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Insurgent Urbanity and the Political City

Cities and Citizenship
Insurgent Urbanity
and the Political City
Erik Swyngedouw
The people is those who, refusing to be the population,
disrupt the system. 1
Change life! Change Society! These ideas lose completely
their meaning without producing an appropriate space. 2
Insurgent Architects: Staging Equality
The Taksim Square revolt in Istanbul and the Brazilian urban insurgencies
were in full swing at the time of writing, with uncertain and largely unpre-
dictable outcomes. Tahrir Square where a revolutionary transformation of
Egypt took root later experienced a much rawer form of insurgency, nally
crushed when tanks and soldiers marched in and a coup d’état displaced the
rst democratically elected government of Egypt in decades. While Western
leaders boldly applauded the Egyptian insurgents in 2011, claiming that
the Egyptian people ” had nally risen up against a dictatorship (long held in
place by Western powers) and demanded democracy, these same leaders
remained conspicuously moderate in their critique of the military takeover
and deafeningly silent on the Turkish revolts.
These urban rebellions are part of a long sequence of political insur-
gencies that erupted rather unexpectedly after Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-
immolation on December 17, 2010 sparked the Tunisian Revolution. During
the magical year of 2011, a seemingly never-ending proliferation of urban
rebellions of many kinds and in a wide range of different historical and geo-
graphical contexts profoundly disturbed the apparently cozy neoliberal status
quo and disquieted various economic and political elites. The end of history,
boldly proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama in the early 1990s, proved to be
rather short-lived as incipient political movements reected, albeit in often
contradictory and confusing manners, a profound discontent with the state of
the situation and choreographed in spectacular Bakhtinian outbursts new
urban modes of being-in-common. Such urban uprisings have continued to
erupt ever since, as the recent examples of Hong Kong, Santiago de Chile, or
St. Louis testify.
Indeed, 2011 was an extraordinary urban year. Not since the 1960s have so
many people in vastly different cities across the world taken to the streets,
occupying squares and experimenting with new ways of organizing the urban
commons. There is an uncanny choreographic afnity between the eruptions
of discontent in cities as diverse as Istanbul, Cairo, Tunis, Athens, Madrid,
Lyon, Lisbon, Rome, New York, Tel Aviv, Chicago, London, Berlin, Thessa-
loniki, Stockholm, Barcelona, Montreal, Oakland, São Paulo, or Hong Kong,
among many others. A wave of deeply political protest is rolling through the
world’s cities, whereby those who do not count demand a new constituent
process for producing space politically. Under the generic name of “ real
democracy now, ” the heterogeneous mix of gatherers exposed the variegated
wrongs ” and spiraling inequalities of neoliberalization and actually existing
instituted democratic governance. The era of urban social movements, cele-
brated by Manuel Castells’s seminal The City and the Grassroots, seems to
be over, as a much more politicized mobilization, animated by insurgent
urban architects, is increasingly choreographing the contemporary theater
of urban struggle and conict.3
For Jacques Rancière, democratizing the polis is inaugurated when
those who do not count stage the count, perform the process of being counted
and, thereby, initiate a rupture in the order of things, “ in the distribution of
the sensible, ” such that things cannot go on as before.4 From this perspective,
democratization is a performative act that both stages and denes equality,
exposes a “ wrong, ” and aspires to a transformation of the senses and of the
sensible, to render common sense what was non-sensible before. Democra-
tization, he contends, is a disruptive affair whereby the ochlos (the rabble,
the scum, the outcasts, “ the part of no part ”) stage to be part of the demos
and, in doing so, inaugurate a new ordering of times and places, a process
by which those who do no count, who do not exist as part of the polis, become
visible and audible, stage the count, and assert their egalitarian existence.
There are many uncounted today. Alain Badiou refers to them as
the “ inexistent, ” the masses of the people that have no say, “ decide absolute-
ly nothing, have only a ctional voice in the matter of the decisions that
decide their fate. 5 The scandal of actually existing instituted (post-)democ-
racy in a world choreographed by oppression, exploitation, and extraordi-
nary inequalities resides precisely in rendering masses of people inexistent,
politically unheard, without a recognized voice.
