David Harvey is unabashedly political in his book Rebel Cities, published in 2012. He roots urban planning firmly in the realm of human rights and draws a distinct ‘line in the sand’ between cities which honor the rights of its citizens and those which have been ‘bought out’ by greater powers.
A professor at the City University of New York, David Harvey approaches the issues within urbanization academically – analyzing economic drivers of historic urban movements, connecting compartmentalized solutions to social failures, and noting shifts in societal perspectives as noteworthy in considering success in urban movements.
“Consumerism, tourism, cultural and knowledge-based industries, as well as perpetual resort to the economy of the spectacle, had become major aspects of urban political economy…” (p. 14)
He criticizes many modern solutions such as New Urbanism and the proliferation of property rights as only seemingly progressive, but ultimately serving only to relocate the social problems to another part of the city.
“These examples warn us of the existence of a whole battery of seemingly ‘progressive’ solutions that not only move the problem around but actually strengthen while simultaneously lengthening the golden chain that imprisons vulnerable and marginalized populations within orbits of capital circulation and accumulation.” (p. 20)
Overall, the book is extremely methodical in addressing the scope of urban issues, and offers unapologetic perspectives on what is good and bad in the realm of urban politics and economics. There’s much to be appreciated in Harvey’s analytical approach, but it mostly inspired (on my part at least) a desire to gather a greater pool of perspectives, within which to set his radical views.
What do you think of Harvey’s approach to urban issues? What is the best book you’ve read on this topic?
Credits: Images by Christine Cepelak. Data linked to sources.