Urban Policy in the UK: “From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution”

Pages: 8
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Inspired by the most recent waves of urban struggles and revolutionary, from the Spanish Indignados to the Latin American urban social movements, David Harvey’s Rebel Cities deconstructs capitalism in aspects of capitalist accumulation and urbanization. It makes essential contributions to the understanding of how individuals would conceptualize the city and change society through the city. Harvey is a notable professor well-known for his multidisciplinary approach that combines Marxist political economics and social geography. Cities are now being and have also been dramatically changed in the capitalist Class, Harvey contends. In Rebel Cities, Harvey argues for a fundamentally reoriented urban environment free of alienation, based upon the work of Henri Lefebvre preceding him.

The Link Between Urbanisation and Capitalism

In the first portion of the book, Harvey tries to show readers how the current style of urbanization is linked to capitalism and a class phenomenon. In his study, he points out that several crises since 1973 have been caused by property or urban growth and that property markets and macro-economy are closely linked. According to Harvey, Marxist theorists have neglected this relationship in their study of crises, such as the latest one of 2007-09. Harvey contends that by including the property market in the theoretical model of capital mobility, individuals may better comprehend the dynamics of today’s metropolitan issues. It ends with a chapter on the ‘art of rent,’ the primary predatory tactic capitalists utilize against the poor. The author believes monopoly rent is always a capitalist demand, as is monopoly ownership and production control, including money and land.

To speak about monopolization as an aim of capitalism, particularly neoliberalism, appears contradictory. As Harvey points out, competition leads to oligopolies and monopolies, and the more ferocious the rivalry, as under neoliberalism, the quicker they form. So private property monopoly is the alpha and the omega of the capitalist, the beginning and the end. ‘In the anti-capitalist struggle, citizens and companions may march together,’ writes David Harvey in his new book, Rebel Cities. This graphic summarises the book’s central argument: cities serve as a central for surplus-value consumption and, ultimately, as a source of value creation.

From the capitalistic process of wealth generation, cities are divided by class strife. Fictitious capital in the form of mortgages and microfinance and fixed assets like infrastructure are examples of geographical and temporal deformations that create capitalist spaces. On the one hand, the bourgeoisie seeks to seize areas and exercise control through property; on the other hand, a wide variety of workers build cities but experience a multitude of exclusionary practices and dispossessions. They may also be the seeds of revolution, according to Harvey. The right to the city includes the freedom to change and remake it as individuals see fit.’ (p. 4). Achieving “more democratic control over the surplus’s development and utilization” is required (p. 22). In this book, Harvey provides some theoretical analysis of possible liberating alternatives. In general, Harvey’s main contribution to Marxism is to show how capital displaces crises through spatial-temporal shifts.

Capital Accumulation and Transformation of Cities

Harvey’s ability to travel across time shows both the city’s capitalist processes and its vibrant political life and possibilities. Harvey describes how the restrictive logic of capital accumulation has transformed cities, privatizing wealth, living standards, and living spaces. In Haussmann’s Paris plan, whole communities were evacuated to build the boulevards and enhance bourgeois rule over the metropolis. As a consequence, whole Brazilian favelas were evicted as part of the preparations for such International Competitions.

Furthermore, the need to absorb vast sums of surplus wealth generated in China reorganizes its geography. Mega-projects like dams and railways displace thousands of people while allowing the bourgeois to claim additional territory. The house of representatives or ‘communing’ techniques is one option. “The premise that the relationship observed between a social group and the common environment must be both public and non-commoditized,” he explains, underpins this approach. (Page 73) The commons are located in the center of the city to the right. Nonetheless, many present community solutions are traps since EU parliament may and often are privatized. Harvey is hesitant when it comes to commons and fully independent alternatives. Gentrification and tourism are two examples of how a cultural paradigm of life related to geography becomes a commodity that is substituted by a bourgeois homogenized existence.