For Badiou, “ a change of world is real when an inexistent of the
world starts to exist in the same world with maximum intensity. 6 In doing so,
the order of the sensible is shaken and the kernel for a new common sense,
a new mode of being in common, becomes present in the world, makes its
presence sensible. It is the appearance of another world in the world. Was it
Cities and Citizenship
not precisely the sprawling urban insurgencies and rebellions since 2011 that
sparked off with rarely seen intensity that ignited a new sensibility about the
polis as a democratic and potentially democratizing space? This appearance
of the inexistent, staging the count of the uncounted, is precisely, it seems
to me, what the polis, the political city, is all about.
As Foucault reminds us, the people (as a political category) are
those who, refusing to be the population, disrupt the system. The notion
of democracy introduced above is one that foregrounds intervention and
rupture, sustained by an axiomatic assumption of equality. Democratization,
then, becomes the act of the few who become the material and metaphori-
cal stand-in for the many, the 99 percent; they stand for the dictatorship
of the democratic direct and egalitarian against the despotism of the
democracy ” of the elites representative and inegalitarian. Is it not precise-
ly these spiraling urban insurgencies that brought to the fore the irreducible
distance between the democratic as the immanence of the presumption
of equality and its performative spatialized staging on the one hand, and
democracy as an instituted form of oligarchic governing on the other? Do
the urban revolts of the past few years not foreground the abyss between
the democratic ” and “ democracy ”? Is it not precisely the reemergence of
the proto-political in the urban revolts that signals an urgent need to reaf-
rm the urban, the polis, as a political space, and not just a space for the
bio-political governing of city life?
Of course the resistance against the Morsi regime, the attacks on
Erdogan’s combination of religious conservatism with a booming neoliberal-
ization of the urban process (stunningly well captured in the documentary
Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits7), the spiraling discontent over the pub-
lic bailouts and severe austerity regimes mounted by assorted states and
international organizations to save the global nancial system (and the very
socially embodied agents that sustained its growth) from imminent collapse
after the speculative bubble that had nurtured unprecedented inequalities
and extraordinary concentration of wealth nally burst in 2008. The quilting
points that sparked the rebellions were highly variegated too. A threatened
park and a few trees in Istanbul, a religious-authoritarian but nonetheless
democratically elected regime in Egypt, massive austerity in Greece, Portu-
gal, and Spain, social and nancial mayhem in the United Kingdom or the
United States, a rise in the price of public transport tickets in São Paulo,
the further commodication of higher education in Montreal.
Yet the urban insurgents quickly turned their particular grievanc-
es into a wholesale attack on the instituted order, on the unbridled com-
modication of urban life in the interests of the few, on the unequal chore-
ographies of existing representational democracy. The particular demands
Insurgent Urbanity and the Political City
transformed seamlessly into a universalizing staging for something different,
however diffuse, inchoate, and unarticulated this may be. The assembled
groups ended up without particular demands and thereby demanded every-
thing, nothing less then the wholesale transformation of the instituted order.
They staged in their sociospatial acting new ways of practicing equality
and democracy, experimented with innovative and creative ways of being
together in the city, and pregured, both in practice and in theory, new ways
of distributing goods, accessing services, producing healthy environments,
organizing debate, managing conict, practicing ecologically saner lifestyles,
and negotiating urban space in an emancipatory manner.
These insurgencies are decidedly urban; they may be the embryon-
ic manifestation of the immanence of a new urban commons, one always
in the making, aspiring to produce a new urbanity through intense meetings
and encounters of a multitude, one that aspires to spatialization, that is to
universalization. Such universalization can never be totalizing, as the lines of
demarcation are clearly drawn lines that separate the “ us ” (as multitude)
from the “ them, ” those who mobilize all they can to make sure nothing really
changes, captured neatly in the slogan of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent.
The democratizing minority stands here in strict opposition to the majoritar-
ian rule of instituted democracy.
These proto-political but decidedly urbanized attempts to produce
a new commons offer perhaps a glimpse of the theoretical and practical
urban agenda ahead. Do they not call for an urgent reconsideration of both
urban theory and urban praxis? Does there acting not signal a clarion call to
radically displace what has hitherto been dened as urban studies? To return
the intellectual gaze to consider again what the polis has always been the
site for political encounter and place for enacting the new, the improbable,
things often considered impossible by those who do not wish to see any
change? To invest the site for experimentation with the staging and produc-
tion of new radical imaginaries for what urban democratic being-in-common
might be all about? Recentering the urban political therefore is for me one of
the fundamental intellectual demands made by today’s urban life.
