Planetary Urbanisation — The Whole and the Remainder

This essay offers another take on debates about planetary urbanisation—or “planétarisation de l’urbain,” as philosopher-urbanist Henri Lefebvre calls it. I will come back to why I think he calls it that later on. Before then, I want to start out with a little excursus into the countryside, into rural life, without which much of debate about capitalist urbanisation makes no sense. I want to grasp rural life, though, via the imaginative eye of John Berger’s triology Into Their Labours, debuting with Pig Earth, his otherworldly depiction of all-too-earthly French Alpine life. When Pig Earth appeared in 1979 the majority of the world’s population lived in the countryside and toiled as peasants. Not anymore. Now, almost forty-years on, the balance has tilted. Now, we’re told, the majority of people in the world live and labour in cities, in massively expanding megacities, the bulk of which are in the developing world, in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Pig Earth is about peasants. One is Marcel who clings onto the land for dear life. He owns a shire-horse as strong as an ox, bearing a distinct resemblance to her master. One day Marcel’s son, Edouard, buys his father a twelve-year old tractor: “I got it cheap,” the son announces. Edouard and Marcel aren’t exactly on the same page. Edouard is a modern young man who doesn’t want to kill himself toiling the land, nor does he want to fritter away his life in any factory. So he chooses the life of a traveling salesman, selling soap and other domestic wares, on the road and in the open air. His son cheats people, Marcel thinks, he doesn’t practice a trade. And that tractor he’s bought is useless because Marcel can’t drive, doesn’t want to drive. Machines make monkey-work productive, Marcel says; and the wealth they create goes to those who own the machines.

“They make sure we know the machines exist,” Marcel says. “From then onwards working without one is harder.” Not having the machine makes the father look old-fashioned to the son, makes the husband look mean to his wife, makes one neighbour look poor to the next. After you’ve lived a while with not having the machines they offer you a loan to buy a tractor. What you earn from your milk each year is the price of a tractor. That’s why the peasant needs a loan. But with a tractor he needs all the parts, all the machinery, all the gadgets that come with it. So more loans are required for more machines and gadgets; soon the peasant falls deeper and deeper into debt. Eventually, he’s forced to sell out, get a job, if he’s lucky, in the local factory, providing the local factory hasn’t gone bust, or gone abroad. Selling out, it’s what those city slickers planned all along, Marcel thinks. “The world has left the earth behind it,” says Marcel to Edouard. “And what was on the earth?” demands the angry son. “Half the men here had to emigrate because there wasn’t enough to eat! Half the children died before they grew up! Why don’t you admit it!”

Marcel has a vat full apple dregs—marc—which he ferments each year to create gnôle, rocket fuel eau-de-vie. The dregs gives off warmth in the cold air of winter. Marcel shovels it into sacks and hauls it by horse and cart to the village distillery. Peasants drink gnôle, use it as antiseptic for themselves and for their animals, preserve fruit and herbs in it, cook in it, cook sausages that release dreams because they’re salty and spicy and saturated in alcohol. But the authorities tax gnôle, treat it almost like it’s illegal moonshine, bootleg liquor. From time to time, inspectors tour the villages on the lookout for surplus gnôle, gnôle beyond the statutory twenty liters, gnôle that needs to be taxed.

In the middle of a snowstorm, a strange car stops on the bridge. “The buggers have come back again!” Marcel and other villagers in the distillery call out. Then the two men get out, “wearing city overcoats, spotless green Wellington boots.” They greet the villagers yet nobody greet the inspectors back. “Marcel’s marc has yielded one hundred and sixty liters of eau-de-vie at fifty percent, which meant, the oldest inspector says, speaking as if he were explaining to children, “that he had to pay on eighty six liters the sum of two hundred and six thousand, four hundred francs.”

Later that afternoon, Marcel seeks vengeance, seeks justice as the countryside strikes back against the city, against paper money and its paper laws. He stops the inspectors’ car at gunpoint, leads them away to a distant hayloft stinking of gnôle and piss, and locks them up in the dark with a bunch of shaggy sheep. Meanwhile, he dumps their car over a ravine, and for a while lets them feel a rural cold, a rural suffering. Before he releases his prisoners, before the police come to handcuff Marcel, before they eventually sentence him to two years jail for rebellion against officers of the state, armed robbery and willful destruction of public property, one inspector begs the peasant to tell how much he’s asking for them. Marcel appears not to hear. “You must understand,” the eldest inspector says, “that we have more experience than you of the value of money.” Then Marcel thrusts his fist into the fleece of the nearest sheep, and spoke almost through the animal: “The value of money! The value of money!” he cries.

