Retroactive utopia

Class and the urbanization of self-management in Poland

Authored by: Kacper Pobłocki

The Routledge Handbook on Spaces of Urban Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138890329
eBook ISBN: 9781315712468
Adobe ISBN:


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There is a widespread hostility towards middle-class contentious politics in urban studies literature. Many researchers hold a tacit assumption that residents’ movements are conservative and guided by narrow, parochial interests. A classic example of this is provided by Mike Davis in his City of Quartz. Homeowners’ associations in southern California were by his account busy establishing “bourgeois utopias”. Those entailed the “creation of racially and economically homogeneous residential enclaves glorifying the single-family home … and defense of this suburban dream against unwanted development (industry, apartments, offices) as well as unwanted persons” (Davis 1990: 170). Most literature on American cities perceives middle-class activism as a battle to defend white privilege and property values in an increasingly non-majority-white urban milieu. The assumption that all forms of property-anchored politics is reactionary is perhaps the reason why the very first Anglo-Saxon book on the right to the city (Mitchell 2003) deems the homeless as the true revolutionary subject of urban politics. For authors such as David Harvey (2012: 130) or Neil Smith (1996: 3–29) this is still largely the case.

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