Metropolitics: Critical Theory, Collectivity and the Right to the City

Date: Monday 16 March 2009
Time: 00:00
Running time: 83 mins
The extraordinary global reality of contemporary urbanization has apparently given new life to Marxs belief that enormous cities might constitute one key condition of a social collectivity and spatial concentration in which some new social classs strength could grow and it could feel that strength more. The argument of this paper, however, is that many recent attempts to theorize and imagine such a politics have been limited by virtue of an anachronistic recourse to spatial and philosophical models of the polis in efforts to articulate, conceptually, emergent forms of social collectivity today. Specifically, it will be argued, these reflect a failure to confront the reality of the metropolis as a fundamentally abstract new kind of urban form, born of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism. Critically engaging with the recent work of urban theorists, this argument is given specific focus by a consideration of the extraordinary political and theoretical afterlife of Henri Lefebvres notoriously enigmatic notion of a right to the city, arguing that if this is not to be reduced to a merely romantic anti-capitalist gesture, such an idea needs to be re-inscribed as a properly modern right to the metropolis. David Cunningham is Principal Lecturer at the University of Westminster and an editor of the journal Radical Philosophy. He has published widely on architectural and urban theory, as well as on modernism and the avant-garde across the arts.

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