Class meets Land: the social mobilisation of land as catalyst for urban change

Maria Kaika, Luca Ruggiero

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The paper explores the active yet neglected role that local class struggle over land plays in negotiating new forms of urbanity. Unfashionably shifting research focus from global elites and the “creative classâ€� to local industrial elites and industrial workers, we show that socially embodied local struggles over land are as relevant to globalised urbanisations as they had been to industrial capitalism, and need to be brought back squarely into geographical analysis. We focus empirically on the closely-knitted histories of the Pirelli company, Pirelli’s workers, and Pirelli’s industrial space at Bicocca (north-east Milan). As we unfold Bicocca’s transformation from workers’ village (19th century), to radical industrial action hub (1960s-1970s), and finally to trendy mixed-use space (1990s-2000s), we show how, for over a century, social struggles over land remain the terrain on which new forms of urbanity are fought, and highlight two important points. First, class struggle over the economic, social, and symbolic role of industrial land was not the outcome of, but an essential precondition for urban restructuring. Second, the industrial working class and traditional elites were not passive recipients, but active producers of urban change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-729
Number of pages21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • land, class struggle/conflict, urban traditional elites, creative class, industrial working class


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