Anarchist Views of the City

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Wobbly Preacher's picture
Wobbly Preacher
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Jan 25 2008 04:34
Anarchist Views of the City

I am interested in any pointers on anarchist thought in the city and organizing in urban and suburban areas. Suggestions?

booeyschewy
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Jan 27 2008 20:52

just throwing some things out there.

Colin Ward-
Housing: An Anarchist Approach (1976)
Welcome, Thinner City: Urban Survival in the 1990's (1989)
The Child In The City (1978)
Cotters and Squatters: The Hidden History of Housing (2004)

I was at the WSF in 2003 and saw these debates on the post-rev city:
http://www.zmag.org/wetzelcity.htm
http://www.zmag.org/lac/bond.htm
http://www.zmag.org/souzacity.htm

The Barcelona Rent Strike
http://www.workersolidarity.org/rentstrike1931.htm

BART fare strike
A thorough and awesome account, with lots of anecdotal reports
http://libcom.org/library/fare-strike-san-francisco-2005
Tom Wetzel's article
http://www.workersolidarity.org/transitfight.html

Housing:
Anarchosyndicalist Alliance (UK)
http://libcom.org/library/housing-your-squalor-their-profits
Midnight Notes about housing decentralization
http://libcom.org/library/spatial-deconcentration-d-c
Economics of housing by Aufheben (good!)
http://libcom.org/library/aufheben/aufheben-13-2005/the-housing-question

I think some of the NEFAC people were/are involved in housing/urban stuff, so i'll ask around some more. There's got to be some accounts of the OCAP activity.

tastybrain
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Jan 27 2008 21:06

Mike Davis' Planet of Slums is a great book about slums in the third world and the challenges of resistance in these settings. He's not an anarchist but he definitely has sympathies.

Deezer
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Jan 27 2008 23:51

Yep he certainly does, you read Buda's Wagon? Apparently he was also planning to write summat specifically about anarchists n' all.

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Wobbly Preacher
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Jan 27 2008 23:56

I just read the Wetzel piece. Does anyone know more about community land trusts? Seems like something worth looking into.

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the button
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Jan 28 2008 02:48
tastybrain wrote:
Mike Davis' Planet of Slums is a great book about slums in the third world and the challenges of resistance in these settings. He's not an anarchist but he definitely has sympathies.

City of Quartz is another great one of his. David Harvey is a Marxist, but also an excellent writer on the city -- he wrote an excellent book about Paris, whose name evades me.

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the button
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Jan 28 2008 02:52

Walter Benjamin too, of course.

And Les Back, who I would say is at the more libertarian end of the Marxist spectrum. He mostly writes about race (and has written some very interesting stuff about "whiteness" as a sort of 'non-race'), but has done some good stuff on the lived experience of city life.

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Khawaga
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Jan 28 2008 08:57
Quote:
David Harvey is a Marxist, but also an excellent writer on the city

Agree, he's an excellent Marxist geographer. I don't know the name of the book about Paris, but in Spaces of Hope he writes a lot about Baltimore.

I'd also recommend the work Asef Bayat has done on the political actions of the urban poor. Street Politics is about Tehran, but he's got loads of articles that are available online. Search for quiet encroachment and Bayat and you'll find it.

Randy
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Jan 28 2008 19:32

I thought Murray Bookchin's The Limits of the City was pretty good, and one of his more accessible books. (I don't have patience to wade through his more ostentatious works.)

Also enjoyed Paul Goodman's COMMUNITAS (1947).

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OliverTwister
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Jan 28 2008 21:32

There's some really good stuff from the SI and pro-situs about cities, the development of freeways, etc.

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fnbrill
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Jan 29 2008 03:13

Colin Ward's later works (mentioned above) are a bit reformist for my tastes, but his earlier works for 1960s Anarchy magazine were good.

