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The right to the city


  • David Harvey


The right to the city is not merely a right of access to what already exists, but a right to change it. We need to be sure we can live with our own creations. But the right to remake ourselves by creating a qualitatively different kind of urban sociality is one of the most precious of all human rights. We have been made and re-made without knowing exactly why, how, and to what end. How then, can we better exercise this right to the city? But whose rights and whose city? Could we not construct a socially just city? But what is social justice? Is justice simply whatever the ruling class wants it to be? We live in a society in which the inalienable rights to private property and the profit rate trump any other conception of inalienable rights. Our society is dominated by the accumulation of capital through market exchange. To live under capitalism is to accept or submit to that bundle of rights necessary for endless capital accumulation. Free markets are not necessarily fair. Worse still, markets require scarcity to function. The inalienable rights of private property and the profit rate lead to worlds of inequality, alienation and injustice. The endless accumulation of capital and the conception of rights embedded threin must be opposed and a different right to the city must be asserted politically. Derivative rights (like the right to be treated with dignity) should become fundamental and fundamental rights (of private property and the profit rate) should become derivative. But new rights can also be defined: like the right to the city which is not merely a right of access to what the property speculators and state planners define, but an active right to make the city different, to shape it more in accord with our heart's desire, and to re-make ourselves thereby in a different image. Copyright (c) Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2003.

Suggested Citation

  • David Harvey, 2003. "The right to the city," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 939-941, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ijurrs:v:27:y:2003:i:4:p:939-941

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    10. Clara Irazábal, 2009. "One Size Does Not Fit All: Land Markets and Property Rights for the Construction of the Just City," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 558-563, June.
    11. Oleg Pachenkov, 2014. " Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit 2011 : The Spirit of Cities. Why Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age . Oxford : Princeton University Press ," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(1), pages 366-368, January.
    12. Maria-Lluïsa Marsal-Llacuna, 2016. "City Indicators on Social Sustainability as Standardization Technologies for Smarter (Citizen-Centered) Governance of Cities," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 1193-1216, September.
    13. Witten, Karen & Kearns, Robin & Carroll, Penelope, 2015. "Urban inclusion as wellbeing: Exploring children's accounts of confronting diversity on inner city streets," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 349-357.
    14. Maria-Lluïsa Marsal-Llacuna, 2017. "Building Universal Socio-cultural Indicators for Standardizing the Safeguarding of Citizens’ Rights in Smart Cities," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(2), pages 563-579, January.
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    16. Dušan Marinković, 2013. "Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution by David Harvey," Panoeconomicus, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, vol. 60(5), pages 699-705, September.
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    18. Anguelovski, Isabelle & Martínez Alier, Joan, 2014. "The ‘Environmentalism of the Poor’ revisited: Territory and place in disconnected glocal struggles," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 167-176.
    19. Zhifen Cheng & Shangyi Zhou & Stephen Young, 2014. "Place, Capital Flows and Property Regimes: The Elites’ Former Houses in Beijing’s South Luogu Lane," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(1), pages 1-24, December.
    20. Alaazi, Dominic A. & Masuda, Jeffrey R. & Evans, Joshua & Distasio, Jino, 2015. "Therapeutic landscapes of home: Exploring Indigenous peoples' experiences of a Housing First intervention in Winnipeg," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 30-37.
    21. Gillad Rosen & Anne B. Shlay, 2014. "Whose Right to Jerusalem?," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(3), pages 935-950, May.
    22. Miguel Martínez, 2011. "The Citizen Participation of Urban Movements in Spatial Planning: A Comparison between Vigo and Porto," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(1), pages 147-171, January.
    23. Nir Cohen & Talia Margalit, 2015. "‘There are Really Two Cities Here’: Fragmented Urban Citizenship In Tel Aviv," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(4), pages 666-686, July.
    24. Walter Alando & Joachim Scheiner, 2016. "Framing Social Inclusion as a Benchmark for Cycling-Inclusive Transport Policy in Kisumu, Kenya," Social Inclusion, Cogitatio Press, vol. 4(3), pages 46-60.

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