The sad thing, Marcel knows, is that the inspectors belong to another time, to another world, to linear rather than cyclical time, to urban time. It’s impossible to take revenge on them because they’ll never understand what Marcel is trying to avenge, the logic of his actions, his motives, his concept of justice. Nor will the judge or jury. Theirs is an abstract world, a world of abstract wealth, of abstract laws, of abstract money, of illusions in which everything appears to be a game, a game of role-playing, a game of fictitious assets and extractive practices…

In Berger’s sequel, Once in Europa, from 1989, the factory now dominates: a lot of local peasants finally cave into reality and get jobs there. The centerpiece story is about a woman called Odile, a smart Savoyarde farm kid who grows up into a smart everywoman. Her complexly interwoven soliloquy takes us through peasant generations, from childhood to womanhood, from motherhood to grandmotherhood, from land to factory, from factory to branch plant, from branch plant to city migrant. In the space of seventy pages, Berger has penned a sweeping peasant Bildungsroman.

Odile mediates between a bygone world of her father and mother’s generation and the new one to come, a new world that’s her world but which already seems bankrupt at birth. Her family’s romance is a Freudian Family Romance, full of bitter internal squabbles as much as tenderly love, squabbles between siblings, squabbles between fathers and sons, squabbles between mothers and daughters. Battles to overcome the private world are dramatised by perpetual struggles to overcome the public world: struggles to stay on the land, struggles to stop the factory encroaching, struggles to stop the factory closing, struggles to resist going to city, struggles to resist the city itself.

“The men who worked in the factory smelt of sweat,” Odile says, “some of them of wine or garlic, and all of them of something dusty and metallic.” The factory’s furnaces throb without cease, producing thirty thousand tons of ferromanganese every year, retching toxic blue smoke from its chimneys; men work night and day; the factory makes money, provides jobs for locals whose land no longer provides; it provides jobs for non-locals, too, who begin to arrive in droves; it tests out new alloys, makes experiments, and yet “it is inert, barren, derelict.” Men on the furnaces breathe air that contains four hundred thousand dust particles per liter, lethal amounts; chimneys spew out two hundred tons of fluorine a year; nearby forests are dying, cows and sheep are poisoned; and before long, the factory belongs to a multinational with factories in twenty-one different countries. “Papa had been right about the venom,” Odile laments.

Odile’s story takes us one-step nearer to Berger’s third book, Lilac and Flag, from 1990, an “old wives’ tale” of the urban underworld, a world tellingly above ground and which might await Odile’s own kids. Indeed, Odile herself could easily be the old wife in question and the two lovers, Lilac and Flag, the pet names of Sucus and Zsuzsa, her son and daughter-in-law. Sucus and Zsuzsa are trying to tread their slippery way through the spectral city of Troy, a paradigmatic megacity of expressways and concrete blocks, of money values and deceit, of immense freedom and brutal imprisonment.

Sucus lives with this mother and father on the fourteenth-floor of an anonymous high-rise on the city’s banlieue; papa Clement came from the village as a teenager and worked all his life opening oysters. One day Clement has a freak accident with a TV set, gets badly burned, and slips away in hospital. He’d always wondered whether his son could find a job. “There are no jobs,” Sucus tells papa on his deathbed, “except the ones we invent. No jobs. No jobs.” “Go back to the village, that’s what I’d like to do,” says Clement. “See the mountains for the last-time.” Half the men in the ward, he says, were remembering either their village or their mothers. Sucus’ generation doesn’t know the village, so could never go back; and yet, it can’t quite find itself in the alien city either. Sucus’ and Zsuzsa’s generation can go neither backwards nor forwards: it has nostalgia for neither the past nor the future. And they’re not prepared to take the same shit as their parents. Their expectations are different. Their prospects are almost non-existent.

From life experience, Zsuzsa and Sucus know that our cities are run by corrupt politicians and bent police, by shyster real estate corporations and financial institutions whose corruption is blatant and legal. They know the rules of the urban game are rigged against them. Their tragedy is a tragedy of arriving too late (or perhaps too early?): When their parents came there were still steady factory jobs to be had. But those industries have gone bust or cleared out to someplace cheaper, to somewhere even more exploitable and expendable. Berger knows better than anyone how millions of peasants and smallholders across the globe are each year thrown off their rural land by big agribusiness, by corporate export farming, by land grabbing; these people lose the means to feed themselves as well as the means to make a little money; so, as “seventh men,” they migrate to the city in search of work that’s increasingly disappearing, migrating to an alien habitat they can little afford or understand.[1] Meanwhile, as austerity drives continue to trim urban public budgets, glaring holes appear in welfare safety nets.

