ 28 May 2012 12:36PM Harvey's analysis is a good one, but it omits the crucial factor that is beginning to prevent the global economy from investing surplus capital in economic activity that will produce enough returns to pay back the loans that are now essential to the generation of the credit-based money supply; energy depletion. It was the constant discovery of energy resources with a high mass-energy ratio and high portability that allowed capitalism to increase the growth of the global economy almost 32 times from the early 19th century to the early 21st. This long-term growth curve was the cushion that prevented the effects of depressions being even worse than they were, and gave people hope of an eventual recovery. This is no longer possible.

18/06/2012 19:37

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What we might be witnessing today is the beginning of a long period of contraction, enforced downsizing and permanent recession. We have experienced nothing like this since the beginning of the agricultural revolution, except in localised pockets. No general 'recovery' as we once understood and experienced it - as a return to the growth curve - is possible, even though some developing economies now being used as receptacles for cheap manufacturing will keep on growing for a while. In such a contraction social equality and rational planning will become increasingly important as a means of preventing quite tumultuous social unrest and hostility. kippers 28 May 2012 12:42PM Good stuff. I heard Harvey speak at Cambridge almost 40 years ago (when geography students brought him back to give a lecture against the wishes of geography department): just as good now as he was then. NegativeStateRelief 28 May 2012 12:42PM Response to englishhermit, 28 May 2012 11:28AM But buses are for little people!

NegativeStateRelief 28 May 2012 12:54PM Response to sickchip, 28 May 2012 11:05AM

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Nobody should be allowed to earn more than 15x the lowest paid Couldn't agree more. The average income per capita in the UK is ÂŁ26000. In India, it's Rs 53331 (ÂŁ615.57). It's unconscionable for any country to be allowed to earn more than 40x another country. Shame on Britain! NegativeStateRelief 28 May 2012 1:02PM Response to MarcusMoore, 28 May 2012 10:12AM Yes, we get it. Money can't buy happiness. Money isn't real. So why the hell do you plebs keep clamouring for more? Let us, the evil rich, hoard all these worthless material. You lot would do just fine without worshipping at the altar of a false god. eyeinthesky 28 May 2012 1:07PM The box we inhabit seemingly does not work. Redefining the dimensions of the box seems to be a waste of time. Same box, different dimensions, still not working.

18/06/2012 19:37

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A serious alternative....... Take a look OUTSIDE the box and investigate what would constitute a more wholesome lifestyle that would redefine the image of success and evoke a fairer value system. Dont wait for anyone to do it for you......DO IT YOURSELF. catetc 28 May 2012 1:08PM Regeneration of the urban, could stimulate the construction industry and boost local economies, however unbridled consumerism in a polarised economic climate, can only marginalise further those without sufficient surplus income to participate. Dissent and discontent is aggravated when the suburban aspiration cannot be maintained accross socio-economic groups. Social tensions manifest when the pinch is elongated generationally, and the inner city ghetto-isation, and rural decay set in. Urgent urban redesign and planning is required, the built enviroment must be regarded as part of the green enviroment and green sustainable social and economic development an economic starting point. Redefining energy policy,

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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with affordable efficient industries with State stakeholders as shareholders, means that construction is industrial, commercial and has social implications for employment, wealth and welfare. Social mobility is social participation in suburbia, 'building houses and filling them with things', is about social economic choices and disposable design and income. If suburbanisation is equated with social stability, then economic decision making must facilitate intelligent consumerism. NegativeStateRelief 28 May 2012 1:08PM Response to 1nn1t, 28 May 2012 10:04AM If the Greek rich will not repatriate the money they have taken untaxed abroad over the last thirty years, and will not pay taxes on property they own abroad, revoke their citizenship. They can wander the world on Stateless Person papers.

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You have little inkling of the number of countries in this world that are more than willing to welcome these stateless millionaires and billionaires. Not everyone views the rich with envy and suspicion. Not everyone is a guardianista. NegativeStateRelief 28 May 2012 1:15PM How do you greedy Britons sleep at night while millions around the globe go hungry? Polly T reportedly makes 115,000 quid per annum penning anti-rich articles. How grotesque her obscene wealth is! The time is nigh for the government to arrogate her ill-gotten gains and redistribute to the undeserving poor of the world. Viva la Revoluci贸n! miserlyoldgit 28 May 2012 1:18PM As 'forty years ago' seems to resonate with this topic can I direct you to a pretty interesting and well argued theory contained in the following book "Blaming the Victim" by William Ryan, which was published in 1971. Ryan addressed a whole range of social issues such as crime, health, housing, wealth distribution,poverty and social unrest and manages to spear the right-wing, conservative arguments that were used to explain and justify the existence

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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of such problem areas. Yet forty years on, similar lightweights are putting forward an analysis that has no basis in fact but rather continues to blame the victims of capitalism for their poverty, ill-health and lack of education. Very interesting to see that the responses he fillets so well are the same ones put forward by the present Con/Dem government, Tony Blair's 'NuLabour parasites and the unquestioning UK media. The debate was finished forty years ago the answer lies in taking power from the 1% and giving it back to the other 99%. agreewith 28 May 2012 1:19PM Response to colddebtmountain, 28 May 2012 9:40AM If you make something scarce then you increase its value. If you make something common then you decrease its value.