He contends that urbanization has been significant in absorbing investment overflows and that it has done so at ever-increasing different scales, even at the cost of the rest of booming process innovation processes that have deprived larger communities of any claim to the city. According to Harvey, capitalism advances through spatial dislocations, and it is necessary to travel in spatial analytically to comprehend its motions. In this work, Harvey presents some theoretical studies of possibly liberating alternatives (p. 22). He maintains that urbanization has been crucial in absorption capital overflows. It has done so at ever-increasing geographical scales, even at the price of flourishing process innovation processes that have stripped urban residents of any claim to the city (p. 22). According to Harvey, capitalism progresses via geographical and temporal dislocations, and it is necessary to travel through space-time analytically to grasp its movements.

There are a lot of them in this book; urbanization, exclusionary behaviors, racism, health difficulties, and environmental catastrophes are examples of “global market value determination norms. ‘How, therefore, does a revolution become organized?’ (P, 140) Harvey is inspired by the South, namely Cochabamba, El Alto, and La Paz in Bolivia, wherein social solidarity and worker knowledge united to combat restrictive neoliberal tactics in the preceding decade. The ongoing indigenous uprising in Bolivia, a primarily indigenous nation, is highlighted by Lefebvre’s perspective of “traditional peasants vanishing and the countryside being urbanized” (p. 15). At El Alto, the core of this revolt, former rural populations were displaced by capitalism land accumulation and new political topics, practices, and locations.

Despite dismissing the romantic character of the indigenous revolt, Harvey cites it as a model for ‘the mobilization of the resources of tradition and communal memory’ (p. 150). A crucial ‘generality’ that the anti-capitalist fight must accomplish at some time, symbolized by the citizen and comrade marching together, he says Class and struggle are not antagonistic to him in his vision of democracy and rights within a greater body-politic (p. 153). The right to the city can and must be included in anti-capitalist initiatives, converting the working-class struggle into a battle for improved living circumstances and access to private cities and places.

Communalism and Urbanisation

Contrary to what Harvey says in another book, Bolivia is today a “place of hope.” The Andes area has been a significant source of wealth throughout capitalism history, supplying metals to the global economy. That is why its people have a communal memory of exploitation and realization of nothing. Harvey’s schema does not include the relative positions of various places in the global value chain. It is unclear if the Bolivian process may inspire alternatives in other places (or whether battles in the South and north can be equated). ‘The revolutionary in our times need to be urban or nothing,’ Harvey writes in rebel Cities, a book influenced by Lefebvre (p. 25). Harvey excels in explaining the complicated economic mechanisms that underpin urbanization and capital movements. Urbanization is essential in absorbing excess capital, mainly via “creative destruction, or large-scale city reorganization.”

Thus, as Harvey correctly notes, urbanization has become a capitalistic process, a tool in the hand of capitalists, and a crucial aspect of capitalism’s reproduction. According to the author, modern cities are the outcome of the ‘social and geographical concentration’ of surplus goods, making them a classes phenomenon, as surpluses must be drawn from someplace, namely the working class. Thus, the kind of urbanization that created and continues to create cities globally needs a surplus product created by capitalism. But there’s a symbiotic relationship between this form of urbanization. The excess output required by urbanization is continually produced, notes Harvey (p. 5). Urbanization is required for capitalism to absorb its excess goods. The mid-19th century reconstructions of Paris and post-WWII New York, planned by Georges Haussmann and Robert Moses, are two notable instances of capitalism using urbanization to absorb excess output. In both situations, a new lifestyle emerged, which spawned materialism, notably in New York.

Effect Of Privatization of Property in The Metropolitan

Margaret Thatcher’s privatization of public housing created a housing pricing structure in London’s metropolitan region that prevented low-income and sometimes even middle-class individuals from accessing apartments near the city center. The commercialization of the city and ‘urbanization along class lines’ (p. 63) has supported capital accumulation in recent years. Capitalist urbanization involves ‘displacement and dispossession. Usually, poorer and weaker groups lose their position and territory in the metropolis. It is pertinent to note that this book reflects on the problem of the lack of proper housing in contemporary society. Most people particularly low-class people lack proper housing and are exposed to pressing mortgage bills that they are unable to pay. The privatization of public housing brought with it negative impacts and led to the creation of slums within the suburbs of London cities. The slums are characterized by shanty and poor housing which are very unhygienic.