The sons and daughters of “seventh men” understand this habitat better, well enough to know that now there are no decent jobs left, only insecure, under-paid work and over-worked workers in its Lazarus informal layers: busboys and valets parkers, waiters and barmen, cleaners and security guards, builders and buskers, hawkers and hustlers. A push-pull effect has taken hold, a vicious dialectic of dispossession, sucking people into the city while spitting others out of the center, forcing poor urban old-timers and vulnerable newcomers to embrace each other out on the periphery, out on assorted zones of social marginalisation, out on the global banlieue. This is the bigger old wives’ tale that Lilac and Flag reveals.

What Berger has grasped here is part of the dynamic that Henri Lefebvre calls “urban society.” This is what the progressive production of our urban age looks like from the standpoint of rural life. Here is how “urban society” has its way, has its sway, how it subtly insinuates and brutally incorporates people and places into its global orbit. It does so slowly, over generations, through “evolutionary” modernisation processes; and it does so rapidly and forcibly, through theft and dispossession, through displacement and dislocation. Long-range entropy typically mixes with sudden and immediate catastrophe. This is how urban society takes hold, takes off, and keeps going, grows, expands, accumulates.

Lefebvre first announced the coming of urban society in 1970. It was a “revolutionary” process, he said, because the revolution in question is a drama in which assorted global ruling classes have played the lead role. It’s they who’ve initiated the will to totalise the productive forces, to colonise and commodify land everywhere, to valorise people and nature. Just as they’ve fracked deep into the earth and power-drilled monetised value from nature, ruling classes have begun fracking deeply into human nature as well, power-drilling value from different aspects of our everyday life, from dwelling space, from land and housing, from the whole public realm. It’s a process of creative destruction, of economic, political and ecological transformation; and it’s global and ongoing, bounded only by the upper limits of planet earth itself.

The opening line of La révolution urbaine sets the tone of things, uttering a bleak warning: “the complete urbanisation of society; today virtual, tomorrow real.” When Lefebvre said this I don’t think he was ever imagining that cities would be everywhere, that concrete and bricks, that freeways and highways would predominate every which way; he wasn’t suggesting the end of all green space and rural life. The latter would live on somehow, depleted and diminished; people would still work the land, likely as agricultural wage-labourers, likely for big agribusinesses who deal with mono-crops for export, to urban markets.

No, what Lefebvre was warning us about was the closing of the circle of a particular form of capitalism that defines itself less and less through a model of industrial or agricultural production and more through a process of spatial production, of producing planetary geography as a commodity, as a pure financial asset, using and abusing people and places as strategies to accumulate capital. Otherwise put: he was warning us that urban society could be best defined as the progressive production of evermore frackable spatial units. In a way, I like to think that Lefebvre was hoping his thesis became untrue, that the process had to stop, or at least had to be diverted, even if there’s no going back, that urban society, like it or not, is here to stay.[2]

Berger gives us an narrative of intimate human drama; Lefebvre tries to frame this drama as fraught political struggle, full of threats as well as existential possibilities. Urban society is the battle ground for new forms of radical and progressive politics; it has to be. He affirmed this not out of any personal whim: capitalism has affirmed it out of historical necessity, has made it our “objective” reality, the arena in which we all must now engage. “The urban problematic, urbanism as ideology and institution, urbanisation as a global tendency,” Lefebvre says, “are worldwide facts. The urban revolution is a planetary phenomenon.”

Imagery such as this has lately sparked lively debate in urban studies, homing in precisely on the notion of “planetary urbanisation.” [3] Lefebvre’s allusions to “planetary urbanisation” are scattered throughout La révolution urbaine. Its most explicit reference comes in his valedictory essay from 1989, the two-page “Quand la ville se perd dans une métamorphose planétaire,” published a few years before his death.[4] Lefebvre’s language here is worth pondering on for a moment. Menace stalks us, he says; not so much of “planetary urbanisation” but of “the planetarisation of the urban” (la planétarisation de l’urbain). The ordering of the phrase is telling.