The insurgencies surely troubled the assembled elites of the world. The 2012
Davos World Economic Forum’s Risk Report considered these proliferating
political movements what the report referred to as “ seeds of dystopia
among the key risks affecting the world.8 The assembled elites at the annual
Davos Forum were clearly shaken by this intrusion in what had been for
years a rather smooth and rarely contested process of organizing the world’s
social and ecological geographies according to their neoliberal fantasies.
For Badiou, in contrast, these movements represent a potential “ rebirth of
Cities and Citizenship
history ” in the form of a new democratizing and egalitarian political sequence,
unfolding in the interstices of a hegemonic process of depoliticization and
post-democratization. The insurgents’ rallying cry for “ Democracy Now!,”
rather than articulating specic social or economic demands addressed to
the elites, turns them into explicitly “ political ” insurgent movements. Henri
Lefebvre’s 1960s call for “ The Right to the City ” is translated here in directly
political demands, claiming “ The Right to the Polis, ” a new democratic con-
stituent process, as political space. These insurgent movements call indeed
for revisiting the nature of the political, ” its theorization and congura-
tion a call that brings to the fore the dialectic between depoliticization
and repoliticization and its inscription in the dynamics of urban space. This
politicization of space is of course precisely what Lefebvre had in mind
when he wrote:
What, then, of the political status of space? No sooner has
space assumed a political character than its depoliticization
appears on the agenda. A politicized space destroys
the political conditions that brought it about, because the
management and appropriation of such a space run counter
to the state as well as to political parties; they call for
other forms of management loosely speaking, for “ self-
management of territorial units, towns, urban communi-
ties, regions, and so on. Space thus exacerbates the
conict inherent in the political arena and in the state per
se. It lends great impetus to the introduction of the anti-
political into the political, and promotes a political critique
which lends its weight to the trend towards the self-
destruction of the “ moment of politics. 9
The budding reinscription of the political in the urban landscape, articulat-
ed around the signier of equality, ” demands revisiting the recent history of
critical urban theory and its emphasis on “ sociological ” markers of inequal-
ity and the dynamics of their production. There is widespread agreement
today that urban theory and its multiple allied practices of planning, archi-
tecture, design, urban policy, and urban economic development are in a
serious crisis (together with so many other acute environmental, social, cul-
tural, and economic crises that we face). This indeed calls for an urgent
reconsideration of what we, urban intellectuals, think and perhaps more
important — do.
Insurgent Urbanity and the Political City
From Urban Critical Theory to the Political City
Much of the recent history (since the 1970s) of critical urban theory has been
marked by a commitment to a politics of emancipatory transformation and
to the creation of socially just urban geographies.10 Successive bodies of crit-
ical thought intervened in the existing state of urban theory and practice,
reframed and transgressed how urban theory ought to be done, and what
kind of urbanism ought to be practiced. Implicit and occasionally explicit
reference to normative notions of equality, justice, and freedom motivated
the impulse to further the formation, both theoretically and practically, of
a genuinely humanizing urbanity.
Of course, the epistemological and ontological parameters of what
constitutes proper and properly critical emancipatory enquiry and politics
have shifted over the past decades, as indeed did the contours and dynamics
of the urbanization process itself. Many of the theoretical and philosophical
foundations of critical emancipatory thought have been examined, reexam-
ined, reformulated, and often radically changed as an early emphasis on
class and the political-economy of class-based urbanization was gradually
extended to include (and occasionally replaced by) a wider range of other,
often competing, theoretical accounts and political claims, most notably
around identitarian inscriptions like race, ethnicity, age, sexual preference,
subalterity, and gender, or around attempts to produce more inclusive and
participatory forms of urban governing.
Surprisingly enough, relatively little critical reection has been
devoted to what constitutes the political domain, to what and where “ the
political ” is or might be. In most of urban theory’s critical theoretical appa-
ratuses, the political is usually assumed to emerge from what I would call a
broadly “ socio-spatial ” analysis. Put simply, a critical theory of the “ social
(despite the wide-ranging dispute over what exactly constitutes “ the social ”)
is considered to be the foundational basis from which an urban politics can
(or will) emerge, both theoretically and practically. It is the socio-spatial con-
dition and the excavation of the procedures of its inauguration that opens
up and charts the terrain of political intervention and that striates the
political subject. Substantive critical social theory, whether Marxist or post-
Marxist, structuralist or post-structuralist, essentialist or non-essentialist,
centered or decentered, presumably opens the terrain for proper political
intervention and action; the debate usually focusing on how exactly one or
the other epistemological framework constitutes the foundation for a more
or less empowering, emancipatory, and/or transformative urban politics.
