March 10 2014

Book Review: ‘Rebel Cities’ by David Harvey

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.

 Philadelphia, PA Rebel Cities

“The results of this increasing polarization in the distribution of wealth and power are indelibly etched into the spatial forms of our cities.” (p. 15)

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.

Philadelphia, PA Rebel Cities

Philadelphia, PA

“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?

Rebel Cities is an Verso Books publication. The Grid is giving away three FREE copies of the book. Make sure to go to Rafflecopter Giveaway so you can enter to win your free copy of Rebel Cities!

Credits: Images by Christine Cepelak. Data linked to sources.

Christine Cepelak

Christine Cepelak is an emerging sustainability and corporate social responsibility professional in the Dallas, Texas area. Interested in how communities can facilitate connection, well-being, and equality, she has spent time serving on location in an Indian orphanage, applying community development principles in East Dallas, and investigating the cutting edge of sustainability practices in Denmark. With an academic background in International Political Economy, she hopes to bring the value of poli-economic context and social consequence to the forefront of sustainable urban development conversation.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 10th, 2014 at 5:57 am and is filed under Book Review, Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Housing, Infrastructure, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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