MalFunction
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Jan 29 2008 15:01

you might like to have a look at the work of Richard Sennett, a sociologist of the city, esp:

The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity & City Life (1970), ISBN 0393309096

A flexible city of strangers (essay) http://mondediplo.com/2001/02/16cities

Bo Grönlund:
The Civitas of Seeing and the Design of Cities
- on the urbanism of Richard Sennett

http://hjem.get2net.dk/gronlund/Sennett_ny_tekst_97kort.html
---

Situs:

ATTILA KOTÁNYI, RAOUL VANEIGEM "Basic Program of the
Bureau of Unitary Urbanism"

http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/6.unitaryurb.htm

IVAN CHTCHEGLOV "Formulary for a New Urbanism"

http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/Chtcheglov.htm

Simon Sadler "The Situationist City" MIT Press; New Ed edition (30 Sep 1999)
(2nd hand paperback copies not too expensive)

(from the amazon blurb: "Simon Sadler searches for the Situationist City among the detritus of tracts, manifestos, and works of art that the SI left behind. The book is divided into three parts. The first, "The Naked City," outlines the Situationist critique of the urban environment as it then existed. The second, "Formulary for a New Urbanism," examines Situationist principles for the city and for city living. The third, "A New Babylon," describes actual designs proposed for a Situationist City."

---

should keep you going

ftony
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Jan 29 2008 16:25

damnit. as The Anarchist Geographer round these parts i've only just noticed this thread and everyone has pointed you to most of the stuff i was going to suggest angry

however, here are some more nuggets of joy:

- Lebbeus Woods: "Radical Reconstruction" (2001) and "Anarchitecture: Architecture is a Political Act" (1992) - great anarchist-inspired conceptual architect.

- Giancarlo De Carlo - Italian libertarian communist architect. John McKean's (2004) "Giancarlo de Carlo: Layered Places" is by far the most definitive book on de Carlo, and well worth a read. very much architect-oriented though, so not much emphasis on politics.

- also check out stuff on/by Alvar Aalto - Finnish modernist and libertarian communist architect, similar to de Carlo but more famous. not read much about him though so i couldn't recommend any specific reading.

- David Pinder's 'Visions of the City' (2005 i think) is a great book on 20th centiry radical utopianism, focussing especially on the situationists. not explicitly on anarchism but very interesting nonetheless. i've read Sadler as well, and i think Pinder is better than Sadler's book, as it contextualises the situationists far better, showing their relation to a whole bunch of other art/architecture/urbanism movements like the lettrists, surrealists and dada to mention but a few.

- Colin Ward has written loads and loads. here's a few:

* "Talking to Architects" (1996)
* "Tenants Take Over"
* "Housing: An Anarchist Approach"
* "Talking Houses"
* "New Town, Home Town" (book on new towns - he was a big fan)

Quote:
he wrote an excellent book about Paris, whose name evades me.

you're thinking of "Paris: Capital of Modernity". i've not read it but i've heard good things. if you're interested in Marxist geographers and the city it's also worth checking out Don Mitchell (does a lot of work on community-based organising) and Andy Merrifield (more relevant to urbanism and urban theory than concrete examples of organisation though).

Wobbly Preacher - i spend half my waking hours reading and writing about anarchism and geography (i'm an anarchist geographer, after all!) - PM me if you want any further suggestions or pointers.

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Jacques Roux
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Jan 29 2008 18:45

Manuel Castells is also interesting sometimes.

anna x
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Jan 30 2008 01:18

On a bit more of a lighthearted note... http://www.spacehijackers.co.uk/html/welcome.html
all the best.
gregg.

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Jan 30 2008 03:26

Thank you everyone for the resources. It will be a few months before I can get through them all. My situation is that I live in the deindustrializing Rust Belt and I have been trying to figure out exactly who and what I should interface with for organizing. It is clear to me that the major issues in my area are:

-- economic collapse of the working class as the economy shifts from industrial to service and information industries (health care and biotech are the growth industries)
-- capital flight from the center city as white middle and upper middle class people leave for the exurbs where there are "better schools" and where they are "safer"
-- large tracts of abandoned decaying building
-- collapsing infrastructure

On one level it seems like it could be an organizers dream. On the other there's the fact that I am not certain where to even start. Almost any group that I can get involved with seems very reformist and most of the solutions that seem like the might actually have positive outcomes for working class folks are also fairly reformist (shift the polity from the city to the county so that the fat tax bases on the edge of the county are incorporated into the city budget and pay for more infrastructure, work with local business and community leaders to encourage economic development, etc.).

ftony
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Jan 30 2008 09:42
grrregg wrote:
On a bit more of a lighthearted note... http://www.spacehijackers.co.uk/html/welcome.html
all the best.
gregg.

i've done a few bits n bobs with the space hijackers. they're a bit of fun. disclaimer - i don't, however think they've got a lot to offer practically, but they're a nice distraction from so-called 'real' politics.

