The antinomies of the postpolitical city: In search of a democratic politics of environmental production

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In recent years, urban research has become increasingly concerned with the social, political and economic implications of the techno-political and socio-scientific consensus that the present unsustainable and unjust environmental conditions require a transformation of the way urban life is organized. In the article, I shall argue that the present consensual vision of the urban environment presenting a clear and present danger annuls the properly political moment and contributes to what a number of authors have defined as the emergence and consolidation of a postpolitical and postdemocratic condition. This will be the key theme developed in this contribution. First, I shall attempt to theorize and re-centre the political as a pivotal moment in urban political-ecological processes. Second, I shall argue that the particular staging of the environmental problem and its modes of management signals and helps to consolidate a postpolitical condition, one that evacuates the properly political from the plane of immanence that underpins any political intervention. The consolidation of an urban postpolitical condition runs, so I argue, parallel to the formation of a postdemocratic arrangement that has replaced debate, disagreement and dissensus with a series of technologies of governing that fuse around consensus, agreement, accountancy metrics and technocratic environmental management. In the third part, I maintain that this postpolitical consensual police order revolves decidedly around embracing a populist gesture. However, the disappearance of the political in a postpolitical arrangement leaves all manner of traces that allow for the resurfacing of the properly political. This will be the theme of the final section. I shall conclude that re-centring the political is a necessary condition for tackling questions of urban environmental justice and for creating egalibertarian socio-ecological urban assemblages. © 2009 The Author. Journal Compilation © 2009 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-620
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • Environment
  • Environmental justice
  • Governance
  • Postdemocracy
  • Postpolitics
  • Urban justice
  • Urban political justice
  • Urban political theory


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