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Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  671 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews

Cities have long been the pivotal sites of political revolutions, where deeper currents of social and political change are fleshed out. Consequently, they have been the subject of much utopian thinking about alternatives. But at the same time, they are also the centers of capital accumulation, and therefore the frontline for struggles over who has the right to the city, an

Hardcover, 206 pages
Published April 4th 2012 by Verso (first published 2012)
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David Harvey, the man who systematically lays down the abject failures of neoliberalism, tries to plot out his course for how, hopefully, a revolutionary replacement can begin. Rebel Cities is divided first into a further analysis of the failures of neoliberal capitalism, and second into an analysis of where any kind of revolt would start.

And it's really in this second part where you get some serious originality of thought. Harvey has absolutely no patience for naïve optimism or the sort of hier
Sep 07, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: economy, politics
See David Harvey do beautiful and practical things with Marxist theory!

For me, this book was a real coming-together of scattered bits of thought that have been gathering for some time now, about rent-as-debt, cultural production as a force in gentrification, and organizing around living issues (housing, quality of life) as central to labor and anti-capitalist organizing. At the same time, it was a useful challenge to certain habits of thought I've developed and language I sometimes use a little
Apr 24, 2012 dead rated it really liked it
This book, a collection of essays/articles written by Harvey, articulates Harvey's call to reconsider the role reproduction of urban life and the city play within our conception of revolutionary, radical and class based politics. Harvey also produces his concerns on the notion of horizontal/localist organisation and politics, and urges with us to overcome our organisational paralysis and truly think about how to construct radical politics in order to present a threat to capital.

Harvey provides a
Jan 01, 2013 Andrea rated it really liked it
David Harvey is the kind of academic figure that movement really needs I think, one of the most prestigious and well-known geographers in the world who has been writing for decades about capitalism and how we can fight it. Unlike many academics however, he remains much more open to new ideas, to change, and to dialogue with grassroots folks which is strongly reflected in this book as it attempts to present theory and practice stripped of most academic jargon yet none of its rigor. It's still ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Viola rated it really liked it

From 1925 (the year in which a strong Schilling currency replaced the devalued Krone) to 1934, more than 60,000 new flats were built in so-called Gemeindebau ("community construction") buildings. Large blocks were situated around green courts, for instance at Karl-Marx-Hof (one of the hot spots in the civil war of 1934) or at George Washington Court. The tenants of the new flats were chosen on the basis of a ranking system in which e.g. persons with handicaps got extra points to be chosen earlie
Mar 18, 2013 Suzammah rated it did not like it
I was largely disappointed by this, though I was expecting something which Harvey wasn't actually setting out to do. I was after an investigation into the nature of urban public space and its relationship with revolution. Harvey wasn't doing this. I'm still not sure what he was doing. Essentially I found it frustrating because it was wholly framed through Marxism which I find constricting and staid, even when Harvey occasionally took a peek outside the superstructure. There's nothing radical in ...more
The Rabbit Hole Researcher
I figured the general idea Harvey was trying to get across in Rebel Cities should be commonsense to most people: The forces of capitalism and neoliberal debt design our cities to where we are just pawns in the non-stop 'creative destruction'; and in being played we still depend upon it's ongoings just as much as we hate to bear the brunt of it. Harvey spends most of the book going into detail about how this works with some explicative histories of it; including the recent housing crisis. He ...more
Joni Baboci
The author gives a thorough description of urbanization, urban development and construction in our current day and age, analyzing through a Marxist perspective how capital seems to have grounded itself in cities. The book is a collection of different articles written by Harvey on the city in the last decade. The second chapter explains how capital is continuously being urbanized through an interpretation of the housing bubble and subsequent crisis, as well as the analysis of Chinese urban ...more
Anders K.
An incredibly inspiring book, it did have some dull sections (hence the 4-star rating) which were nonetheless interesting. From the 'Right to the City' that is becoming an issue in most major urban centres, i.e. to whom are cities changing for and what rights do its citizens have to determine its function, the book goes on to provide a Neomarxist analysis of capital theory and the circulation of money to explain the causes of the recent housing bubble and ensuing financial crisis. Harvey ...more
Nov 11, 2012 James rated it really liked it
David Harvey sets out a very clear Marxist interpretation of the most recent crisis of capitalism. He is a fantastic ability to show how the global economy's chase of cheap labour coupled with advancing economies pursuit of wealth is just plain nuts. We cannot keep using the policy of getting people to buy houses and fill them with things to generate wealth.