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Inaccurate and therefore not a useful generalization, economics does not consist of laws, it is an interpretive subject, a social science, not a natural science. TDiddley 28 May 2012 1:19PM Funny how he failed to mention the fact that the rebuild of Paris from 1850 was actually based on wealth invented in quasi financial institutions. Not what you might call surplus capital necessarily. What that period of renovations did do for Paris was produce a City that makes 80 billion euros in tourism each year alone! So probably worth it in the long run. EuropeanOnion 28 May 2012 1:24PM It seems that many people believe that only control of the individual is the way to to stimulate the economy and to allow social systems to work. The bureaucracy will be happy to hear that, they have been working toward this tirelessly for generations. When politics fails so spectacularly people seem to think that the only way out is more Government! Isn't that a tad counter-intuitive? Good government should be about the empowering of the individual and all it does is to recommend that the only way

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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out of the dilemma that they caused is to have strictures, systems and commonality. Against this background you have the fashionable blurting about social mobility. Come on, this runs counter to everything that big state professes. Mobile people are secret and self willed and that is not what the clan (or Government) does not want. It favours dependency. We are living in this urban prison only being allowed out to spend money on stuff we do not need to support the growth that only destroys. We are not even allowed to enjoy our country in a sort of measured way, to contemplate what we have, for when that realisation occurs we are already past the point of enjoyment like as in drunkenness. By the time you think you have a nice country which your peoples' endeavours have secured, all the social functions which centuries of trial and error have arrived at as being an acceptable norm, countryside that fits your temperament, someone has decided that all those commonplace, universal values have just made somewhere that is xenophobic and ripe enough for settlement for all and sundry. Those who arrive here find much of what they encounter as unsuitable to their temperament or inconvenient and then set about changing things in frighteningly small time frames that have no test or incubation. The result is the urban jungle that we are rushing towards. A massive economic state where the mores are a pick and mix a political rodomontade of prognostication that has nothing to do with individuals and fulfilment, becoming a system of unnatural selection without definition and a breeding ground for alienation. We are now so put upon by our own numbers that we have little hope of employing all those we are acquiring a responsibility for but blindly stutter on because we have assumed an obligation! So bad has the urban dysfunction become that Waltham Forest is going to pay ever more to the people is cannot use so that it cannot be accused of social stigma of being particular or discriminatory and assumes responsibility for everyone that find their way to their environs. The urban society was conjured as place to house workers not to become a supposed conscience of the nation. We are now inventing forms of conscience which are emanating from our disturbing ability to attract people here to destroy whatever it was that made the nation capable of responsibility. The EU's creation of the non-existent super state means that although the countries are still distinct entities they have obligations to 'the people' who are the citizens of the make believe place! We no longer know how to define our morality because of the constant expansion of the http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2012/may/28/david-harvey-financial-crisis-urban-crisis-video

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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term and make judgements on what passes for sensibility, which normally ends up as transient emotional appeal. The urban environment inspires impotency as either the lack of jobs, or the catered for life without the need of a job, furnishes the undeserving and idle with the same appurtenances as the aspirational. We know what the city will be like in the future by looking at Labour's fiefdoms in the Scottish Midlands and the old industrial centres in England, mere soviets of numbed senses with the greyness of temperament of those waiting for handouts. Jack Dromey on the radio at the weekend averred that the EU was a success and that unionism was at the forefront of the new understanding. He did not elaborate on the way that the unions were offered a fait accompli by GM and that to allow the employment in Ellesmere a German factory had had to close. In this way thriving centres become like Detroit overnight; our utter reliance on mass systems and the acute urgency for employment turn us all into nodding dogs and robots. We are losing our individual hinterland in a way that echoes the circumstances that were experienced in the 1930 but instead of the shadow of war we have the looming dystopia. NegativeStateRelief 28 May 2012 1:27PM Response to eyeinthesky, 28 May 2012 1:07PM The box we inhabit seemingly does not work.

