Peter Marcuse uncovers a solid argument in his paper “From critical urban theory to the right to the city” (2009) concerning the right to the city, first proposed by Lefebvre and employed widely by David Harvey. Significantly, the article emphasizes the correlation between the demand and the cry for the right to the city, coming from the marginalized/underpaid for material rights, and from the alineated for intellectual/creative/social rights. Marcuse underlines repeatedly that the deprived and the discontented are two sides of the same coin, both have needs that are manifested in the concept of the right to the city. In fact, he explains how these two “classes” and their “deprivation” and “discontent” are stemming from the same roots and the same kind of revolution is needed, for the most part.
I don’t care much for the solution he proposes for I do not believe that the wider society is capable of replacing capitalism, not to mention those who are born into this system and have systematically been manipulated into “emotional group-based phenomena” (Marcuse 2009, 191) through the suppression of the body, the animal nature and spirituality; who are fanatics of their destructors, who value and desire alienation because they can neither see nor feel any other choice.
Today, we need to look into pseudo-self-help books in order to grasp the concept of “self-actualization” however it is interesting to note that “self-actualization” was so ingrained in some pre-industrial civilizations it was seen as the very essence of human life. Having that stolen from us, we the citizens, need to handle the complex situation of the right to the city in order to name and ask for an essential right, mentioned as a “demand for creativity and intellect” by Marcuse. Today, the asking for this right is usually suppressed by the wide-spread tale of “being thankful for what you have”, shaming those who look for self-actualization. Marcuse writes that both are equally valid rights and in fact share a common root. I like it.
Marcuse, Peter. “From critical urban theory to the right to the city.” City, 2009: 185-196.