Marxism and Urban Culture is the first volume to reconcile social science and humanities perspectives on culture. Covering a range of global cities – Bologna, Buenos Aires, Guatemala City, Liverpool, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mahalla al-Kubra, Montreal, Osaka, Strasbourg, Vienna – the contributions fuse political and theoretical concerns with analyses of urban cultural practices and historical movements as well as urban-themed literary and filmic art. Conceived as a response to the persistent rift between disciplinary Marxist approaches to culture, this book prioritizes the urban problematic and builds implicitly and explicitly on work by numerous thinkers: not only Karl Marx but also David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, Friedrich Engels and Antonio Gramsci, among others. Rather than reanimate reductive views either of Marx or of urban theory, the chapters in Marxism and Urban Culture speak broadly to the interdisciplinary connections that are increasingly the concern of cultural scholars working across and beyond the boundaries of geography, sociology, history, political science, language and literature fields, film studies and more. A foreword written by Andy Merrifield (the author of Metromarxism [Routledge 2002]) and an introduction by Benjamin Fraser (the author of Henri Lefebvre and the Spanish Urban Experience [Bucknell UP 2011]) situate the book’s chapters firmly in interdisciplinary terrain.
I read Andy Merrifield’s book Metromarxism back in graduate school and found it a great primer for thinking about the city, space and capital–as he writes in the introduction:
“Thinking about the city from the standpoint of a Marxist, and about Marxism from the standpoint of an urbanist, is fraught with a lot of difficulties. For Marxist urbanists, this double movement runs the danger of tugging one in opposite directions or else having one fall between two stools. The present offering tries to reconcile these two political and intellectual imaginations.”(2002: 1)
The book consists of relatively short but (direct?)action-packed chapters on specific figures–there’s a great balance between large scale issues/other voices and specific information about the named subject: Ch1. Karl Marx, Ch2. Frederick Engels, Ch3. Walter Benjamin, Ch4. Henri Lefebvre, Ch5. Guy Debord, Ch6. Manuel Castells, Ch7. David Harvey, Ch8. Marshall Berman (what a great reading it would be for an Intro to Urban Studies course…). Plus, great writing style, brisk pace that doesn’t sacrifice depth. He’s also got a great book on Lefebvre alone (Henri Lefebvre: A Critical Introduction) and also Guy Debord (in the Critical Lives series with Reaktion Books–which I think I picked up in a used book store in Atlanta… no good used book stores in Charleston, as with many places I imagine). I still have to get a copy of Magical Marxism (above in gallery–if anyone’s read it share your thoughts…).
See also his work for The Nation, & his recent piece in the New Left Review is also worth a read (although a word of caution: I saw it advertised in the NYRB as part of a NLR spread as an essay on “indignado politics”–which it was–but it is more globally focused than a piece concentrating on Spain itself…), still, it’s…
Worth a Read
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