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You get out if you want to. The box is working swimmingly for evil speculators like me. No labour, no sweat, no drudgery. Just passive income rolling in for a few hours' work. splat64 28 May 2012 1:53PM Response to rusticred, 28 May 2012 10:51AM I agree with your end point about globalisation which in many, if not most senses, is a catastrophe for local economies, producers and local democratic forms. The point of Marxist analysis is more that capitalism induces/forces societies into very particular relationships regardless of what they would wish to do or think they should/can do.The crazed effects of capitalism are not due to dysfunctional practices by individuals or govts acting insanely...although that of course creates further problems...the real chaotic and dysfunctional, even anti social, effects of

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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capitalism come from capitalists acting in a totally rational manner. corporate power is only a reasonably recent form ...the fact that much, not all, but much of Marxs 19th century analysis remains true/credible is because capitalism has dysfunction at it very heart. Perfectly functioning capitalism creates problems and endless crisis....avoiding the appearance of crisis and maintaining dynamics by moving crises around..as Engels said all those years ago. As to your point about efficient allocation of resources I couldn't disagree more...the very need/requirement to over produce for overconsumption to maintain pointless and endless growth makes capitalism an ecological/environmental/social catastrophe. You can have effective logistics without capitalism...if you talk of allocation, sustainability and efficiency then David Harveys critical work on uneven geographical development might be of interest to you. princesschipchops 28 May 2012 2:05PM David Harvey is simply fantastic. What a welcome relief to see some really intelligent analysis of the situation. I still think his book The Enigma of Capital is the best thing I've read on the crisis.

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I'm glad to hear there will be a follow up where he'll give some further ideas. DavidPavett 28 May 2012 2:07PM David Harvey makes a claim (urbanisation has saved capitalism by staving off crises). He repeats it several times. But, as far as I can see he offers no explanation or justification for this assertion and no data either. That makes discussion difficult. All we have is an assertion. princesschipchops 28 May 2012 2:16PM Response to NegativeStateRelief, 28 May 2012 1:27PM Problem is no matter how much you want to be, you are not an island. Therefore - unless all you 'evil speculators' do actually go and live on an island together - you won't be able to live in a way you currently enjoy if things continue to massively

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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decline for the majority. Nation states still exist, despite the globalists dreams otherwise. Cities exist. Streets exist. Therefore if others within the society you live in become desperate enough, your life also becomes affected in many ways and becomes that bit less pleasant. You might have to pay more for security, take different routes to work, hell if it gets bad enough you end up living like the wealthy in parts of South Africa, fenced in and having to drive armored vehicles. None of which is actually a very nice way to live and all of which increases the chances that you'll end up dying by the sword you so eagerly profess to live by. The fact is it doesn't matter what you believe ideologically - history shows us that if the lives of the many get bad enough then even the very wealthy are no longer protected, in fact they often become actual targets. This has happened over and over and over again in history. You sneer at the 'plebs' but those plebs will eventually do something about their situation - if and when their situation gets bad enough. What they do no one can know. Sometimes there is revolution, others there is massive social unrest, in places civil war breaks out, often extremist politics takes a hold. None of which is particlularly pleasant for anyone. So it kind of doesn't pay to screw people over too much, for anyone. And I'd have a lot more respect for you Randian types if you weren't utter hypocrites when it comes down to it. Unless you go and voluntarily live in some stateless society such as Somalia, then I can't really take anything you say seriously. And I imagine that most of you will be the first to scream for state protection if things do get really ugly and people just start to take what they want. floundering 28 May 2012 2:17PM Response to englishhermit, 28 May 2012 11:28AM Fleets of minibuses are hooked up to GPS and mobile phones via a server.

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And that's it is it? A new world economic order based on minibuses? youagain 28 May 2012 2:34PM

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Response to DavidPavett, 28 May 2012 2:07PM as far as I can see he offers no explanation or justification for this assertion and no data either.

18/06/2012 19:37

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Try listening again - the whole thing is an explanation of the assertion. Maybe what you're looking for is figures. U00010 28 May 2012 2:36PM Property speculation doesn't regenerate economy.

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U00010 28 May 2012 2:39PM ...which is why the stupor rich allow it. It is a mistake to think the stupor rich want global economic regeneration.

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They want it all. Ummmmm 28 May 2012 2:53PM Ref: Rusticred http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/commentpermalink/16335502

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Problem with this, if it pertains to Marx, is that it turns the old fella into an underconsumptionist - the problems of capitalism can be sorted by rebalancing the system by throwing the lower orders a few more quid to spend productively. It's not what Marx was about nor, arguably, a workable way out of the current minefield: what you use to pay workers, you must take from profits, of necessity lowering overall profits. And if capitalists don't make a profit, they don't invest. Increasing consumption, if it's at the expense of profitability, doesn't solve this. thebinmancometh 28 May 2012 3:08PM Response to Ummmmm, 28 May 2012 2:53PM Well, thre is certainly a case to be made that Marx was indeed an underconsumptionist (horrible

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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word!): 'The last cause of all real crises always remains the poverty of and restricted consumption of the masses as compared to the tendency of capitalist production to develop the productive forces in such a way that only the absolute power of consumption of the entire society would be their limit' (Capital III: 568) Moreover, there is a further case to be made that so is Harvey and that the crisis of capitalism analyses put forward today still owe their debt to Paul Sweezy. rusticred 28 May 2012 3:13PM Response to splat64, 28 May 2012 1:53PM As to your point about efficient allocation of resources I couldn't disagree more...the very need/requirement to over produce for overconsumption to maintain pointless and endless growth makes capitalism an ecological/environmental/social catastrophe. You can have effective logistics without capitalism...if you talk of allocation, sustainability and efficiency then David Harveys critical work on uneven geographical development might be of interest to you.