Harvey contends that the dominant neoliberalist ‘ethic of strong possessive individualism’ has transformed cities into commodities. In contrast, the commons have been abolished and converted into gated communities, private-public places under continual supervision. The commons are vital urban ties between social groupings and public areas or traditions that maintain and perpetuate life: It is fundamental to the practice of communing that the relationship between the social class and the common element of the surroundings be communal quasi (p. 73). However, neoliberal privatization policies have commodified commons and reduced funding for public areas vital to commons production. In other words, neoliberals consistently target low-income urban dwellers. According to Harvey, neoliberalism also targets the state, eroding its authority over the surplus created. Harvey, a Marxist, sees regaining democratic control of the state as a remedy to the neoliberal attack.

As mentioned before, the author establishes in the first portion of the book that the present structure of urbanization is vital for replicating capitalism. Harvey, therefore, prepares the ground for his second important point, that the city is a significant location of political, economic, and Class battles and that various types of urbanization should become crucial to anti-capitalist efforts. The author contends that the ‘right to the city’ is a battle for dramatic reform and revolution that will eradicate capitalism urbanization practices and recreate the city in a socialist image.

The author cited a lengthy history of urban battles, from revolutionary activities in Paris in 1789 through the French Republic in 1871 and the Seattle Popular Uprising of 1919 to 1968, supporting his second primary point. He also stresses the importance of fundamental city-site qualities like architecture and infrastructure, exploited as political weapons. Harvey contends that political authority has rebuilt urban infrastructure and life to keep rebellious people under control, citing Haussmann’s boulevards in Paris as one example.

Previously restricted to specific cities like Haussmann’s Paris, Harvey observes a “leap in global size.” Robert Moses’ post-war redevelopment of the American metropolis imagined national-scale creative devastation, but the 1970s neo-liberal movement made these processes worldwide. Harvey contends that globalization threatens local and regional communities’ particular identity, culture, customs, and way of life, not via global uniformity, which is “unrealistic,” but through urban entrepreneurship and gentrification. These practices, such as Thatcher Thatcher’s privatization of council homes in central London, are commonly the answer to poverty and crime in the emerging BRIC nations. He says that the urban poor may readily be convinced to trade in an item for minimal cash payment. If that happens, the slopes around Rio will soon be dotted with high-rise condos, while the poor will be pushed farther out into a growing perimeter.

The affordable housing issue in London, like poverty in Rio or Mumbai, is relocated. The art of rent, maximizing capital extraction from land value, trying to destroy less financially viable land uses to generate new uses, trying to follow the Foucauldian maxim “if individuals do not segment revenue, then clients do not have a claim to real estate” (p. 160). Harvey explores a longstanding neoliberal rationale for squatter settlements in developing nations. As a result, cities throughout the globe shudder as the dispossessed exercise the right to the city. Urban insurrection is a reality in Turkey and Brazil, where movements built culturally and politically varied educational and social areas. Revisiting the ‘Urban Commons’ and how to regulate them, Rebel Cities is current.


Rather than the historical Materialism focus on labor and the place of work, the book teaches leftist activists to rethink the proletariat in a thread world, focusing on the city and metropolitan processes as critical sites of class struggle. From horizontalism to confederalism to nested-hierarchy, Harvey explores the problems inherent in such proposals and the potential viability of such ‘radical’ processes to be easily reappropriated by capitalist urbanization. His approach and remarks on recent struggles and movements, such as the short moralizing rant upon the London Riots instead of the more thoughtful evaluation of those events, give his arguments an impression of misunderstanding and insincerity. Notwithstanding this, Rebel Cities is a gratifying read, especially for those involved in widespread urban change and developing alternatives to neoliberalism on more minor, more localized scales. Harvey proclaims in Rebel Cities that the revolution must be urban or none at all.


Harvey, David. (2012). From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London, Verso.