By Alessandro Busà

The right to the city: the entitled and the excluded - The Urban Reinventors, Special issue, November 2009

Over 40 years after Henry Lefebvre’s Le Droit à la Ville (“The Right to the City”, 1968) was conceived, the notion of a “renewed right to urban life”, or in other words “a right to an equitable usufruct of cities within the principles of sustainability, democracy, equity, and social justice” has hardly ever seemed as out of reach as it does today.

The ongoing unfolding of the global recession, whose consequences have been devastating particularly to disadvantaged communities worldwide, is once again highlighting the underlying contradictions and the sistemic dysfunctionality of dominant models of profit-driven urbanization. In the U.S., the recession has spurred a widening gap between rich and poor, while a wave of foreclosures has sent thousands of once-middle class households in the streets, in homeless shelters, or in “tent cities”, in the midst of an ocean of vacant properties (see Kathy Sanborn, in this issue). Yet again, the most dramatic human costs of this crisis are to be seen among the poor across the developing world: the World Bank has estimated that up to 90 million extra people world-wide have fallen into extreme poverty (less than US $1.25 per day) in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown. This represents a reversal in the global extreme poverty reduction trend since 2005, with the global number of extreme poor rising to over 1.2 billion people only this year.

This notwithstanding, in the latest years a revival of interest in Henri Lefebvre’s ideas on “the right to the city” has propagated among scholars and activists alike, as a way to counteract market-driven urbanism and commit to values of human dignity and human rights for all […]

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* Alessandro Busà is the chief editor of "The Urban Reinventors" Online Urban Journal, licensed architect and a Doctoral Fellow at the Transatlantic Graduate Research Center Berlin/New York. Busà has carried out research in New York City between 2006 and 2009 while on a visiting scholar appointment at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation of Columbia University. His writing and research interests explore processes of socio-spatial restructuring in advanced capitalist cities, urban politics and development strategies, with a main focus on the restructuring processes in New York City under the Bloomberg Administration. Busà has been awarded the Erwin Stephan Preis of the Technische Universität Berlin in 2004, and has lectured in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Poland. Busà has heretofore published several articles and book chapters in the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, and cooperated in research projects in several countries.

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