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This is the conundrum, and the principle issue of how we organize commerce. The problem is bedded in the notions that has pre-existed since ancient times, which is control and exploitation. The point made time and time again is that capitalism allows for ideas, to be exploited and resources exploited to produce income and therefore wealth. How this happens is not altruistic, and is usually governed by externalities. Certain people are not genuinely satiated at any level of income it seems therefore our ethic is basically to trade off income against leisure; and therefore our sense of satisfaction,is determined by these outcomes.. The basic instinct it appears is our innate need to be able to control and exploit resources for personal gain. spongyplatypus 28 May 2012 3:21PM Another top video from DH, always enjoyed his YouTube series on Capital, got me through a few though uni exams! I was so dissapointed to miss

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

18/06/2012 19:37

the Observer/FestivalOfIdeas meeting he did in Bristol. Will get the chance to see him this summer though at the Marxism festival in London, to be fair to the SWP (never thought I'd say that...) they've pulled together a wicked line-up this year! Backtothestoneage 28 May 2012 3:33PM Response to princesschipchops, 28 May 2012 2:16PM Succinctly put. Ummmmm 28 May 2012 3:33PM Response to thebinmancometh, 28 May 2012 3:08PM Yeah, that's a good point, Vol III is a messy old beast, not helped by the fact that Marx died leaving no more than a pile of notes for it (pauses while everyone but the saddest of geeks flit to the next posting).

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But if that's the case, Marx's extensive elaboration of the profit rate (p = s/(v+c)) in Volume I are pretty pointless, along with all the stuff on the tendency for the rate of profit to fall in vols I & III. So, yes, he's inconsistent, but I'd say the underconsumptionist element of his argument is subordinate to that rooted in the dynamics of profit valorisation, which is the logic running through the three volumes. So (and I would say this) Sweezy is wrong. More's the point, if what's needed to pull capitalist production up by the boot straps is to increase consumption, why does capitalism fail to do this every time it appears to be necessary - '30s, '70s, this time round? It's sending Paul Krugman even greyer, the poor love. Apologies for the jargon dump to all and sundry, but at least it's shorter this way Latest 1 2 3 Next All Comments on this page are now closed.

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David Harvey: 'The financial crisis is an urban crisis' | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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Book Reviews

GW76

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When British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) was wound up in 2009, there was some money left over to give to community projects and Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre was given over £250,000 for reportedly the biggest oral history project in the UK. 100 people of all ages were interviewed about their life and attitudes to Sellafield, all the interviews are kept and can be accessed by members of the public visiting the centre. A website is under construction, with transcripts of some of the interviews and a book of edited highlights of 30 of the interviews has been published. The first interview is with a woman whose father owned the farm that was compulsorily purchased to build a TNT factory which only a couple of years later became the site of Windscale’s plutonium piles, then the nuclear power station and later the whole reprocessing complex known as Sellafield. The last interview is one of the American bosses, MD of the Low Level waste dump at Drigg. Along the way are ordinary people, locally well-known people and some downright famous people including Eric Robson of Gardeners' Question Time. The local MP Jamie Reed is one interviewee, and yours truly Jill Perry, Green Party candidate at the last general election is another. The recollections and anecdotes from rural life and life in the impoverished towns of the West Coast of Cumbria in times past are some of the most interesting parts. While some of the scientists are gung-ho in favour, most people show much more ambivalence than you might expect. Jill Perry

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.SLYRP_SPbZ]WOZYP_bPP_L_L_TXP 5Z^^Pd—-L^^&öôú[[&mõú#ýý 4>-9%ýûü"õõõüôúõý÷ô “Twitter allows anyone to be a journalist and an informant to the larger world, and provides a megaphone to amplify the message,” says author and Twitter employee Claire Díaz-Ortiz. For anyone with a sketchy idea of Twitter, it is an internet based messaging network accessed by computer or mobile phone, with a limit of 140 characters per message. Although this book does not show us how to join or navigate Twitter and assumes a certain level of knowledge, the author adopts the acronym TWEET to lead us through the steps organisations can take to communicate their message, enlist supporters or raise money via Twitter. Target: choose your organisation’s strategy, either as an information account, a personalised account or a fundraising account – or use different strategies for different campaigns. Write: just do it. Don’t over-edit. Tweet multimedia. Don’t delete your tweets. Engage: use #hashtags to get your message to non-followers, use @replies to reach another person’s followers, subscribe to or start your own lists. Explore: find yourself on Twitter and reply to tweets mentioning you or your organisation, contact and build relationships with Twitter ‘influencers’; Track: monitor the effectiveness of your Twitter usage. There is a lot of geek-speak in this book, far too many boring references to individual Twitter users and numerous referrals to the author’s rather disappointing website. But as she points out, Twitter is “a one-to-many service” and the book is worth reading if just for the invaluable ‘Engage’ chapter, full of useful tools to make the most of this empowering medium. Cathy Ashley

