Discontent and the Right to the City

Authors: Peter Dirksmeier*, Leibniz University Hanover
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: urban theory, Right to the City, urban cohabitation, global North
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Living in cities especially in the global North engenders feelings of discontent, which root among others in the widespread commodification of urban commons. Gentrification is the most famous by no means only expression of this trend. Right to the City has emerged as slogan, (protest) movement, moral economy, and umbrella term as reaction of urban residents and activists to their feelings of discontent and being out of place. Originally basing on the work of Henri Lefebvre, Right to the City has travelled around the globe as an aspiration for liveable cities for all residents. However, Right to the City as intellectual idea suffers from a normative claim of a “right” of all people for urban commons that are collectively produced in urban life. The result of such a perspective is on the one hand an overexertion of the practice of Right to the City with moral aspirations. On the other hopes of efficiencies that are impossible to realize are constant companions of any debate on the concept. Thus, the main proposition of the paper is that this overexertion of a widespread moral claim to the ‘good life’ adjunct to the Right to the City is a constant source for experiences of discontent among urban dwellers. The first part of the paper develops that argument. In the second part the paper presents a theoretical approach that relieves the idea of Right to the City from its moral burden, conceptualizing it as a local norm of urban cohabitation.

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