The Right to the Our City

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

“The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.” – David Harvey: The Right to the City


This excerpt from David Harvey’s essay, “The Right to the City” has been weighing very heavily on me lately. It succinctly expresses the problem and solution to the question of urbanity. The problem: urbanity, currently, allows us to conceive of ourselves as autonomous individuals who merely exist in a codified system.  This complicates “social ties, (our) relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values…” and we are left with a society very much like the one you and I know and experience on a day-to-day basis. The beauty, and answer to this dilemma resides in the fact that our initial understanding of the modern condition of urbanity has been askew all along. Urbanity is inherently co-dependent, and  relational rather than independent and egocentric. Knowing this is empowering and taking this sentiment to heart has the capacity to be transformative in every sense of the word.

Part of the reason that we have so many societal wows is because we often think of ourselves as individuals rather than members of a larger whole. It should go without saying that this phenomena is shaped, in large part,  by economic systems that we, seemingly, have no control over. The transformative power of Harvey’s sentiments is how his solution has been framed, namely; it is our right to transform systems, particularly given the fact that we created them. The shame of the situation resides in the fact that a system that we has become perverted to no longer serve the interests of the masses, and perpetuate divisive tactics that underscore the believe in the individual over and above the common(s) good.

So, how do we shift paradigms, what steps need to be taken to re-awaken our sense of community, and belonging to and for one another?

It can also look like this:

Cities are ours lets see that they help us to see, really see, each other as dependent upon each other because we are.



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You are currently reading The Right to the Our City at MIDWEST SUSTAINABLE CITIES SYMPOSIUM.


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