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AP]^ZMZZV^&öôü[[&mõö#ýý 4>-9%ýûü"õüøøúûüüöö Green political thought has often been ambiguous line about the importance of urbanism to ecological politics. Misreading the writings of William Morris and other nineteenth century eco-socialists on the evils of the industrialising city as being a criticism of urban life altogether, Green thinkers have, with the important exceptions of anarchist-inspired activist-thinkers like Murray Bookchin and Colin Ward, mostly been at best ambiguous about the process of urbanisation, and at worst outright critical. Renowned geographer David Harvey demonstrates the futility of any effort to assert a Green politics committed to socialism and equality which hopes to revert to some sort of pre-industrial, non-urbanised society. As Harvey demonstrates, cities have always been the primary nodes of capital accumulation, enabling the 1% to reassert their authority over the 99% thanks to what Harvey calls ‘the lopsidedness in urban development along class lines’. So far, so William Morris: cities as sites for the oppression of the working classes. Harvey’s analysis of the importance of urbanisation to post-war capitalism is important, and allows us all the more easily to understand the relationship between city spaces and the accumulation of capital on a global scale. However, Harvey also highlights the other side of urban political economy through his focus on the intertwined questions of ‘reclaiming the city as the site of anticapitalist struggle’, and the need to develop the idea of the ‘urban commons’, looking to the Paris Commune and to more recent urban struggles in Bolivia amongst others for inspiration. The book marks a significant intervention into contemporary political debates and, although there are questions that must be asked of its analysis – particular about the relationship between urban and rural strategies for resisting capitalism – Harvey nevertheless closes with the fundamental question of the moment: ‘Whose side will each of us, as individuals, come down on? Which street will we occupy’ Daniel Whittall


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The city we built and they stole | openDemocracy

19/06/2012 15:02

The city we built and they stole (http://www.opendemocracy.net/print/66450) (http://www.opendemocracy.net/printmail/66450) (http://www.opendemocracy.net/printpdf/66450)

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Jonathan Moses (/author/jonathan-moses) , 19 June 2012 David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, Verso (2012) It would be impossible to cover here the range of ideas in Harveyʼs recent book, Rebel Cities, but it is worth considering one of its key

About the author

Jonathan Moses is a political activist and graduate of UCL. He currently teaches English Literature, History and Sociology in Kent.

themes: how might the city, rather than the workplace, be the key siteof anti-capitalist struggle? The Urban Proletariat In prioritising the site of production and the industrial proletariat as the revolutionary class, traditional Marxism created a number of problems. To begin with, it excluded all those who did not, or could not work from possessing any kind of agency - with the result that the struggles of domestic labourers (women), the unemployed, the disabled were largely ignored. It also left us blind to other forms of value creation outside of the sphere of ʻworkʼ, or indeed forms of exploitation centred not around production but consumption, since, after all you might well win wage concessions at work only to find your gas bill has hiked at home. For Harvey, it is the city which offers a way out – since everyone who lives in the city creates the city but only a minority take ownership of the value that is created. This is the tragedy of the urban commons – those who “create an interesting and stimulating everyday neighbourhood life lose it to the predatory practices of real estate entrepreneurs, the financiers and upper class consumers bereft of any social imagination.” The better the common life a social group creates “the more likely it is to be raided and appropriated by private profit-maximizing interests.” In other words, we might not all be workers in the traditional sense, but so long as we are all engaged in the production and reproduction of social life in the city, we are all prey to a form of the exploitation Marx first identified as the fate of labour under capitalism. http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/city-we-built-and-they-stole

