The Limits of the City

By Murray Bookchin

Entry 4976


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism The Limits of the City

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(1921 - 2006)

Father of Social Ecology and Anarcho-Communalism

: Growing up in the era of traditional proletarian socialism, with its working-class insurrections and struggles against classical fascism, as an adult he helped start the ecology movement, embraced the feminist movement as antihierarchical, and developed his own democratic, communalist politics. (From: Anarchy Archives.)
• "...a market economy based on dog-eat-dog as a law of survival and 'progress' has penetrated every aspect of society..." (From: "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "The social view of humanity, namely that of social ecology, focuses primarily on the historic emergence of hierarchy and the need to eliminate hierarchical relationships." (From: "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "We are direly in need not only of 're-enchanting the world' and 'nature' but also of re-enchanting humanity -- of giving itself a sense of wonder over its own capacity as natural beings and a caring product of natural evolution" (From: "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)


8 Chapters | 40,940 Words | 266,422 Characters

Preface This essay attempts to provide a meaningful perspective on the development of the city. It begins with a remote era when the land dominated the town and traces urban evolution in the present, when great metropolitan entities dominate the countryside. In the course of dealing with this historic development and its consequences for us, the book examines certain traditions of urbanism That have been virtually forgotten today. My purpose is to provide the reader with an idea of what the city was once like at its best, to recover high standards of urbanism all the more to question the present lack of standards in judging the modern metropolis and the society that fosters its growth. This book is radically critical; it offers no recip... (From:
Introduction A well-known medieval adage has it that “city air makes people free.” Although the freedom afforded by medieval cities generally meant emancipation from serfdom, the same adage might have been repeated from slightly different viewpoints throughout the history of urban life. Cities embody the most important traditions of civilization. Owing to the size of their marketplaces and the close living quarters they render possible, cities collect those energizing Force? of social life that country life tends to dissipate over wide expanses of land and scattered populations. Seasonal renewals of nature that send hunters and food gatherers on migrations and reclothe the works of the peasant are replaced in cities by a more... (From:
Dedication For my son Joey (From:
1. Land and City Cities play an indisputably dominant role in modern life. They visibly decide the development of modern society. It would thus seem that once urban communities arose, they quickly achieved a leading position and, like our own cities, entered into an overbearing antagonism with the countryside. But there was a time when urban life was either subordinated to or in balance with the countryside. The development of social relations through much of precapitalist history’did not definitively depend upon the development of city life until the late Middle Ages, when cities became the precursors of an authentic bourgeois economy. It is easily forgotten that most of human history is occupied with women and men as food cultiv... (From:
2. The Rise of the Bourgeois City Only in western and central Europe, did the rise of urban life yield a lasting domination of town over country — not as a special Case in the Crevices of the ancient world, but as the general feature of a continental society, Europe’s development closely recapitulates the evolution of agrarian society through the social phases we have discussed in connection with Greece and Latium; but while the development of urban life in antiquity led to a cul de sac, in Europe the towns developed capitalism and established the bourgeois city. The striking social advances scored by European cities can be explained by many factors unique to the continent itself, although what stands out as the principal on... (From:
3. The Limits of the Bourgeois City The early development of the bourgeois city is, in many ways, comparable to the destructive invasion of the colonial world by capitalist relations. In England, the enclosure movement dislodged thousands of families from the country and they had no recourse but to flock to the towns. The larger cities, to which much of this influx was directed, lacked the physical and administrative facilities for dealing with so many beggared families (nor were they particularly concerned with their fate), with the harsh result that large numbers of urban poor simply perished in the Streets, In many cities, entire quarters were reduced to filthy hovels, demoralized by Crime, congestion, disease, drunkenness, and prosti... (From:
4. Community and City Planning Can the bourgeois city be rescued from itself? Or, to ask a more basic question, can the high traditions of urbanism be instilled in the modern metropolis? In the United States, where science acquires the aura that the archaic world once reserved for magic, the answer tends to be biased toward technical expertize. The problems of the modern city can (and presumably will) be resolved by those who have the greatest urban “know-how” — the city planners. Not that these specialists are beloved by people, particularly those in the older urban areas whose neighborhoods are being savagely revitalized. Hut the prestige of American know-how, of professional technique., mystifies the minds of its vic... (From:
[1] Karl Marx, Capital (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co.), 1:387. [2] G.C. Vaillant, Aztecs of Mexico, rev. e.d. (New York: Penguin Books, 1962). p. 225. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid., p. 129. [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid., p. 134. [7] Edward Hyams, Soil and Civilization (London: Thames and Hudson, 1952), pp. 228–229 [8] Kart Marx, “Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” Selected Works (Mew York: International Publishers, n.d), 1: 357. [9] This viewpoint is developed in considerable detail id Karl Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957). Although Wittfogel simplifies this approach and has been criticized with good reason by Robert M. Adams and Jacques Garnet, the essent... (From:


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