And every twist and turn in the meandering of critical theory over
the last decades announced its own transformative political subject with its
geographically constituted tactics: the gure of the proletarian for Marxists,
Cities and Citizenship
woman for feminists, the creative class/cosmopolitan multitude for (neo-)
liberals, the subaltern subject for post-colonial theorists, heterogeneously
assembled human/post-human actants for Latourians, the decentered sub-
ject for Lacanians. From these perspectives, the political is seen as an emer-
gent eld that derives from substantive analysis: politically correct tactics
ow from theoretically correct analysis, and critical urban theory proposes
both the frame and the location of the properly political. Emancipatory poli-
tics, so it seems, arise out of substantive analysis, of grasping the contours
and dynamics of the states we are in. Such analysis situates the intellectual,
the philosopher-king, in the driver’s seat of radical urban politics.
These perspectives do not present the political as an autonomous
domain of engagement and a practice. On the contrary, its contents and
practices “ derive ” from processes operative in other domains. Put in philo-
sophical terms, the political is viewed as ontic, that is the perceptible orga-
nization, tactics, and strategies of actors such as political parties, politicians,
institutions, civil society organizations, urban social movement, unions,
business elites, artefacts, and the like. These “ perceptible ” dynamics, in turn,
shape and are shaped by the ephemeral dynamics of a restless urban land-
scape that is increasingly taking planetary forms. Their acting can be under-
stood and hence interfered with through the mobilization of the correct
urban substantive theory.
In contrast to this, I contend, together with Badiou, that there is
nothing that can any longer be done with social theory as a basis for recenter-
ing the political. The various insurgent urban movements that dot the land-
scape of planetary urbanism testify precisely to the bankruptcy of critical
urban thought and urge us to think “ the political ” again as an autonomous
and immanent eld of action. Indeed, for Badiou, socioeconomic analysis
and politics are absolutely disconnected ”: the former is a matter for exper-
tise and implies hierarchy; the latter is not. An absolute separation has to be
maintained, he argues, between “ science and politics, of analytic description
and political prescription. 11 For Badiou, the political is not a reection of
something else, like the cultural, the social, or the economic. Instead, it is
the afrmation of the capacity of each and all to act politically. It is a site
open for occupation by those who call it into being, claim its occupation and
stage “ equality, ” irrespective of the “ place ” they occupy within the social
edice. It is manifested in the process of subjectication, in the “ passage to
the act. ” This is precisely what the new (urban) political movements practice.
Insurgent Urbanity and the Political City
The (Urban) Political Re-scripted
In what follows, I shall explore further this post-foundational understanding
of the political that foregrounds the notion of equality as the axiomatic yet
contingent foundation of democracy, that considers égaliberté as an uncondi-
tional democratic demand, and that sees the political as immanent process
expressed in the rupture of any given socio-spatial order by exposing a
“ wrong ” and staging “ equality. ”1 2 This “ wrong ” is a condition in which the
axiomatic principle of equality is perverted through the institution of an order
what Rancière refers to as “ police that is always necessarily oligarchic.
The political, therefore, is not about expressing demands to the
elites to rectify inequalities or unfreedoms, the daily choreography of inter-
est and conict intermediation in public policy arrangements, or a call on
the state ” to undertake action, but, in contrast, it is the demand to be count-
ed, named, and recognized, theatrically and publicly staged by those “ that
do not count. ” It is the articulation of a voice that demands its place in
the spaces of the police order: it appears, for example, when undocumented
workers shout “ we are here, therefore we are from here ” and demand their
place within the socio-political edice, or when the Spanish indignados
demand “ Democracia real ya! ” and the Occupy movements claim to be the
99 percent that have no voice. These are the evental time-spaces from where
a new democratizing political sequence may unfold. Insurgent democratic
politics, therefore, are radically anti-utopian; they are not about ghting
for a utopian future, but are precisely about bringing into being, spatializing,
what is already promised by the very principle upon which the political is
constituted: equalitarian emancipation.