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It was this exploited urban class who were the key actors in the 1871 Paris Commune. It was claimed by Marx as a “proletarian uprising”. Harvey suggests it was instead constituted by a more complex arrangement of workers characterised by “insecurity...episodic, temporary, and spatially diffuse employment” attempting to claim back control of the cities they themselves had produced. The significance? Since late-capitalist economies are increasingly marked by a decline in the industrial proletariat, a rise in precarious labour, and an increase in the exploitation of consumption, it is an urban politics, in the spirit of 1871, which provides the way forward for revolutionary movements today. Social Life and Value Creation In South Baltimore, “regeneration” meant the displacement of a lively street life where people “sat on their stoops on warm summer nights and conversed with neighbours” in exchange for “burglar-proofed houses with a BMW parked out front and a rooftop deck, but with no one to be seen on the street.” Unable to reproduce itself, the social life vanished and the communities became inchoate and disparate. Look no further than HBOʼs The Wire for the result. As detective Bunk Morland puts: “As rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Nobody, no victim, who didn't matter. And now all we got is bodies, and predatory motherfuckers like you.” In the series, the drug money accumulated on the back of the misery of the city housing projects is routed through property developers, who in turn continue to buy out vast swathes of Baltimoreʼs land to be converted into luxury condominiums. Like much of The Wire, this picture is an accurate reflection of the reality of a city historically dogged by regeneration: its inner harbour was turned into typical blend of convention centres, hotels and a magnificent tourist attraction (an aquarium) in the 1970s, whilst the cheap land in the city centre was bought out by wealthy institutions like John Hopkins University. The city remains divided into clearly demarcated zones of wealth. Gated communities are prolific. It is not just at the local level that the value created by the urban commons is extracted. Harvey introduces the idea of monopoly rent – the way hugely inflated market prices are justified on the back of the ʻuniquenessʼ and ʻauthenticityʼ of the product. For cities, this is achieved through the appropriation of “historical narratives, interpretations and meanings of collective memories, significations of cultural practices” with the paradox that a backlash against the homogenisation driven by market globalisation is thereby recuperated by exactly the forces driving that homogenisation in the first place. Barcelonaʼs “rise to prominence” for example was cultivated through an excavation of its Catalan history and traditions: its artistic and http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/city-we-built-and-they-stole

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architectural heritage, edgy nightlife and conflicted past bound together as a packaged discourse to be fed through the blender of the tourist industry. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics was the catalyst, providing a crucible in which a new market-centred identity for the city could be forged and capitalised upon through tourism and booming property prices. There is a stupid sadness to the whole self-defeating project. Nobody wins. The slow tornado of gentrification ensures the destruction of the very appeal it markets, borne by a social life which can no longer exist in the conditions it creates. Another small bonanza for the developer; more dead space in cities emptied of all vitality from the centre outwards. Streets become graveyards haunted by their opulent, fleeting residents. Real communities are scattered and disseminated to the outer reaches. Harveyʼs famous phrase ʻaccumulation by dispossessionʼ proliferates through the corrupt monopoly of government and capital over the right to shape the city in their own lifeless image. What Is to Be Done [1] It is Harveyʼs initial attempt to resolve this question dialectically which is the least convincing. In his formulation, to avoid the above scenario, capital will now be dependent on maintaining – even nurturing – “divergent and to some degree uncontrollable local cultural developments that can be antagonistic to its own smooth functioning” in order that it can use their particularity to extract monopoly rent. Additionally, the attempt to categorise the quality of place in order that it can be marketed and consumed will inevitably raise the question of whose history is being defined as ʻauthenticʼ, thereby setting the ground for political opposition from those who are excluded from the narratives being created. Yet surely such spaces are only tolerated so long as they fail to pose any serious threat to their benefactors, and Harvey is dubiously vague about what these spaces actually are. As he himself points out, ex-New York Mayor Giulianiʼs “decency commission” shows how tightly curtailed and censored any such spaces backed with public and private capital can be. And Guilianiʼs successor, multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg (9th richest man in the United States, making him not so much a member of the 1% as the 0.000003%) used police repression to shut down another alternative space in the form of the Occupy Movement. You need only look at the London Olympics for an example about how narratives which include the radical legacies of the local environment simply serve to mask their material erasure. Consider the insult of the Westfield supermallʼs kitsch industrial aesthetic, supposedly to chime with the working class history of the area, and the shameless exhibition of the 1888 matchgirls strike at the Olympic viewing platform (the Bryant http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/city-we-built-and-they-stole

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of the 1888 matchgirls strike at the Olympic viewing platform (the Bryant and May factory where the strike started is now a gated community; its iconic water tower home to a surface-air missile launcher during the Olympics). Yes, there is a vacuous nod to local “uniqueness” here, but its a very inauthentic authenticity being cultivated, and hardly one that can be reclaimed or contested in any meaningful way. Nor is it the dominant trend. Next door to Westfield and the Olympic stadium, the Carpenterʼs estate is facing demolition, with the possibility the land will be bought by UCL and turned into a postgraduate research centre by the Universityʼs un-democratic management, echoing the example of John Hopkins (and indeed Columbia in Harlem and Yale in New Haven). The estate is surrounded by new “luxury” apartments draped in glib corporate aesthetics, with maladroit names like ʻAuroraʼ and, ʻAthena Towerʼ. Such hubris might simply be laughed off as corporate PR clichés, yet these celestial pretensions also scream the ideology of their indifferent and unaccountable creators. Designed as otherworldly spaces which consciously reject the particularity of their environment, their intent is a sort of spatial amnesia lifted out of history and time; to be inhabited by an imagined clientele of moneyed cosmopolitans for whom everywhere is anywhere anyway. ʻPseudomodernismʼ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/16/owen-hatherleyruins-great-britain) ↑ (http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/? url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/16/owen-hatherley-ruins-greatbritain&title=%u2018Pseudomodernism%u2019)

