Wednesday, 12 June 2013
The Future for Rebel Cities
As I’ve spent the last couple of days watching the state’s response to the Carnival against Capitalism in London, formed as to the looming G8 summit and recognising London’s pivotal role in supporting the architecture of global capitalism, it has reminded me of the central thrust of David Harvey’s critically important 2012 publication Rebel Cities.
Here, Harvey partly laments the decline of the urban space as the site of and location for anti-capitalist resistance and explores this through an examination of cities from South Africa to India. In doing so though he critically navigates something vital to understanding the context of the on-going Carnival battles in London.
Harvey predicates the first part of his work on the work of the French philosopher, Henry Lefebvre, and his ‘right to the city’ thesis. Lefebvre’s approach to an understanding of the role of the city as a site of resistance is made all the more important with his analysis of the ‘urbanisation of capital’ and that in the post-war era urbanisation was replacing industrialisation as a means of survival for capitalism.
Crucially, Lefebvre argues, the occupation and control of space (through property ownership and the use/abuse of rent) – and in particular sites of strategic economic and and political importance becomes, from a Marxist perspective, a new means of understanding the strategy of capitalist accumulation. In this new analysis of space however Lefebvre contends that as capitalism witnesses a reduction in the means by which production offers a route to accumulation, space and property provide a politically and financially profitable means via which to maintain predominance as an economic theory.
Harvey is worth reading for much more than a revisiting of Lefebvre, not least in understanding how urban spaces can provide an important location for the generation and propagation of anti-capitalist activity, but in this ultimate urban call to arms it is important that we do not lose sight or understanding of why the state would invest so much time and energy in defending the City of London whilst so much of the UK remains in neglect.