The political act, then, is the voice of oating subjects that dereg-
ulate all representations of places and portions 13 and that occupies, organiz-
es, and restructures space:
In the end everything in politics turns on the distribution
of spaces. What are these places? How do they function?
Why are they there? Who can occupy them? For me, political
action always acts upon the social as the litigious distri-
bution of places and roles. It is always a matter of knowing
who is qualied to say what a particular place is and what
is done to it. 14
The political, therefore, always operates from a certain minimal distance
from the State/the police and invariably meets with the violence inscribed
in the functioning of the police. It spatial markers are not the parliament,
meeting room, or council chamber, but the square, the housing estate, the
Cities and Citizenship
people’s assembly, the university campus, the factory oor. Insurgent urban-
ity cannot be other than provoking the wrath of the state and has to confront,
stare in the face, the violence that marks the rebirth of history. Insurrection-
al interruption precisely incites the objective inegalitarian violence of the
instituted order to become subjective, to become visible. Politics is indeed
the moment or process of confrontation with the police order, the meeting
ground between police and the political when the principle of equality con-
fronts a wrong instituted through the police order.
The space of the political is to disturb the socio-spatial ordering by
rearranging it with those who stand in for “ the people ” or the community.15
It is a particular that stands for the whole of the community and aspires
toward universalization. The rebels on Tahrir or Taksim Square were not
the Egyptian or Turkish population; while being a minority, they stood
materially and metaphorically for the Egyptian and Turkish people. The
political emerges when the few claim the name of the many, the community
as a whole, and are recognized as such. The emergence of political space
is always specic, concrete, particular, but stands as the metaphorical con-
densation of the universal.
And of course, politics is about the production of spaces and the
recognition of the principle of dissensus. Politics understood in the above
terms rejects a naturalization of the political, signals that a political “ passage
à l’acte ” does not rely on expert knowledge and administration (the partition
of the sensible), on rearranging the choreographies of governance, on orga-
nizing good governance, but on a disruption of the eld of vision and of
the distribution of functions and spaces on the basis of the principle of equal-
ity. This view of politics as a space of dissensus, for enunciating difference
and for negotiating conict, stands in sharp contrast to the consolidating
consensual “ post-politicizing ” rituals of contemporary neoliberal “ good
governance that combines a politicization of “ the economy ” with an econo-
mization of “ politics ” under the aegis of a naturalized market-based congu-
ration of the production and distribution of goods and services. It unhinges
a deep-seated belief that expert knowledge and managerial capacity can be
mobilized to enhance the democratic governance of urban space, to limit the
horizon of intervention to consensualizing post-democratic management
of the state of affairs.16 Of course, the above argument raises the question of
what to do. How to reclaim the political from the debris of consensual auto-
cratic post-democracy?
Insurgent Urbanity and the Political City
Democracia Real Ya! ”: The Return of the Political
The notion of the political presented above centers on interruption, dissen-
sus, polemic, and the performative practices of staging equality, articulated
around the constitutive dissensual heterogeneities that split “ the people,
traverse the myth of the One, the singular. It rejects the myth of an archae-
political possibility of an organic, sutured, nonfractured community.
The form of politicization predicated upon universalizing egalitar-
ian demands cuts directly though the radical politics that characterize so
much of the current forms and theorizations of urban resistance. Rather
than embracing the multitude of singularities and the plurality of possible
modes of becoming, rather than considering the ethical stance as the ulti-
mate horizon of and for political action, this approach starts from the sutur-
ing attempts of the existing police order and its associated social relations;
rather than reveling in the immanence of imperial transformation, an imma-
nence to which there is no outside (à la Hardt and Negri17), rather than the
micropolitics of dispersed resistances, alternative practices, and affects (à la
Holloway18 or Critchley19), the view explored in this contribution foregrounds
division and exclusion and emphasizes the passage to the act through a polit-
ical truth procedure that necessitates taking sides.20
Such egalitarian-democratic demands and practices, scandalous in
the representational order of the police, are nonetheless eminently realiz-
able. These passions for the Real can be thought and practiced irrespective of
any substantive urban social theorization it is the urban political in itself
at work.21 It is an active process of intervention through which (public) space
is recongured and through which if successful a new socio-spatial order
is inaugurated. The taking and remaking of urban public spaces has indeed
always been the hallmark of emancipatory geopolitical trajectories.