, ʻJunkspaceʼ

(http://www.quotesque.net/junkspace/) ↑ (http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/? url=http://www.quotesque.net/junkspace/&title=%u2018Junkspace%u2019)

, ʻfinger in the dyke of

post-industrial despairʼ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8MEm3eVPNU) ↑ (http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=A8MEm3eVPNU&title=%u2018finger%20in%20the%20dyke%20of%20post-industrial%20despair%u2019)

, call it what you like. It defines urban redevelopment across Britain. The oppositional demand that it ʻrememberʼ the spaces it erases simply allows it to claim historical memory where its built reality denies one. What Is To Be Done [2] More promising is Harveyʼs example from the global South, exploring how El Alto – a Bolivian plateau city incorporated in 1988 above the more prosperous La Paz – coalesced around a radical identity borne out of an erratic demographic of marginalised ex tin-mining proletariat, displaced rural peasantry, and once La Paz residents priced out from the capital. Mobilising through local committees originally created to selfmanage the large informal workforce, the residents fought off attempts in 2000 to privatise the water supply, paving the way for the resignations of neoliberal presidents Sánchez de Lozada in 2003 and Carlos Mesa in 2005. http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/city-we-built-and-they-stole

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Harvey concedes the difficulty of drawing universal conclusions from such a contingent example. El Altoʼs success not only relied on somewhat unique geographical and political circumstances, but also held vital strategic benefits. 3 out of 4 of the main supply routes to La Paz run through El Alto, allowing the cityʼs residents to entirely cut off supply lines between La Paz and the West and South of the country through coordinated direct action. Yet El Alto is still instructive on two counts. First it reveals the potential of urban struggle centred around issues of consumption instead of production. Second, it escapes a certain “fetishisation of organisational form” that Harvey sees as an obstacle to the left making a shrewd evaluation of strategies for restoring its relevance. Surely Harvey is right here. For a long time the left has been mired in a way of thinking and acting which is already precluded by the tacit admittance of defeat and the impossibility of its own success. The endless debates about the minutae of organisational form are almost certainly a symptom of this, and it is clear that the left will never mount a serious challenge without building the sort of urban cross-alliances Harvey celebrates. It seems a little odd then that Harvey devotes a fair proportion of the book taking issue with horizontalism, albeit in a constructive rather than sectarian manner. The critique takes the following form: 1. Whilst horizontal forms of direct democracy are effective at the small scale, theyʼre unable to ʻscale upʼ to deal with the municipal, regional or global scale. The result is that wealth and resources could not be effectively redistributed across a city divided into autonomous localities, since no one community would consistently forsake their own wellbeing for the benefit of distant others. 2. The ʻtermiteʼ approach to revolution (the building of alternative societies within shell of the old) ends up leading to the selfmanagement of your own exploitation: since any business, cooperatively owned or not, cannot isolate itself from the economy at large, it is forced to be competititive or go under, thereby succumbing to the same logic as any generic capitalist company. The same is true for ʻfree communitiesʼ who must likewise engage with society at large, diluting their principles in the process. The problem is with Harveyʼs definition is that it appears to conflate an organisational approach based on consensus and a lack of leadership with its various programmatic offshoots, so that in the end “horizontalism” means occupy, means anarchism, means autonomism; all without any real discrimination between them. Inevitably this muddles the critique being made. Another problem is that whilst Harvey chips at horizontalism he doesnʼt have much to offer in its place. Somewhat http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/city-we-built-and-they-stole

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horizontalism he doesnʼt have much to offer in its place. Somewhat paradoxically he initially appears to fall back on Murray Bookchinʼs (anarchist!) proposal for a ʻconfederation of municipalitiesʼ before deciding the notion is insufficient. In the end he wants urban networks that

“may be heirarchical but not monocentric, corporatist but nevertheless democratic, egalitarian and horizontal, systemically nested and federated [...] internally discordant and contested, but solidarious against capitalist class power [...] deeply engaged in the struggle to undermine and eventually overthrow the power of capitalist laws of value on the world market to dictate the social relations under which we work and live.”