The urban, Lefebvre seems to say, isn’t transitive but intransitive: the urban doesn’t so much spread per se as becomes the vortex for sucking in everything the planet offers: its land and wealth, its capital and power, its culture and people—its dispensible labour-power. It’s this sucking in of people and goods, of capital and information that fuels the urban machine, that makes it so dynamic as well as so menacing, because its energising and totalising force “expulses” (expels) people, “secretes” what Lefebvre calls its “residue.” This expulsion process makes urban space expand, lets it push itself out, has it further entangle rural space, and disentangle rural life.

Lefebvre says every big system leaves a residue that escapes it, that is chewed up and spat out by it, yet somehow, against it all, resists this system. Lefebvre, like Berger, knows how every whole leaves a remainder. (Remainders, after all, are the subject matter of the latter’s books.) It’s an idea most forcefully voiced by Lefebvre in Metaphilosophy, written half-a-decade before La révolution urbaine.[5] In Metaphilosophy, Lefebvre says that in any totalisation like global capitalism there’s always leakiness; there are always internal contradictions that structure and de-structure. Totalisation can never be total. Totalisation secretes and expels willy-nilly a “residual element,” its Other, its shadow. Displacement expulses replacement, dislocation expulses relocation, disenfranchisement expulses reenfranchisement. There are always people who don’t fit into any whole, who don’t want to fit in, who aren’t given the chance to fit in. They’re the stuff left over after all the sums are done, after everything has seemingly been accounted for: le reste after la somme. They are the philosophical anti-concepts, an affirmation of remainders, of marginal dregs, a growing constituency the world over.

Residues are remainders who live out the periphery, who feel the periphery inside them, who identify with the periphery, even if sometimes that periphery is in the core. Residues exist in the world of work: precarious and downsized workers, informal and gig economy freelance workers, petty service sector and agricultural workers—residues are workers without regularity, workers without salaries, workers without security, workers without mainstream trappings such as benefits and pensions; they’re workers without any real stake in the future of work. Residues are displacees, too, people forced off the land, people thrown out of their housing (by impersonal property markets and violent eviction), people whose homes have been repossessed, whose living space teeters on the geographical and economic edge. Residues come from the city as well as the countryside and congregate in a space that’s often somewhere in-between. I call this somewhere in-between the global banlieue; I mean it literally and metaphorically, as a potential space of real encounter, one not yet fully glimpsed.

True, a few residues have made themselves residual, voluntarily opting out, self-electing and self-selecting to live differently, communually, marginally, in new communities sprouting up in urban squats or in experimental eco-villages. But in general resides are the superfluous ones, the Sucuses and Zsuzsas of our world, the NINJA (No Income, No Job, No Asset) generation; some might be loosely politically conscious of themselves as residues: Greeks who feel the brunt of the Troika austerity initiatives, dispossessed Arab and African youth in French suburbs, Detroiters beholden to “Emergency Managers,” Palestinians lobbing rocks at Israeli tanks, Rojava Kurds in northern Syria, seventh men and women, refugees rejected and rebuked and whose homeland is little more than an “imagined community,” Indignados on the streets of Spain, “June Days” Brazilians protesting public transport hikes, occupiers in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Umbrella kids in Hong Kong’s Occupy Central, Nuitards staked out around Paris’s Place de la République. The list goes on, and on.

To affirm residues is to affirm what romantic poet John Keats called “negative capability”: the capacity of human beings to transcend and overcome their contexts, to live with contradictions, to resist contradictions, to innovate and blast through contradictions, to blast through social confinement and confining contexts and structures. To reassemble residues is, Lefebvre says, to think revolutionary thought, “a revolutionary thought-act” (pensée-acte). Throwing in your lot with residues is “to inaugurate an act of poiesis,” to declare war, to step up to the plate, to bat against crushing totality, to challenge it to a duel, “to toss the glove in the face of established powers.” It’s “to rise up in grand defiance against systems and acquired forms, to seize from them new forms.”

The spirit of Metaphilosophy gets worked through La révolution urbaine. Urban society is itself a metaphilosophical category, a will to totalise, a discontinuity within continuity, a difference in repetition, a breakdown of old industrial society, with its traditional city and traditional countryside, and its supersession—its overcoming—by a new form: diffusive, unbound and apparently planetary in its reach, beyond any city-rural breach. The journey from Pig Earth and Once in Europa to Lilac and Flag takes us through and onto the other side of this breach. Thus a profound existential problem is displaced onto the plane of urban society where it now transpires as a complex political dilemma, as an attempt to forge a “new humanism” (and humanitarism) out of the “bad side” of capitalist development.