In The Rebirth of History, Badiou considers the proliferation of
these urban rebellions and their insurgent architecture to be a sign of a
potential return of the universal idea of freedom, solidarity, equality, and
emancipation.22 In his dissection of the events, he argues that these events
are marked by procedures of intensication, contraction, and localization.
A political idea/imaginary cannot nd grounding without localization.
A political moment is therefore always placed, localized, in a public space,
a housing estate, a factory occupation. Squares and other common spaces
have historically always been the sites for performing and enacting emanci-
patory practices. Such localization of the proto-political event invariably
mobilizes enormous vital energies for a sustained period of time. All manner
of people come together in an intensive explosion of Bakhtinian acting, of an
intensied process of being that inaugurates a process of subjectication.
And nally, this intensity operates in and through the collective togetherness
Cities and Citizenship
of a wide variety of individuals who in their multiplicity and intense process
of becoming political subjects stand for the metaphorical condensation of
The People (as political category).
However, such intense and contracted localized practices can only
ever be an event, original but ultimately pre-political. It does (not yet) con-
stitute a political sequence. A political truth procedure or a political sequence,
for Badiou, unfolds when in the name of equality, delity to an event is
declared, a delity that, although always particular, aspires to become public,
to universalize. It is a wager on the truth of the egalitarian political sequence
staged in the event, a truth that can be only veried ex-post. A political event
can only be discerned as such retroactively.
Such political sequence concentrates the enunciation of demands
that lie beyond the symbolic order of the police; demands that cannot be
symbolized within the frame of reference of the police and, therefore, would
necessitate a transformation in and of the police to permit symbolization to
occur. Yet these are demands that are eminently sensible and feasible when
the frame of the symbolic order is shifted, when the parallax gap between
what is (the constituted symbolic order of the police) and what can be (the
reconstituted symbolic order made possible through a shift in vantage points,
one that starts from the partisan universalizing principle of equality) is clear
for all to see and fully endorsed. It is the sort of demand that “ restructure[s]
the entire social space. 23 And this requires sustained politicization. The key
political question then is what happens when the squares are cleared, the
tents removed and energies dissipated, when the dream is over and the dawn
of everyday life breaks again. In other words, what is required now in the
aftermath of the eruptions since 2011 and what needs to be thought through
is if and how these proto-political localized events can turn into a spatialized
political “ truth ” procedure.
Answering this revolves squarely around questions of political
organization, the arena of struggle and the construction of new political
collectivities. While the 19th- and 20th-century markers of emancipatory
political struggle centered on the party as organizational conduit, the state
as the arena to conquer, and the proletarian as political subject, these mark-
ers do not appear to be performative today. They may have to be relegated
to the dustbin of history. The urgent tasks to undertake now for those who
maintain delity to the political events choreographed in the new insurrec-
tional spaces revolve around inventing new modes and practices of collec-
tive political organization: organizing the concrete modalities of spatializing
and universalizing the Idea provisionally materialized in these localized
insurrectional events; mobilizing a wide range of new political subjects who
are not afraid to imagine a different commons; demanding the impossible;
Insurgent Urbanity and the Political City
staging the new and confronting the violence that will inevitably intensify
as those who insist on maintaining the present order realize that their days
might be numbered. The political successes of rebrand political movements
like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain may point in this direction, as
do the unexpected victories of new political movements in Barcelona and
Madrid. While staging equality in public squares and commons space is a
vital moment, the process of transformation requires the slow but unstoppa-
ble production of new forms of spatialization quilted around materializing
the claims of equality, freedom, and solidarity. This is the promise of the
return of the political embryonically manifested in insurgent urban practices.
1 Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population:
Lectures at the Collège de France 1977–1978 ( London:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 ), 43–44.
2 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space ( Oxford:
Blackwell, 1991 ), 59.
3 Manuel Castells, The City and the Grassroots:
A Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements
( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993 ).
4 Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy
( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998 ).
5 Alain Badiou, The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots
and Uprisings ( London: Verso, 2012 ), 56.
6 Ibid.
7 See, accessed
22 July 2013.
8 World Economic Forum, Global Risks 2012 — Seventh
Edition ( Geneva: Risk Response Network, 2012 ).
