Right to the city

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The right to the city is an idea and a slogan that was first proposed by Henri Lefebvre in his 1968 book Le Droit à la ville.[1][2]


Lefebvre summarizes the idea as a "demand...[for] a transformed and renewed access to urban life".[3][4] David Harvey described it as follows:

The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.[5]

It has been suggested that the phrase has taken on a variety of meanings[6] and Marcelo Lopes de Souza has argued that as the right to the city has become "fashionable these days", "[t]he price of this has often been the trivialisation and corruption of Lefebvre's concept"[7] and called for fidelity to the original radical meaning of the idea.

A number of popular movements, such as the shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa,[8] the Right to the City Alliance in the United States,[9] Recht auf Stadt,[10] a network of squatters, tenants and artists in Hamburg, and various movements in Asia and Latin America,[11] have incorporated the idea of the right to the city into their struggles.

In Brazil the 2001 City Statute wrote the Right to the City into federal law.[12]


  1. ^ Purcell, Mark (October 2002). "Excavating Lefebvre: The right to the city and its urban politics of the inhabitant". GeoJournal, special issue: Social Transformation, Citizenship, and the Right to the City. Springer. 58 (2-3): 99–108. doi:10.1023/B:GEJO.0000010829.62237.8f. JSTOR 41147756.  Pdf.
  2. ^ Unger, Knut (14 February 2009). ""Right to the City" as a response to the crisis: "Convergence" or divergence of urban social movements?". Reclaiming Spaces. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Lefebvre, Henri (1996), "The right to the city", in Kofman, Eleonore; Lebas, Elizabeth, Writings on cities, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 158, ISBN 9780631191889. 
  4. ^ Attoh, Kafui (October 2011). "What kind of right is the right to the city?". Progress in Human Geography. Sage. 35 (5): 669–685. doi:10.1177/0309132510394706. 
  5. ^ Harvey, David (September–October 2008). "The right to the city". New Left Review. New Left Review. II (53): 23–40. 
  6. ^ Gorgens, Tristan; van Donk, Mirjam (2011). "From basic needs towards socio-spatial transformation: coming to grips with the 'Right to the City' for the urban poor in South Africa". isandla.org.za. The Isandla Institute.  Pdf.
  7. ^ Lopes de Souza, Marcelo (May 2010). "Which right to which city? In defence of political-strategic clarity". Interface. via WordPress. 2 (1): 315–333.  Pdf.
  8. ^ Abahlali_3 (17 January 2013). "S'bu Zikode & Richard Pithouse debating Pallo Jordan on the Record of the ANC – Oslo, 22 November 2012". abahlali.org. Abahlali baseMjondolo.  (Campaigns and Statements on The Right to the City.)
  9. ^ Leavitt, Jackie; Roshan Samara, Tony; Brady, Marnie (Fall 2009). "The Right to the City Alliance: time to democratize urban governance (blog)". Progressive Planning, Planners Network. 
  10. ^ Staff writer (2011). "Congress theses on The Right to the City". wiki.rechtaufstadt.net. Recht Auf Stadt. 
  11. ^ Mayer, Margit (2012), "The "right to the city" in urban social movements", in Brenner, Neil; Marcuse, Peter; Mayer, Margit, Cities for people not for profit: critical urban theory & the right to the city, New York: Routledge, pp. 63–85, ISBN 9780415601771. 
  12. ^ Staff writer (14 October 2011). "Implementing the Right to the City in Brazil". sustainablecitiescollective.com. Sustainable Cities Collective. 

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