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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,284 ratings  ·  98 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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May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I began this book with a different idea of its content. The book has a deep philosophical context on the sense of property, and the city's land use. It is a very interesting read as you can follow how several parts of the city have lost their identity because of the non/regulated acquisition of land.
Even though I'm sure that what the author suggests (to eliminate certain levels of authority to regain control of our surroundings, among other proposals) is somewhat complicated for us citizens to
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 06, 2012 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
This is a must read for anyone vaguely interested in the macroscopic roots of urbanization process and its interplay with local struggles. The following review will only touch briefly, on a minority of the points raised by Harvey. But content aside, I find the arguments made by Harvey as clearly expressed as they can be, with the occasional joke on the side!

Harvey, as he's well known to do, rigorously applies Marxist theory in the first two chapters in oder to explain urban sprawl as a dynamic o
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This is part of VERSO Books’ ‘essential David Harvey’ series of four landmark texts of political theory by the DH. A timely series for my ongoing efforts to work my way through all things David Harvey.

For me, he is one of the most exciting political theorists of our time. I also like that he’s this old-school Marxist who’s been teaching Capital Volume 1 since the 1970s or so. Every year and he’s still super excited about it. Cannot recommend his podcasts highly enough. He’s this white old man a
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it

In this book Harvey argues that cities have become the center of capital accumulation, trade, banking and culture etc... Those who posses power and capital shape the architectural structure of the cities according to their class interests. Architectural structure of the cities reflect the class character of them. He suggests that if the city has the potential to acummulate capital, take under control the citizens and empower class power then the prospect to organize the working classes and peop
Dec 10, 2012 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 qui ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Reads like a series of unrelated essays, which it primarily is. Like most economic writing, the ideas here for changing our society are buried too deeply in academic dryness. Also remarkable how out of date the OWS stuff feels, not even 10 years out.
Feb 28, 2013 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 economi ...more
Oct 01, 2012 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
Feb 19, 2013 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
Mar 09, 2012 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
Mar 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Mostly focuses on the idea of the "Right to the City" - a collective right to have a voice in shaping the city by those who "make" the city, and provides some examples towards the end.

The main economic argument is that urbanization happens as a result of the absorption of surplus capital into the economy - real estate investing (and the multiple financial layers involved) is necessary in capitalism but often dispossesses the working class from its voice in the city (the process of "creative des
Jul 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: this is a collection of several articles about the city by David Harvey, not a self-contained book, as such. For that reason, the chapters are best assessed separately. Most of them were basicly economics texts, describing capitalization and urbanization. When he finally got to his main argument in chapter five, it was a huge relief; and then, after 20 pages spent anticipating the possibilities of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it was abruptly over. So, as a more well-developed tex ...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 growth ...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 further ...more
Oct 02, 2012 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 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
Martin Lund
Apr 26, 2014 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 urb ...more
Benjamin Britton

"So let us agree: the idea of the right to the city does not arise primarily out of various intellectual fascinations and fads (though there are plenty of those around, as we know). It primarily rises up from the streets, out from the neighborhoods, as a cry for help and sustenance by oppressed peoples in desperate times."

"In commemorating the centennial of the publication of Marx’s Capital with a tract on The Right to the City, Lefebvre was certainly intending a provocation to conventional Marx
Jul 01, 2013 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
Feb 03, 2014 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.
Apr 30, 2012 added it
Some very insightful chapters, others with the familiar Harvey argument.
Nils Jepson
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
this was not what i was expecting which i guess is good! Harvey is definitely more of a marxist scholar than someone interested in urbanism and honestly, i think i needed that! I've been caught up in a lot of planning talk and jargon and thoughts like "how to make housing more expensive near bicycle infrastructure" but Harvey is working on a really different level here. his essays are more specific than expected while also staying (mostly) theoretical. they're all unrelated and hardly build a bo ...more
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Faced with the onslaught of the tentacles of the neo-liberal political-economic complex that stretches into all aspects of our lives , a divided left that has been pushed to the margins and that bickers on theoretical and ideological tidbits, where is hope left for a radical, socialist, anti-capitalist movement to be (re)born ?

In Rebel Cities, David Harvey seeks to answer that question by shifting focus away from the traditional leftist views of authoritarian vs libertarian, hierarchical vs non-
Summary: Heavy on Marxist political theory and jargon, but interesting and important points hidden in it all.

I'm into political theory but mostly what I know is from Poli Sci classes in university and stronger on the actual Marx than on the more recent theorizing. This book was a dense read where I had to continually stop and think about what all those words meant in context and probably not accessible to the general public. However, it made some really strong arguments that I think are highly
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book about cities, how the city is used as a battle ground by capital (real estate developers, financial institutions...) and how it can be reclaimed for progressive struggles. By trying to appropriate cultural practices and urban landmarks for their own purposes, capital also opens a new space for progressive politics to operate in. David Harvey's analysis is anti-dogmatic in the good sense of the word. While not denying that primary exploitation under capitalism happens ...more
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very academic, theoretical book, and I felt like I had flashes of clarity while reading it, interspersed with not knowing what the author had just said. The parts I understood I liked, and I think they will stick with me. He starts with explaining Marxism, and then extrapolates it to the situation of modern cities. Marx wrote about manufacturing, and the proletariat as producing goods. In today's urbanized world fewer people work in manufacturing, but Harvey says that what most of us d ...more
Amy Carlisle
May 06, 2016 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.
Robyn Lewis
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Super interesting read about the role of urbanisation in capital accumulation. I liked how the theory was set out in the first couple of chapters prior to getting into practical applications of it, and how Harvey attempted to posit some solutions as opposed to just critique others' attempts at them. I felt like the chapters were quite disconnected, so it didn't come as a surprise when the acknowledgements at the end revealed that it was more or less a collection of different papers he had alread ...more
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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?” 2 likes
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