Andy Merrifield, Lefebvre in the age of COVID: Lessons from The Urban Revolution and Paris Commune – Monthly Review online
Henri Lefebvre’s The Urban Revolution (1970) quietly celebrated its 50th birthday under lockdown, and our greatest ever urban revolution, the Paris Commune (1871), just toasted its 150th. Both book and event have lost none of their lustre for helping progressive people think about city life, even as COVID-19 threatens to destroy that life. We might say especially as COVID-19 threatens that life, because both The Urban Revolution and the Paris Commune offer vital instruction about how we might rebuild a post-pandemic urban world, rebuild it democratically.
COVID has upended urban life as we once knew it. But it intensified already existing pathologies, those contaminating “normal,” pre-pandemic life. For decades, business-as-usual exploitation has meant cities have become not only functionally and financially standardised, but also unaffordable and unequal. Recent social distancing disrupts these inequities even more, crimping cities as sites of physical encounters, hurting poorer, immobile denizens the most. Nowadays, our urban reality is one of the de-encounter, a thinning down rather than thickening up, the dispersion and dilution of city life, its fear and loathing. [continues here]