FIFTY-YEARS ON: The Right to the City

Andy Merrifield on the 50th anniversary of Lefebvre’s The Right to the City.

andy merrifield

2017 marks the Golden Jubilee of Henri Lefebvre’s Right to the City, his “cry and demand” for a more participatory and democratic city life. It’s a cause both to celebrate and commiserate. But celebration and commiseration have typically been part and parcel of the Left’s dialectic, a dialectic that cuts inside us as people as well as political subjects. For everyone concerned about the fate of our cities, before us now lies a massive expansion of urban life across the planet, an opening up of urban horizons and frontiers, matched by a closing of the political mind, a withering of the established political will.

Ours is an urban society, set to be evermore so during the decades to come; yet political leaders almost everywhere are putting up walls, cowering before provincial smallness rather than embracing cosmopolitan vastness. When Lefebvre long ago spoke of “planetary urbanisation,” he did so because…

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