Point to bear in mind: while planetary urbanisation is a theory trying to figure out totalisation under neoliberal capitalism, it shouldn’t itself be a totalising theory. It’s a theory of residues within a vortex, an attempt to figure out the politics of residues, the politics of remainders in the whole. Lefebvre even suggests that in this urban vortex the political ante is to formulate “a revolutionary conception of citizenship.” He says this is really what he meant all along by “the right to the city.” It’s about residues reclaiming (or claiming for the first time) their rights to a collective urban life, to an urban society they’re actively making yet are hitherto disenfranchised from: “the right to the city implies nothing less than a revolutionary conception of citizenship.”[6] So many people have been pushed off-limits that it’s extended the limit of limits, created an even more expansive social space for a new conception of citizenship, for a citizenship to be invented.

This conception of citizenship will have nothing to do with a passport: citizenship here lies inside and beyond a passport, inside and beyond any official documentation. That’s why it’s revolutionary: it doesn’t express a legal right bestowed by any institution of the bourgeois nation-state. What we’re talking about here is a citizenship that’s not the badge of business or a bickering nationalism. It’s a shadow citizenship without a flag, a sovereignty constituted by a going back to the future, back in the sense that the building block for this citizenship is the light of the ancient ideal of a citadin, a person belonging to the city, a citizen belonging to la cité, having a right à la cité. Only nowadays la cité might be more attuned to the modern word “urban.”

Urban, like cité, suggests a political object that isn’t an object as such; it doesn’t mean a direct link to a territory whose borders are policed. You don’t need a passport to have rites of passage or rights of residence in this jurisdiction. Citizenship means something more than birthplace or naturalisation and isn’t constructed around strict delimitation, between thresholds and frontiers, between citizen and non-citizen. “Being a citizen used to mean remaining attached to a territory,” Lefebvre says. “Now, in the modern city, the city dweller is in perpetual movement, constantly circulating and settling, then extricating themselves from place entirely…in the large modern metropolis, social relations tend to be international, not only for migratory reasons but also, and above all, because of the multiplicity of communication technologies, not to mention the globalisation of knowledge. Given such trends, isn’t it necessary to reformulate the framework of citizenship? City dweller and citizen must be linked but never conflated.”

Here “urban” gets away from seeing cities as just physical entities. Instead, urban incorporates all manifestations of capitalist economic dominance over everyday life, including rural everyday life. Urban, on the other hand, satisfies a “hospitable” ideal of citizenship because it can nourish people’s sense of identity without crushing other people’s identity. People can express and become themselves, expand and enlarge themselves through their connection with urban society, with a polis, within an urban constellation, in an open and shareable form of identity. They’ll be citizens of cities without a state. The modern nation-state is a dubious place to feel at home in, to define oneself by: it’s a toxic concept, a dangerous ideal, full of narrowmindedness and arbitrary prejudice that expresses one person’s identity while denying somebody else’s.

International law is still dominated by the rules of a sovereign state, by intangible and flimsy rules problematic for upholding peoples’ rights. Is it possible to create a citizenship beyond the nation-state, somehow above and inside the nation-state? After three-decades of citizenship denial by Assad’s Syrian military regime, Kurdish self-determination now appeals to a citizenship that isn’t about forming a state so much as affirming an autonomous, decentralised region, a participatory democracy without walls: KURDE AZAD SINORA NASNAKE—“Free Kurds Don’t Recognise Borders.” Kurdish democracy now constitutes a form of “Democratic Confederalism,” the creation of free self-governing communities throughout the Rojava region, with village, town and city assemblies organising themselves into a series of communes, which sort out everyday adminstration and service delivery. It’s an admirable radical experiment gravitating around the area’s major urban areas—Aleppo, Kobane and Qamishli—a die-hard militancy achieved in a bloodied, war-torn Middle-East.

Twenty-years ago, Jacques Derrida mused philosophically along these lines, and wondered whether it was possible to define a modern identity, and a modern cosmopolitanism, that bypassed the nation-state. His response was uncannily similar to Lefebvre’s. Yes, Derrida said, it was and still is possible: through relatively-autonomous cities, independent from any state, separate nodes allied to one another through “forms of solidarity to be invented.” We’re still trying to invent this solidarity; it has so far alluded us. Yet Derrida urges us to make “yet another effort.” He uses an intriguing phase to describe the pancea for urban dispossession: “villes-refuges”—“cities of refuge,” crucibles for a new kind of unconditional citizenship, for a new right to and of the city.