The question is how such an endlessly qualified wishlist can ever materalise around a clear proposal: can an organisation be both heirarchical and horizontal? What does all this look like? Harvey, generally laudable for the clarity of his style, nevertheless has the classic academic tendency to drown us in terminology when heʼs less certain what he actually means. Much clearer is Harveyʼs clarion demand that it is “we”, not the developers, corporate planners, or political elites, who truly build the city, and only we who can seize back our right to its control. Our labour, our social relations, our creativity, our vitality are not commodities to be sold at profit from the social factory. The Right to the City (http://newleftreview.org/II/53/david-harvey-the-right-to-the-city)

(http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://newleftreview.org/II/53/david-harvey-the-right-to-thecity&title=Right%20to%20the%20City)

means claiming back the cities we built, and

they stole. Like

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Highlights Doxiadis on the real Greek economy Soros on preserving the EU ↑

A history of modern Greece ( podcast)

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jonathan-moses/city-we-built-and-they-stole

Henry Porter welcomes ourBeeb ↑

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Summer 2012 / page 45


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From Mies to the meaning of home Rowan Moore enjoys a rich selection of polemics, biographies and evocative photographs THE YEAR IN… ARCHITECTURE It’s been a good year for ranting – for declaiming and excoriating, that is, of a witty, perceptive and entertaining kind. Thus we have Jonathan Meades’s collection of essays and screenplays, Museum Without Walls (Unbound £18.99), in which the author waxes both lyrical and bilious on subjects including Sir Edwin Lutyens, Buenos Aires, train stations, the dismal works of Blairite regeneration and the Third Reich. Don’t expect systematic theory, or an absence of repetition, but do expect love and loathing expressed in prose close to the 400-nanometer end of the colour spectrum, but precise and exhilarating nonetheless. Never knowingly under-adjectived, not shy of neologisms, Meades offers up phrases such as the following, in which he accuses contemporary architects of “feeding on the avantgarde of many decades ago, merely saucing the dish with sustainastic, sustainabulous splashes of green piety and chromatic discord”. Meades has antecedents in Southampton, the city which also nurtured (if that is the word) Owen Hatherley. They are a few decades apart in age, but kindred sprits, in their combination of fascination with overlooked places and their eloquent fury. Something in the Sotonian air that breeds them, evidently. This year, Hatherley published A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain (Verso £20), a

rapidly produced follow-up to his A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain. As in the earlier book, the new one takes you on a tour of places – Preston, Leicester, Cumbernauld – whose touching fragments of dignity are under relentless assault from the same Blairite junk that Meades hates. Hatherley rampages around the country a little as Nikolaus Pevsner once did for his Buildings of England series, but instead of seeking out delightful early English churches and Palladian houses, he describes the most repulsive Novotels and buy-to-let apartment blocks he can find. Imagine a restaurant guide concerned mostly with purveyors of microwaved spaghetti bolognaise and you get the picture. Other angry books include David Harvey’s Rebel Cities (Verso £12.99), a Marxist dissection of the way forces of capital shape the places where we live. It’s not something to be tackled after an over-liquid Christmas dinner, as the prose is hard work. It also ends with a statement of belief in the power of the Occupy movement to change the world, which is already looking optimistic. But this book has the merit of being right quite a lot of the time and provocative for much of the rest of it. The Future of Architecture. Since 1889. (Phaidon £45) is, with its

clever-clever full stops and all, an irritating title for a good book. Written

Rebel Cities has the merit of being right quite a lot of the time and provocative for much of the rest of it by the French historian Jean-Louis Cohen, it is a survey of architecture over the last century and a bit, which seeks to uncover the full richness of invention and experiments over this period, in multiple locations. This is in conscious opposition to previous Eurocentric histories of the period, which tended to focus on the works of a few great masters and their apparent convergence to create something called modern architecture. If there were prizes for picture sourcing, this would win it, with its abundant documentation of wide-eyed young revolutionaries, little-known schools and villas and forgotten visions. If you want to know still more about the architecture of the last century, however, go to Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography (University of Chicago $45) by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst. This a magisterial update of a magisterial biography of a magisterial figure, a work that gives due credit to the force of its subject’s architecture, while also pulling no punches on subjects such as his treatment of the women in his life and

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The Observer {Review}

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his willingness to talk – a little more than was decent – to the Nazis. Otherwise, if you want to soothe yourself after the ranting with delightful and evocative images, try Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography

(Princeton Architectural £25) by John Comazzi, a collection of mostly black-and-white photographs of midcentury American modernism – the austere luxury of Mies van der Rohe, the curves of Eero Saarinen – which capture a confident faith in the future, but also a subtle melancholia. Or else London: Hidden Interiors (Transatlantic £40), an English Heritage production assembled by Philip Davies, which includes art deco ballrooms and the gallows at Wandsworth prison, as well as quite a lot of oak and walnut panelling. Finally, two versions of the domestic. Edwin Heathcote’s The Meaning of Home (Frances Lincoln £12.99) uses an engaging range of sources (Alfred Hitchcock, Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Cabbala) to explore the significance of such things as stairs, roofs and swimming pools. Then there is Will Wiles’s Care of Wooden Floors (Harper £12.99), a novel about minimalism and chaos, which reveals more about the interaction of architecture and life than many an earnest treatise. If you want above all a good read, get this one.

Books offers To buy books on these pages at discounted prices and with free UK p&p call 0330 333 6847 or go to guardian bookshop.co.uk

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The Observer {Review}

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Verso

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