There is one paragraph that has stuck with me and that's near the end of the book when he describes how capitalism has gone feral. As a teac
Jan 30, 2016 Joshua rated it really liked it
How do cities get built? Why do they get built? Who decides their form and purpose?


Or at least that is Harvey's claim. In Rebel Cities he sets up a concise argument to convince the reader that the urban form is, and has been since its origins, a creation of accumulated capital. He says this becomes particularly clear after the French Revolution when Napoleon commissioned Haussmann to renovate Paris. Why would Napoleon do that? Well, there were a lot of rich French people who needed to
Mar 28, 2014 Cathy rated it really liked it
Excellent guide to Marxist urban theory that is up-to-date with illustrative examples of current events happening in cities around the world that we may or may not be familiar with. A good and understandable explanation of Marxism that is often hard to find.
Jul 01, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
An excellent and thought provoking book on our urban spaces.

Harvey is always accessible and engagingly readable.

Well worth a read for anyone interested modern capital and how it can be changed progressively
May 17, 2012 Gyan added it
Some very insightful chapters, others with the familiar Harvey argument.
Amy Carlisle
May 06, 2016 Amy Carlisle rated it really liked it
Harvey is a Marxist and the author of A Brief History of Neoliberalism which I read and which impressed me. Rebel Cities is equally impressive.

In 'Rebel Cities', David Harvey re-examines and interprets the basis of capitalist accumulation to show its essentially urban roots. This is certainly a wide and sweeping project and it is largely convincing.

Harvey builds on the work of Henri Lefebvre, a French Marxist who wrote in the 1960s. Lefebvre coined or popularized the phrase “right to the city.
Aug 02, 2013 Malcolm rated it really liked it
The city is a perplexing thing; it is getting close to the time when most of us on this planet live in one yet many of us have a very poor sense of what they are and what they do. In the early 1990s, drawing on ideas most lucidly expressed by Henri Lefebvre, the postmodern geographer Edward Soja argued, compellingly, that critical and radical social theories prioritise history/time and denigrate space; as rich as some of his work turned out to be, Soja never really seemed to get systemic ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Debra rated it liked it
This book presents all sorts of important ideas that combine traditional Marxist theory, urban geography/studies and some of the more recent (i.e. largely post-crash) developments in capitalism to argue for how we need to take on capitalism in the rest of the 21st century. Harvey has been writing about all this stuff for literally donkey's years, and it's exciting to see the old guard take on the issues that matter to my generation (kind of like Jeremy Corbyn ... ). So, it should have been ...more
Chad Kohalyk
Being both a collection of essays, as well as a more academic book written in response to a whole field of analysis, this book is pretty inaccessible. What a shame, since the core concept of extending the battle against capitalism from the industrial factory (where capitalists use scale to gain surplus at the expense of labourers) to the city (where capitalists use scale to gain surplus at the expense of citizens) was so novel. Analyzing urban uprisings as anti-capitalist uprisings, and thinking ...more
Martin Lund
Apr 28, 2014 Martin Lund rated it liked it
Shelves: new-york
The book puts the capitalist dimensions of urbanization in perspective and elucidates what is happening all over the world (particularly, perhaps, in New York) right now in terms of (hyper)gentrification and the dispossession necessary for these processes to occur at the scale and speed they do. Perhaps the most important contribution the book makes is its revitalized conception of the prolatariat, that moves it out of the factory and expands it to cover the masses that produce and reproduce ...more
Feb 23, 2014 Alba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No era exactamente lo que esperaba cuando lo compré (buscaba más una perspectiva de urbanismo) pero da nuevas ideas. No es un libro como tal si no una recopilación de artícuos del autor poniendo el enfoque en teorías capitalistas y marxistas desde una perspectiva urbana y cómo nada es blanco ni negro ni el libre mercado buen gestor ni lo comunal siempre práctico. La última parte se centra en los movimientos de los últimos años (PortoAlegre, Occupy Wall-Street) y está hecho en los primeros meses ...more
Dec 11, 2014 V rated it it was ok
Shelves: cities, marxism
It's a bit hard to write a review of this book given that I have some major disagreements with most of David Harvey's solutions vis-a-vis socialist movements and mass society. That said, it's an alright introduction to the "right to the city" concept that sometimes gets touted by radicals. I appreciated the clarification of those ideas (it's a radical demand, not a reformist one). The Marxist analysis of various economic factors and what not was a little dry for my tastes though and really ...more
Adam Drew
Sep 17, 2013 Adam Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very deep and dissecting look at the role of cities in the establishment and maintenance of the modern neoliberal capitalist system, and a discussion of how that role might be managed and transformed to serve ends of the public, rather than the capitalist power-holders.

