Democratizing the production of urban environments: Working in, against and beyond the state, from Durban to Berlin

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The city is neither an enemy of nature, nor should it be seen as its ‘other’. Instead - just as a bee crafts its own structure through labouring with its fellow insects - the city can be viewed as a produced nature. One of the key normative questions that emerges from such a claim revolves around how that production could or should be organized in ways that benefit rather than harm human and non-human lives. For many political theorists this question can only be addressed through reference to state institutions, which are seen - in often-contradictory ways - as help or hindrance to an environmental politics, or as the basis for more or less inclusive environmental decision-making. Strangely, though, political ecologists are often relatively silent on the question of the state (although for a notable exception see Whitehead et al. 2007). Yet as the potentialities, limitations and contradictions of the twenty-first century capitalist state are made newly visible through the advent of left electoral projects across Europe, there is a need for a more in-depth political ecological account. In what follows we want to take the question of the state more seriously than it has been in relation to urban political ecology, while simultaneously arguing that the state is not the ‘thing’ that many take it to be. Instead it is a concrete form that emerges out of a broader set of political ecological relations. Or, put differently, the material apparatus of the state - the parliament, the court, the police and so on - is a product of complex and interconnected social, economic and ecological processes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook on Spaces of Urban Politics
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781317495024
ISBN (Print)9781138890329
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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