Released: February 2002
Life in the city can be both liberating and oppressive. The contemporary city is an arena in which new and unexpected personal identities and collective agencies are forged and at the same time the major focus of market forces intent on making all life a commodity. This book explores both sides of the urban experience, developing a perspective from which the contradictory nature of the politics of the city comes more clearly into view.
Dialectical Urbanism discusses a range of issues, conflicts, and struggles through detailed case-studies set in Liverpool, Baltimore, New York, and Los Angeles. Issues which affect the quality of everyday life in the city — gentrification and development, affordable rents, the accountability of local government, the domination of the urban landscape by new corporate giants, policing — are located in the context of larger political and economic forces. At the same time, the narrative constantly returns to those moments in which city-dwellers discover and develop their capacity to challenge larger forces and decide their own conditions of life, becoming active citizens rather than the passive consumers.
Merrifield draws on a wide range of sources — from interviews with activists and tenants fighting eviction to government and corporate reports — and uncovers surprising connections, for example, between the rise of junk bonds in the 1980s and urban improvement schemes in a working-class neighborhood in Baltimore. This lively and many-sided narrative is constantly informed by broader analyses and reflections on the city and engages with these analyses in turn. It fuses scholarship and political engagement into a powerful defense of the possibilities of life in the metropolis today.
Dialectical Urbanism shows a fruitful direction for the Marxism of the future. Exploring the collision between abstract capitalist space and concrete human place, Andy Merrifield offers a fresh vision of the totality of modern life.
Intellectually stimulating, morally passionate…