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Guardian, The {Review}

Keyword:

Verso

UK Saturday 14, April 2012 8 462 sq. cm ABC 217190 Daily page rate £11,400.00, scc rate £42.00 020 3353 2000

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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