Yep, that’s what it feels like these days. Just realized it’s been nearly 2 months again since I last blogged. Goes to show you, I’ve been darn busy. We are less than a week from the San Francisco Critical Mass 20th anniversary week of festivities. Our new book, Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20, is back from the printer and available at some of the better local independent bookstores as well as online here. Hell, we even made a kindle version!
While Not Blogging, I’ve been doing a bunch of other projects, including the interview I’m reposting below with David Harvey about his book Rebel Cities, which is well worth reading. I had to reconjure the “Ghost Streets” article I did a couple of years ago for a journal called MAS Context. There’s an interview with me in Spanish on Spain’s Vida Sana website, covering Critical Mass, the anniversary, Nowtopia, and more. Last week I was badly overbooked, appearing on Tuesday night at the Kitchen Table Talks at 18 Reasons Why, Wednesday we had our regular Talk at our new Shaping San Francisco space at 518 Valencia on “Mexico Today: Dinosaurs, Hashtags, and Popular Revolt,” Thursday I appeared at SPUR with Robin Shulman telling “A Tale of Two Cities’ Food Histories,” on Friday I gave a bike tour for a USF class, and then Saturday I gave a short walking tour in Gerbode Valley in the Marin Headlands as part of the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts 30th birthday party. Finally had a day off on Sunday, but I’ll be teaching my class at SFAI tomorrow, and on Wednesday back at SPUR again for a discussion on “150 Years South of the Slot” about the history of Yerba Buena Gardens area. Whew! And now we plunge into the 8 days of festivities for the Critical Mass 20th anniversary! Maybe I will relax in October!
Meanwhile, here’s the email exchange I had with David Harvey about his most recent book “Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to Urban Revolution”. I have to say it was very gracious of him to engage with this, which was instigated by the good folks over at Shareable.net.
I want to start with the opening paragraph of his preface titled “Henri Lefebvre’s Vision” where Harvey reminisces about a poster he acquired in Paris in the mid-1970s… curiously I have the very same poster, equally tattered, on my wall. Here’s a photo of it, and his paragraph, after is the exchange:
Sometime in the mid 1970s in Paris I came across a poster put out by the Ecologistes, a radical neighborhood action movement dedicated to creating a more ecologically sensitive mode of city living depicting an alternative vision for the city. It was a wonderful ludic portrait of old Paris reanimated by a neighborhood life, with flowers on balconies, squares full of people and children, small stores and workshops open to the world, cafés galore, fountains flowing, people relishing the river bank, community gardens here and there (maybe I have invented that in my memory), evident time to enjoy conversations or smoke a pipe (a habit not at that time demonized, as I found to my cost when I went to an Ecologiste neighborhood meeting in a densely smoke-filled room). I loved that poster, but over the years it became so tattered and torn that I had, to my regret, to throw it out. I wish I had it back! Somebody should reprint it.
Chris Carlsson: Who did you write Rebel Cities for?
David Harvey: My aim was to write a book for everyone who has serious questions about the qualities of the urban life to which they are exposed and the limited choices that arise, given the way in which political and economic power asserts a hegemonic right to build cities according to its own desires and needs (for profit and capital accumulation) rather than to satisfy the needs of people.
In so doing, I wanted to provide indications of the kind of theoretical framework to which I appeal and I, therefore, use seemingly abstract (often, but not exclusively, Marxist) concepts. But my aim is to use these concepts in such a way that anybody can grasp them. (I don’t always succeed, of course.) I then hope that people might become interested to seek a deeper knowledge of the sort of framework that I use. For example, in “The Art of Rent,” I use a seemingly arcane concept of monopoly rent, but I hope by the end of the chapter people can understand very well what it might mean and wonder how it is that a society that lauds competition as foundational to its functioning is populated by capitalists who will go to great lengths to secure monopoly power by any means and how they capture unearned rents by resorting to that power.
If people want a broader understanding of my framework, they can use many resources including my own Enigma of Capital, and A Brief History of Neoliberalism, and my website lectures (including those on Marx’s Capital) and the Companion to Marx’s Capital). I hope, however, that Rebel Cities is understandable enough without going through all of those materials first. In my view, one of the biggest problems for anti-capitalist social movements in our times is the lack of an agreed-upon framework to understand the dynamics of what is going on; if I can somehow incite activists to think more broadly about what they are doing and the general situation in which they are doing it (and how particular struggles relate to each other), then I would be very happy. More »