"Rebel Cities – from the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution,” by David Harvey, 2012
Havey makes several valuable points. He insists many progressives underplay the role of real estate and land issues in capitalist development, yet they are essential.
describes how massive building projects – suburbs, cities, railroads, freeways, infrastructure – were and are a key method of
absorbing surplus capital, and have been for years - and also underlie many
capital busts. The creation of ‘suburbia’ in the 1950s and 60s was a key part
of that boom. The massive building boom
has probably kept the world economy going since 2008, even though many Chinese office
towers are empty. 70% of their economy in 2010-2011 was dedicated to building – a figure with no match in history. The 2008 crash
itself was intimately connected to housing, which was 40% of the China
economy. Even the 1929 crash was
preceded by a bust in real estate. Building
is a Keynesian method of stimulus - and destruction. Much
present building benefits the rich of course, which is why it must be so irresistible. Witness the grotesque makeover
of Dubai City. A ski slope indoors in the desert?
He notes that, unsatisfied with soaking regular mortgage owners with profitable interest rates that triple the price of the house, with interest paid up-front for 30 years – the capitalists decided en mass to soak the poor too with sub-prime mortgages. These are similar to payday loans or the ‘micro-finance’ movement that is impoverishing so many third-world people. Capitalists see that even the poor can be a veritable gold mine as long as they have a dime.
Harvey describes it, the
bourgeoisie configures cities and regions (Haussmann’s reconfiguration of Paris or Robert
Moses grand demolition of old ) by destroying working class and poor
neighborhoods through demolition, gentrification, and walling off upscale and
vital bourgeois downtowns by freeways or other barriers from proletarian and
poor neighborhoods. New
York is becoming a gated community – and
for good reason - four of the richest 10
zip codes in the Manhattan U.S. are in
. Anyone who experienced the street battles in Manhattan St. Paul, Minnesota, USA during the 2008 RNC knows how the I94 freeway ditch
and the conventioneers. Although the
giant fence cage didn’t hurt. St. Paul
The ‘right to the city’ means the right of the residents to democratically control their urban world, according to
. Right now, as we know, our mayors and city
council members are mostly whores to real estate developers, giant corporations
and mega projects dedicated to corporate suits, like the new Vikings
stadium in Minneapolis. Instead, struggles around
homelessness, foreclosure, gentrification, segregation, disaster relief, living
wage struggles, city counsel elections, stadiums, historical preservation, rent control,
urban gardens, co-ops or ‘peoples’ businesses, high and trivial fines, voting rights, use of tax money,
corporate welfare, high housing prices, road issues, rip-off businesses, tenants
rights, waste disposal, recycling, alternative transport, mass transit, eminent
domain, high utility prices, march and camping permits, even crime and police brutality,
are all based on ‘right to the city’ issues.
Though of course, they can all end up, as frequently happens, alone, as
tiny reformist struggles unconnected to any greater movement. The point is to unite them. Harvey
Harvey points to the commodification of ‘authentic’ neighborhoods, or authentic places, through tourism, real estate speculation, gentrification and corporatization, as an important issue for capital. Capital has to keep in touch with many cultural issues in order to commodify them – and still not completely kill them through sterility, through Disneylandification. Even paying attention to a city's fashion ideas and businesses can build profitable 'cultural capital.' This is a delicate balancing act, as seen in some hipster neighborhoods that become overloaded with ‘urban entrepreneurialism.’ This is almost what has happened to Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood, which is now a fake upscale copy of an actual urban neighborhood. And down the river, the character of New Orleans French Quarter is changing because of forces like tourism and MTV.
view then, workers that exist on a local, geographic level attain increased
importance – taxi drivers, construction workers, mothers, home workers, delivery truck drivers, street
vendors, the unemployed, temp workers and others. As I suggested in the 1980s, organizing shops on a geographic basis in
‘advanced’ capitalist countries – in industrial parks, office parks and
downtowns – irrespective of the company – might make more sense at times than just concentrating on separate companies alone. Large factories and work-sites
continue to disappear - just look at the recent closure of our local Ford plant in Harvey .
suggests unions organize communities, not just work-places, and thus reinforce both struggles. Harvey In this book, Harvey studies the history of the rebellions in Cochabamba
and , which did just that. These rebellions changed the face of Bolivia and Latin America, but he knows there is no
ideal road map. Understanding these issues may, at the right time, allow the working class to reclaim the cities they built. El Alto, Bolivia
And I bought it at May Day Books!
May 15, 2012