9 Lefebvre, Production, 416.
10 Emblematically initiated by David Harvey, Social
Justice and the City ( London: E. Arnold, 1973 ), and Manuel
Castells, The Urban Question ( London: E. Arnold, 1977 ).
11 Alain Badiou, La Organisation Politique, 28, no. 2,
cited in Peter Hallward, Badiou A Subject to Truth
( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003 ).
12 Etienne Balibar, La Proposition de l’Égaliberté
( Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010 ).
13 Rancière, Disagreement, 99–100.
14 Jacques Rancière, “Politics and Aesthetics:
An Interview,” Angelaki 8 ( 2003 ): 201.
15 Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics,”
Theory & Event 5 ( 2001 ).
16 For a more in-depth discussion of the processes of
post-politicization and post-democratization, see Erik
Swyngedouw, “The Antinomies of the Post-Political City:
In Search of a Democratic Politics of Environmental
Production,” International Journal of Urban and Regional
Research 33 ( 2009 ): 601–620; Erik Swyngedouw,
“Interrogating Post-Democracy: Reclaiming Egalitarian
Political Spaces,” Political Geography 30 ( 2011 ): 370–380.
17 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude ( London:
Penguin Books, 2004 ).
18 John Holloway, Change the World without Taking
Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today ( London:
Pluto, 2002 ).
19 Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding: Ethics
of Commitment, Politics of Resistance ( London: Verso,
2007 ).
20 Jodi Dean, Žižek’s Politics ( New York: Routledge,
2006 ).
21 See Alain Badiou, The Century ( Cambridge, UK:
Polity Press, 2007 ).
22 For further details, see Badiou, Rebirth.
23 Slavoj Žižek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre
of Political Ontology ( London: Verso, 1999 ), 208.
... In events like these, the openness of cities and the question of how one wants to live in the city become concrete, social, spatial, organizational matters. A more just, more open city becomes a momentary possibility, in events that one can remain true to from there on (Badiou 2012b;Swyngedouw 2017). Our claim is not, of course, that people in Munich are or were particularly "good" under some universal or particular ethical standards. ...
... Social and behavioral science and political theory of various types would obviously encourage us to be skeptical here. In that context, the ways in which (and the extent to which) urban political movement activism also shares in "ethicized" rhetoric and forms of contention become particularly relevant for a diagnostics of the present (see the chapters by Bikbov, Reznikova, Susser, and Florea/Gagyi/Jacobsson in this volume; also Dean 2014 andSwyngedouw 2017). ...
... Although automobile motorization and traffic engineering have severely weakened the significance of the street as a "quintessential social public space" [1], the possibility of accommodating diverse social practices in addition to movement-including informal or illegal ones [10][11][12]-is nonetheless immanent to every type of urban connection. ...
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The subject of the paper is the street, seen as a structuring and emblematic element of urban settlement. The topic is addressed from the lens of regenerative design, whose underlying whole-system, multi-scalar, and dynamic approach can find urban connections to be a fruitful field of experimentation from the perspective of the post-automobile city. The first part of the paper traces the stages of the transport mechanization process and related impacts on urban patterns, emphasizing the voices critical of reducing streets to mere traffic channels that have accompanied it until the sustainability discourse led to a general rethinking of how mobility should be planned in cities. The second part of the paper reviews alternative urban visions to the still prevailing car-oriented model, which re-actualize the idea of the street as a multifunctional space, providing social and environmental ‘returns’ in addition to its role as a transport infrastructure. The notion of the street as a ‘space of potential’ is then developed through an inductive classification of regenerative actions at different scales, both material and immaterial, as well as permanent and temporary, thus providing a unifying conceptual framework for further research and practical applications in the fields of urban design and sustainable mobility.
... Lazzarato, 2012;Kear, 2013). In other words, they unsettle the self-evident system that suggests one does certain things or acts a certain way in given spaces (Rancière, 2001), a system built upon 'good governance' and expert knowledge and administration (Martin, 2010;Swyngedouw, 2013). In short, politics involves interrupting the system that maintains the political and economic status quo. ...