In the Old Testament, cities of refuge were set aside as sanctuaries for people who “killed accidentally” (cf. Numbers, 35: 9-32; Chronicles 6: 42 & 52; Joshua, 20: 1-9); “these towns will be cities of refuge,”Chronicles said, “for the sons of Israel as well as for the stranger and the settler amongst you.” What Derrida has in mind are cities of sanctuary for writers who undergo persecution because of their art and political views; but he hints, too, that the concept might apply to all displacees and emigrés, to all asylum seekers and refugees—writers or otherwise. Might we broaden this notion even more to include residues in general, safeguarding all the rootless and landless effected by everyday trauma, by the ordinary madness of our economic system?

“A new sovereignty of cities,” says Derrida, “would open up an original space for rights which inter-state national rights have failed to open up.” “We dream of another concept,” he says, “of another right, of a potential right of the city” (emphasis added). Derrida knows this is “an experimentation of a right and of a democracy to come.” He knows it’s wishful-thinking, utopian, especially since he gives us little sense of what a “ville-refuge” might look like, let alone how it might be achieved. Still, if we can build new towns, even whole new megacities, what’s stopping us from reconstituting a new ideal of urban belonging, from forging an international urban solidarity for which no state, party, trade union or formal institution seems willing to take responsibility?

In an odd sense, the “spectre” of a shadow citizenry looms, a blurry phantom of solidarity in times of crisis; its activism recognises that our national and international laws and rights are “out of joint.” Perhaps we need to read Derrida’s idea of “villes-refuge” in conjunction not only with Lefebvre and Berger but also with Derrida’s own earlier work, Spectres of Marx, where he spoke of a “New International”; “a profound transformation,” he called it, “projected over the long term, of international law, of its concepts, and its field of intervention.” This New International is “a link,” Derrida said, an affinity, a suffering and hope, a still discreet, almost secret link, but more and more visible, with more than a sign of it. It’s an untimely link, he says, without status, without title, without a name, barely public, without contract, without coordination, without party, without country, without national community, without co-citizenship, without common belonging to a class.

We’re not sure what this International really is yet; we can’t name it anything positive. But it’s there nonetheless, we know it’s there, out on the horizon, more needed than ever before, needed everywhere. It’s a ghostly dream-thought of a new status for the city, for cities belonging to a democratic urban webbing, for a solidarity of confederated assemblies interrogating the essence of politics and the role of the nation-state: what is a citizen of the urban, a citadin of the twenty-first century?



[1] A Seventh Man (Penguin, London, 1975) is Berger’s now-classic treatise of European migrant workers. What compels the migrant worker to leave his village and accept this humiliation? Berger wonders. Far from being on the margins of the modern urban experience, the migrant is, Berger says, central to it.

[2] The progressive production of evermore frackable units is a “tendency” rather than a steadfast law. It’s tempered by only one thing: by social reproduction, by the need to reproduce labour-power. If everywhere were fracked for value, if everywhere masses of people (workers) couldn’t afford dwelling space, then the urban system would presumably break down. Marx, in Capital Volume 3 (Chapter 46), warned of the “monstrous power wielded by landed property,” used against “labourers as a means of practically expelling them from the earth as a dwelling-place.” It’s clear that “practically expelling” people from the earth as a dwelling-place is the driving force in the production of residual space.

[3] See Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, “Towards a new epistemology of the urban,” City 15(2/3) 2015:151-182 and Richard Walker, “Building a better theory of the urban: A response to ‘Towards a new epistemology of the urban’,” City 15(2/3) 2015:183-191

[4] Henri Lefebvre, “Quand la ville se perd dans une métamorphose planétaire,” Le monde dipolomatique, May, 1989, pp16-17. For an English translation, see Laurent Corroyer, Marianne Potvin and Neil Brenner, “Dissolving City, Planetary Metamorphosis,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32(2) 2014:203-205

[5] Lefebvre’s fascinatingly suggestive text has recently been made available to Anglophones: see Henri Lefebvre, Metaphilosophy (Verso, London, 2016)

[6] This is the last line of Lefebvre’s “Quand la ville se perd dans une métamorphose planétaire,” his last essay.

[7] Jacques Derrida, Cosmopolites de tous les pays, encore un effort (Edition Galilée, Paris, 1997). The text marked a speech that Derrida wrote (though never gave in person) for a meeting of the International Parliament of Writers, Strasbourg, 6th November 1995. Derrida was Vice-President of a Parliament that included Wole Soyinka, Salman Rushdie, Pierre Bourdieu and Edouard Glissant.


About Andy Merrifield

Writer, Urbanist, Marxist, Educator
This entry was posted in All. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s