ftony
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Jan 30 2008 09:49
Wobbly Preacher wrote:
Thank you everyone for the resources. It will be a few months before I can get through them all. My situation is that I live in the deindustrializing Rust Belt and I have been trying to figure out exactly who and what I should interface with for organizing. It is clear to me that the major issues in my area are:

-- economic collapse of the working class as the economy shifts from industrial to service and information industries (health care and biotech are the growth industries)
-- capital flight from the center city as white middle and upper middle class people leave for the exurbs where there are "better schools" and where they are "safer"
-- large tracts of abandoned decaying building
-- collapsing infrastructure

On one level it seems like it could be an organizers dream. On the other there's the fact that I am not certain where to even start. Almost any group that I can get involved with seems very reformist and most of the solutions that seem like the might actually have positive outcomes for working class folks are also fairly reformist (shift the polity from the city to the county so that the fat tax bases on the edge of the county are incorporated into the city budget and pay for more infrastructure, work with local business and community leaders to encourage economic development, etc.).

WobblyP - it seems like you've got an interesting dynamic goign on there. of course the obvious answer would be to go for the growth industries of healthcare and biotech. if they're growing, you'll want to appeal to them.

re. empty tracts of disused buildings - and i mean this in seriousness - if there's a decent enough collective of committed folks, a social centre in your local area could also be a start. if run well (and not all SCs are, by a long shot!), it could highlight and support both community and workplace struggles in one fell swoop.

first of all, though, i'd personally start to seek out like-minded individuals. of course, if all the groups that currently exist are reformists then there is a gap in the market, as it were, for a practical yet radical left-lib organisation to emerge.

anna x
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Jan 30 2008 09:50

A bit of fun indeed... I can't for the life of me remember my secret agent name though wall
eta: this is a response to ftony

ftony
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Jan 30 2008 09:50

i'm The Climbing Bandit cool

ftony
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Jan 30 2008 09:51

ps. shouldn't this be in "Organise"?

anna x
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Jan 30 2008 09:53

too obvious grin

ftony
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Jan 30 2008 09:55

aye, The Man is on to me now...

MalFunction
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Jan 30 2008 16:04

curses

forgot to mention Transgressions

http://www.unpopular.org.uk/transgressions/tg.html

(I see there's an issue 5 out, must send of for it.)

Also Alastair Bonnett (editor of transgressions)
(univ newcastle) is another anarcho geographer it would seem.

Geography as the world discipline: connecting
popular and academic geographical imaginations

here:

http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/file.php/2471/geog_sk6_10t_c__3.pdf

(not much use regarding organising soz.)

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MJ
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Feb 1 2008 14:28
Wobbly Preacher wrote:
Thank you everyone for the resources. It will be a few months before I can get through them all. My situation is that I live in the deindustrializing Rust Belt and I have been trying to figure out exactly who and what I should interface with for organizing. It is clear to me that the major issues in my area are:

-- economic collapse of the working class as the economy shifts from industrial to service and information industries (health care and biotech are the growth industries)
-- capital flight from the center city as white middle and upper middle class people leave for the exurbs where there are "better schools" and where they are "safer"
-- large tracts of abandoned decaying building
-- collapsing infrastructure

On one level it seems like it could be an organizers dream. On the other there's the fact that I am not certain where to even start. Almost any group that I can get involved with seems very reformist and most of the solutions that seem like the might actually have positive outcomes for working class folks are also fairly reformist (shift the polity from the city to the county so that the fat tax bases on the edge of the county are incorporated into the city budget and pay for more infrastructure, work with local business and community leaders to encourage economic development, etc.).

Many of us are already living in places where capital is taking its next logical step -- encouraging the redevelopment of professional-managerial-class residential enclaves within the center cities. It's not any better!

I saw a great documentary on TV recently that goes into both of these problems. It's called "Cleveland: Making Sense of Place." (You can get it for $20... http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1153) There's a bunch of reformist projects trotted out at the end but they kind of pale in comparison to the preceding 50 minutes. It's better than that description makes it sound... I was thinking of getting a copy to have as an discussion/organizing tool.