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Building on eleven months of engaged research with the Platform for Mortgage-Affected People (PAH) in the Barcelona metropolitan region and involvement in the movement post-2014 as an activist, this paper considers the processes through which people facing foreclosure and eviction become political subjects. Community development, in this context, is seen as a transformative, bottom-up process, unfolding as PAH members collectively push institutional housing-related boundaries by both producing and enacting learned political practices 'from below'. A Rancierian framing of political subjectivation is used and extended to understand how the PAH ruptures indebted subjectivities and assistentialist approaches to mortgage problems, and the challenges such processes face. Upon a brief contextualization of Spain's 1997-2007 housing boom, plus the PAH's antecedents and emergence in the post- 2008 crisis period, I argue that collective advising assemblies and actions are co-constitutive spaces where processes of political subjectivation are generated and enacted. Collective advising assemblies are spaces where people unable to pay their mortgage begin to disidentify with their position in the dominant economic and political configuration and begin to shed their guilt, shame and fear. This process flows through and feeds into actions like blocking evictions, occupying empty bankowned housing or banks, spaces to enact one's disidentification with the existing order and materialize new ways of acting and being. Concluding thoughts identify what the experience of the PAH means for understanding political subjectivation and community development in the 21st century. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2017.
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In this paper we propose an ‘undisciplinary’ meeting between Elinor Ostrom and Judith Butler, with the intent to broaden the theory of the commons by discussing it as a relational politics. We use Butler’s theory of power to problematize existing visions of commons, shifting from Ostrom’s ‘bounded rationality’ to Butler’s concepts of ‘bounded selves’ and mutual vulnerability. To be bounded – as opposed to autonomous being – implies being an (ambiguous) effect of socio-power relations and norms that are often beyond control. Thus, to be a collective of bounded selves implies being mutually vulnerable in power relations which are enabling, albeit injurious. A politics of commoning is not a mere technical management of resources (in space) but a struggle to perform common livable relations (in time). We argue that the multiple exposures which produce us are also the conditions of possibility for more just and equalitarian ‘re-commoning’ of democracies around the world.
This article examines the relationship between political uprising and megaproject-based global city reform in Paris and London. On the one hand, it considers the banlieue uprisings in Paris in November 2005 as an impetus for the Grand Paris renewal initiative launched in April 2007. This is compared with the large-scale reformations of space across London in advance of the 2012 Olympics as a contributing factor in the riots of August 2011. In both of these cases there is an integral though indirect link between urban planning and resistance. Engaging with Marxist political theory and critical urban geography, I argue that uprisings and global city developments relate in a mutually constitutive fashion. I also locate the suburbs, broadly defined, as an important site of contemporary political antagonism. I use the concept of “political topology” to suggest that global city pursuits present a new mode of uneven development that has not yet been adequately met in thought or practice. The two cases are thus used to open up to a more general analysis of twenty-first-century urban politics.
Population: Lectures at the Collège de France
  • Michel Foucault
  • Security
  • Territory
Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978 ( London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 ), 43-44.
  • Jacques Rancière
  • Disagreement
Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy ( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998 ).
The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings ( London: Verso, 2012 ), 56. 6 Ibid. 7 See http
  • Alain Badiou
Alain Badiou, The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings ( London: Verso, 2012 ), 56. 6 Ibid. 7 See, accessed 22 July 2013. 8 World Economic Forum, Global Risks 2012-Seventh Edition ( Geneva: Risk Response Network, 2012 ).
10 Emblematically initiated by David Harvey, Social Justice and the City
  • Production Lefebvre
Lefebvre, Production, 416. 10 Emblematically initiated by David Harvey, Social Justice and the City ( London: E. Arnold, 1973 ), and Manuel Castells, The Urban Question ( London: E. Arnold, 1977 ).
  • Alain Badiou
  • La Organisation Politique
Alain Badiou, La Organisation Politique, 28, no. 2, cited in Peter Hallward, Badiou — A Subject to Truth ( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003 ).
Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment
  • Simon Critchley
19 Simon Critchley, Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance ( London: Verso, 2007 ).
21 See Alain Badiou The Century 22 For further details, see Badiou, Rebirth. 23 Slavoj Žižek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology
  • Jodi Dean
20 Jodi Dean, Žižek's Politics ( New York: Routledge, 2006 ). 21 See Alain Badiou, The Century ( Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2007 ). 22 For further details, see Badiou, Rebirth. 23 Slavoj Žižek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology ( London: Verso, 1999 ), 208.