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 ideas 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 of America,[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. ^ Mark Purcell, Excavating Lefebvre: The right to the city and its urban politics of the inhabitant, GeoJournal 58: 99–108, 2002
  2. ^ “Right to the City” as a response to the crisis: “Convergence” or divergence of urban social movements?, Knut Unger, Reclaiming Spaces
  3. ^ Henri Lefebvre, Writings on Cities, p. 158
  4. ^ Kafui Attoh, What Kind of right is the right to the city "Progress in Human Geography"
  5. ^ David Harvey (2008). "The Right to the City". New Left Review 53. pp. 23–40. 
  6. ^ From basic needs towards socio-spatial transformation: coming to grips with the 'Right to the City' for the urban poor in South Africa, by Tristan Gorgens, Mirjam van Donk, The Isandla Institute, 2011
  7. ^ Marcelo Lopes de Souza, Which Right to Which City?, Interface, Volume 2 (1): 315 – 333 (May 2010)
  8. ^ Abahlali baseMjondolo Campaigns and Statements on The Right to the City
  9. ^ The Right to the City Alliance: Time to Democratize Urban Governance, by Jackie Leavitt, Tony Roshan Samara and Marnie Brady, Progressive Planning, Fall 2009
  10. ^ Congress Theses on The Right to the City
  11. ^ Margit Mayer, 'The Right to the City in Urban Social Movements' in Cities for People Not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory & the Right to the City, edited by Neil Brenner, Peter Marcuse & Margit Mayer, Routledge, New York, 2012
  12. ^ "Implementing the Right to the City in Brazil" Sustainable Cities Collective, 2011

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