The City Dispossessed of Its Commons

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2118 ... June 10, 2020
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The City Dispossessed of Its Commons

Dimitris Fasfalis

The city as a way of dwelling in the world has not always existed -- quite the contrary. In fact, most of the long history of our species has taken place outside of any urban setting. The global triumph of the city in our time, paradoxically, hides its disappearance as a common space of exchange and relationships inhabited by those who freely, and autonomously, appropriate it. The empty urban landscapes of the current crisis suggest to our gaze, beyond an apocalyptic tone fueled by fear, the expectation of a "return to normal."

Taking these urban landscapes of emptiness as a starting point, it is possible to show that their exceptional character screens the multiple links that they share with the features of urbanization achieved since the middle of the 20th century. These images of stopped cities, of deserted and silent streets, thus form part of a long-term process instead of being exceptions in urban history. To make use of the current crisis as an analytical lens... to highlight not its discontinuities but, rather, its continuities with the geography and experience of the city of our time: such is the gamble of the following reflections on our urban condition today, located at the intersection of geography, history and political theory.

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