The Private-Public Divide

April 7, 2011

The Right to The City – David Harvey


What is your right to the city? Cities are places where the rights of property owners ‘trumps all other notions of rights’ (Harvey p23). Profit is the only consideration and this is of concern because it ignores the importance of our own environment in shaping our lives and by leaving the control of our cities to an elite class we’re neglecting our ‘right to change ourselves by changing the city’.


Harvey taps in to some big issues, arguing the constant cycle of constructing new urban developments in the place of slums is an essential part of Capitalism, ‘resolving the problem of capital accumulation’ (Harvey p26), reminding us of Henri Lefebvre who wrote that ‘urbanization is central to the process of capitalism and therefore is bound to become a crucial focus of political and class struggle’. But to change this situation Harvey explains it’s more complex than just choosing more wisely between consumer goods. These are both global and local issues where consumer habits defining the contemporary urban experience with an ‘aura of freedom of choice’ on the local scale allows for a global process of displacement and ‘accumulation by dispossession’ to occur. After all we know from our own experience that Australia is the rich country it is today due to our resources serving China’s massive growth in the construction of urban developments on an unprecedented scale. Against their undemocratic urban processes, are we meant to avoid doing business with China and choose to go in to recession?


The solution that Harvey suggests to rectify the problem of our loss of rights to the city is ‘the greater democratic control over the production and utilisation of the surplus’ a step (towards communism?) away from the ‘neoliberal project’ that has been ‘oriented towards privitizing that control’. He calls for nothing short of a ‘global struggle’ to deal with the scale of the issue, using the urban as a tool for the struggle.



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