ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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City as the Revolutionary Space

Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to Urban Revolution by David Harvey (London and New York: Verso Books), 2012; pp xviii + 187, $19.95.

From antiquity cities have been the most dynamic spaces for cultural, political, social and economic transformation. Epochs prior to industrialisation, there was the oriental city (dominated by Asiatic Mode of Production), the antique city (Greek and Roman associated with the possession of slaves) and the medieval city (based on feudal relations but struggling against land feudalism). “The oriental and antique city was essentially political, the medieval city, without losing its political character, was related to commerce, craft and banking” (Lefebvre 1996a: 65-66). Modern European cities are characterised as capitalist cities dominated by service sector activities. These cities are crucial as spaces for capitalism to produce endlessly as well as spaces to dispose the over-accumulated produce. The supremacy of the capitalist mode of production in these cities leads to the eruption of mass movements in urban centres. To quote Harvey from his preface to the book under review,

It was also in this very same year, 1967, that Henri Lefebvre wrote his seminal essay on “The Right to the City”. That right, he asserted, was both a cry and a demand. The cry was a response to the existential pain of a withering crisis of everyday life in the city. The demand was really a command to look that crisis clearly in the eye and to create an alternative urban life that is less alienated, more meaningful and playful but, as always with Lefebvre, conflictual and dialectical, open to becoming, to encounters (both fearful and pleasurable), and to the perpetual pursuit of unknowable novelty.

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