An alternative history of capitalist urbanization through the lens of the commons
Characterized by shared, self-managed access to food, housing, and the basic conditions for a creative life, the commons are essential for communities to flourish and protect spaces of collective autonomy from capitalist encroachment. In a narrative spanning more than three centuries, Against the Commons provides a radical counterhistory of urban planning that explores how capitalism and spatial politics have evolved to address this challenge.
Highlighting episodes from preindustrial England, New York City and Chicago between the 1850s and the early 1900s, Weimar-era Berlin, and neoliberal Milan, Álvaro Sevilla-Buitrago shows how capitalist urbanization has eroded the egalitarian, convivial life-worlds around the commons. The book combines detailed archival research with provocative critical theory to illuminate past and ongoing struggles over land, shared resources, public space, neighborhoods, creativity, and spatial imaginaries.
Against the Commons underscores the ways urbanization shapes the social fabric of places and territories, lending particular awareness to the impact of planning and design initiatives on working-class communities and popular strata. Projecting history into the future, it outlines an alternative vision for a postcapitalist urban planning, one in which the structure of collective spaces is ultimately defined by the people who inhabit them.