The edition I read includes a short chapter on the Occupy movement, which was perhaps more optimistic about that movement than was truly warranted, but which certainly is worth investigating.

Overall I strongly recommend this bo
May 06, 2015 Will rated it it was ok
A disappointing read from a theorist who I quite respect. The title and the cover of the book (I know, I know) lead me to expect an altogether different work. Not particularly coherent around the theme nor original in its analysis, I fear that David Harvey phoned this one it at the behest of an eager publisher or agent looking to cash in on the news of the day.

Easily the worst thing I've read by this normally insightful and profound thinker, but not a bad book per se. I wish I could've given it
Jason Walker
Dec 08, 2012 Jason Walker rated it it was ok
As I wrote in my last review of Marxist rhetoric, if it wasn't for Capitalism there wouldn't be the luxury to write such a book. My argument with Harvey would not be with the contents of his book, he has written a good book. My argument is simply do you know where your food comes from? I don't give a shit about Paris or D.C. and I do like to revolt, but this book leaves me with little hope - Harvey's Urban Revolution is akin to me cutting the grass as far as I am concerned, I don't water and I ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Kuva rated it liked it
This book was really a mixed bag for me. Much of the content is very compelling and interesting, but at the same time, the text is very dense and at times confusing, and ultimately the book, while laying out the problem very well, doesn't really propose possible solutions. This may be a problem built into the nature of what he's describing, but it's frustrating anyway. However, it does sort of light a fire under you and encourage further reading.
Aaron Berger
Dec 01, 2013 Aaron Berger rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
interesting discussion on the role cities will take in shaping communities future. Lots of good talking points.

A bit too hopeful though, as much as any socialist literature was coming out of 2011. What with Occupy and the Arab Spring and riots in London. It's sad to see people pontificating about a turning point when you're reading in 2013 and not much has changed.
Rui Coelho
Jan 15, 2016 Rui Coelho rated it liked it
David Harvey offer a few good remarks on the revolutionary importance of urban populations, but ends up following a radically reformist/social-democrat program, simillar to Laclau and Mouffe's: economic regulation, public services and popular participation. This falls short of the revolutionary anti-capitalist perspective present in his analysis of contemporary cities.
Ico Maly
May 19, 2016 Ico Maly rated it really liked it
Very good book. Harvey not only gives insight in the relation between urbanization and capitalism, he also show how the city can become a space of resistance and revolution. The strength of the book lies in the second step: The link between urban resistance and revolution and the need to think on larger scales. The state and beyond is a crucial instrument to create equality and equal rights.
May 26, 2014 Miray rated it really liked it
Gezi'nin ilk yılını doldururken münferit bir olay yaşamadığımızı, dünyadaki ne ilk ne tek örnek olmadığımızı görmek faydalı. Son yılların protestolarını bütünlüklü şekilde değerlendirmek isteyenler ve Gezi'ye dair analizlerini iktidara bağlamanın ötesine taşımak isteyenler için iyi bir başlangıç noktası Harvey'nin çalışmaları.
Dustin Kurtz
Jul 28, 2012 Dustin Kurtz rated it really liked it
Saw a group of people holding a sign bearing a slogan from this book on an OWS action. Started talking to them about the book, thankfully not too critically. Old quiet guy on the right? Harvey himself.
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David Harvey (born 1935) is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he graduated from University of Cambridge with a PhD in Geography in 1961. He is the world's most cited academic geographer (according to Andrew Bodman, see Transactions of the IBG, 1991,1992), and the author ...more
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“Lefebvre’s concept of heterotopia (radically different from that of Foucault) delineates liminal social spaces of possibility where “something different” is not only possible, but foundational for the defining of revolutionary trajectories. This “something different” does not necessarily arise out of a conscious plan, but more simply out of what people do, feel, sense, and come to articulate as they seek meaning in their daily lives. Such practices create heterotopic spaces all over the place. We do not have to wait upon the grand revolution to constitute such spaces. Lefebvre’s theory of a revolutionary movement is the other way round: the spontaneous coming together in a moment of “irruption,” when disparate heterotopic groups suddenly see, if only for a fleeting moment, the possibilities of collective action to create something radically different. That coming together is symbolized by Lefebvre in the quest for centrality. The traditional centrality of the city has been destroyed. But there is an impulse towards and longing for its restoration which arises again and again to produce far-reaching political effects, as we have recently seen in the central squares of Cairo, Madrid, Athens, Barcelona, and even Madison, Wisconsin and now Zuccotti Park in New York City. How else and where else can we come together to articulate our collective cries and demands?” 0 likes
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