The Right to the City

Today more than ever, capital’s appropriation and exploitation of common resources – characterised by Harvey as ‘accumulation by dispossession’ – is reshaping contemporary cities. Concomitant with this phenomenon is a renewed interest in the contribution of Marxism to 20th and 21st century urban studies and to the convergence of social movements under the banner of the right to the city. Struggles over housing seem to have regained momentum as occupations seek to create new sites based on the sharing of collective capacities and debates over social reproduction spread. The following streams aim to provide an opportunity to investigate the links between capitalism and the city, calling into question both the limitations and the prospects of recent urban movements.

a) Architecture, Urban Theory and Marxism

This strand solicits papers exploring the intersections between Marxism and architectural and urban theory in the 20th and 21st centuries. We are particularly interested in analysis focusing on the role played by magazines in favouring this encounter, as in such journals as Espace et Société (co-founded by Henri Lefebvre and Anatole Kopp) and, in Italy, Spazio e Società (co-directed by Giancarlo De Carlo) and Contropiano: Materiali Marxisti. How, in these magazines, did philosophical, political and economical analysis infiltrate the field of architecture? Conversely, what was the impact of architectural and urban studies on other disciplines?

b) Critique of the Sharing Economy

Very recently we have witnessed the rise of interest in a ‘sharing economy’, in which people trade assets with each other directly, co-ordinated through the internet. This is best typified by services such as Airbnb (housing), Uber (transport) and Taskrabbit (work). The prevailing narrative is that initiatives like these allow people to share resources, disrupting the ineffective existing system, but the sharing concept has actually created markets out of things that wouldn’t have been considered monetizable assets before, doing so in a complete legal vacuum. Recent research has also shown that services like Airbnb contribute to the rise of housing prices, accelerating processes of urban gentrification. This strand solicits papers that problematize the sharing economy, with particular attention to its role in the deregulation of the housing market and the reconfiguring of metropolitan areas.

c) Urban Movements

The strand aims at mapping and problematizing processes of formation of new urban spaces and institutions (where artistic creation and the free time are understood as constitutive elements), recently converged under the banner ‘the right to the city’. What distinguishes these experiences is the experimental use of conflicts between law and right. Right is not conceived just like law – as ‘superstructure’, formalism, regulation of the relation command/obedience or normativism – but rather as a ‘droit social’ emerging from the bottom of social struggles, as constituent of spaces and practices of self-government, of a new relation between environment-territory-society and of new forms of mutualism and redistribution of wealth to protect precarious labourers. This panel welcomes papers examining both limits and possibilities of emerging urban movements, especially with regard to their concentration on right. It also solicits papers investigating the history and the theory of local self-government institutions.


Geographies of Spaces and Class

Changing Geographies of Accumulation and Resistance

Marxism and Architectural and Urban Theory

Processes of Gentrification-Regeneration

Shared Economy

Droit Social, Self-government, Commons, Commonwealth/Republic, New Institutions

Mutualism, Social Cooperation

Social Reproduction

Art and Reproductive Labour

Italian Post-War Debates over Aesthetics and Marxism