Aside from that ... map out where power is being reconsolidated for capital (planning boards, real estate lobbies, the banks and their own community organs, city commissions to attract industry, industry-sponsored nonprofits) and where workers are regrouping (service and support jobs, "inner-ring" suburbs...), and start looking for existing lines of confrontation between these camps. Health insurance, housing loans (are redlining and blockbusting going on?), regional mass transportation and commuter infrastructure, temp & day-labor agencies, school redistricting, unemployment etc are probably gonna be increasingly important venues of class struggle at the stage your city is at. Don't fall into the trap of ignoring the burbs, since they're part of the same system.

Anarchists still haven't developed an analysis of the supposed "deindustrialization" of North American cities, or of the actually existing class structure that's been emerging since the 70s which corresponds to it. A lot of the piecemeal reaction to it on the part of self-appointed radicals in the 80s and 90s (building bohemian enclaves in urban cores, while dismissing suburban issues as middle-class) probably actually paved the way for the march of elitist professionals into gentrification zones (clutching their Jane Jacobs books and cooing about community) and locked radical perspectives out of some large-scale if unglamorous social struggles going on in poor and even "lower middle class" inner-ring suburbs, to the benefit of the grassroots Right.

(edited slightly for clarity)

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Feb 1 2008 15:54

Ashwin Desai's 'We Are The Poors' is well worth a read for info on township community struggles in the grim new world of post-apartheid South Africa, as the poor are 'structurally readjusted' by the ANC elite according to IMF & WB policy . Excerpt here; http://www.monthlyreview.org/watpxcerpt.htm

And an interview with him here; http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Mar2003/wren0303.html

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Feb 1 2008 19:21

MJ:

Thanks for your advice. I think it's very helpful. It seems to me that the first question one should ask then in preparing to map a city is the question: What is a city? I would argue that it is largely defined by economics and culture and that the political boundaries are, at best, secondary. Put bluntly, I don't think that anti-nationalist/statist libertarians should view the suburbs of being separate from the city. Rather, I think they are best understood as communities within the larger entity of the city. Unfortunately, I come to this conclusion simply via my gut. My theorectical understanding of the city is basically non-existent having never done much reading on the subject...

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Feb 2 2008 02:38

I would also suggesting watching Boom The Sound of Eviction : http://www.boomthemovie.org/
One of the directors is a co-worker of mine and fellow union member. It mostly talks about the gentrification process that occurred in SF in the late 90's. But, it also offers an analysis of the city as a community, critiques the view of the city as a marketplace and exposes the amount of resources necessary to sustain an expanding urban area.

Another essay by Tom Wetzel on Gentrification: http://www.uncanny.net/~wetzel/gentry.htm

Its interesting that anarchists often reject, or are unaware, that surrounding suburbs are actually a vital part of most major cities. Also, the assumption that the burbs' are strictly middle class enclaves is somewhat off base given the way most cities are currently expanding. If you look at San Francisco as urban center which is becoming increasingly polarized between the ultra rich and the very very poor. It is the working class, blue collar workers who are moving increasingly to the suburbs. The suburbs of San Francisco (Tracy, South SF, Vallejo) are where the workforce that drives the Bay Area lives. There are only a few working class neighborhoods left in the city (Bayview, Hunters Point, the Richmond and Outer Mission).

The de-industrialization of San Francisco basically began when shipping shifted from San Francisco to Oakland in the 80's and 90's. The SF waterfront was slated to be redeveloped for tourism, housing and white color office buildings. Warehouses also moved with the port to Oakland and the East Bay's surrounding suburbs.

There have been few movements to preserve the industrial bases of (rapidly de-industrialized) cities. The most recent example that pops into my head was a coalition of community, labor and environmental groups united to preserve the Seattle's industrial waterfront. They passed the "Industrial Jobs Initiative" which limits office and retail development in industrial zones. But often critiques of gentrification stay focused on issues surrounding housing and transportation and ignore the the flight of industrial based jobs to outlying suburbs or rural areas.

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Feb 2 2008 02:42

Hey, not suite cities but its architecture. Could I suggest you look at some stuff by Tarfuri? His Capitalism and Utopia or whatever its called is supposed to be amazing. I´ve asked for it for christmas/birthday a few times but my mammy is no good at amazon. (Yes I get little else but books for x-mas, I am a loser, whatever.)

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georgestapleton
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Feb 2 2008 02:43

suite=quite

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Feb 2 2008 13:02

On 1980s Lower Manhattan gentrification; http://libcom.org/library/occupation-art-gentrification