New book! CITIES OF DIGNITY: Urban transformations around the world (July 2020)

Participants of the Global Working Group Beyond Development are pleased to announce the launch of their third publication: Cities of Dignity: Urban Transformations Around the World. The book, written by movement-based authors, was presented at the Vienna 2020 Degrowth Conference on June 1st.

Download the book [PDF version HERE] [EPUB-ebook format available soon]

One of the main challenges that strategies for social-ecological transformation are facing today is the fact that a majority of the world population lives in cities, which can be considered structurally unsustainable spaces. The capitalist growth imperative has forced increasing numbers of former peasants from rural areas to move to big cities to sell their labor force or get into informal markets. Cities are the result of a variety of historical processes, shaped by capitalism and imperialism. The process of monopolistic accumulation has led to the centralization of political and financial power in administrative centers in the Global North focused on ruling and controlling populations. This has led to catastrophic results of inequality worldwide, uneven material conditions for existence, increasing militarization, police violence, racism, accelerated dispossession, gentrifications, and an almost irreversible ecological crisis.

Lately, the crisis of civilization, exacerbated by COVID-19, has shown how cities, usually understood as the sites where people move to in order to live ‘successful’ lives, where they can realize consumption and have easier access to many public services than in the countryside, have become deadly traps of contagion. Throughout the world, people who had the opportunity to do so even moved back to their places of origin in the countryside.

It is thus crucial to discuss how cities can be transformed from being sites of extraction and dispossession of rural areas to become sites where, for example, food and energy sovereignty are put forward. How they can be transformed, from being sites for the realization of added value in real estate for transnational capitals through violent land speculation, to being habitats where the dwellers practice self-determination and decide themselves democratically over the territories they inhabit.
Cities of Dignity begins with an analysis of the political economy of urban commons (Chapter 1) and a survey of existing transnational initiatives and trans-solidarity platforms in support of radical urban transformations (Chapter 2). The book presents seven cases of such urban transformation toward more democratic, sustainable, socially equitable and antipatriarchal relations from below in a series of case studies: the San Roque popular market in Quito, Ecuador (Chapter 3); the resistance of Izidora community in Belo Horizonte, Brasil. (Chapter 4); Black-led urban commons in Birmingham, Jackson, and Detroit in the U.S. (Chapter 5); the resistance of slum dwellers of Maroko and Mokoko in Lagos, Nigeria (Chapter 6); the communitarian currency experimentation in Kenya (Chapter 7);  the 15th Garden food sovereignty network in Syria (Chapter 8); and the self-determination and organization of slum dwellers in Bhuj in India (Chapter 9). Many important lessons for social-ecological transformation toward societies that leave the growth imperative behind can be drawn from these seven urban experiences (Chapter: Collective Reflections).

Alternatives in a World of Crisis – 2nd edition

This book is the result of a collective effort. In fact, it has been written by many contributors from all over the world – women, men, activists, and scholars from very different socio-cultural contexts and political horizons, who give testimony to an even greater scope of social change. Their common concern is to show not only that alternatives do exist, despite the neoliberal mantra of the “end of history”, but that many of these alternatives are currently unfolding – even if in many cases they remain invisible to us.

This book brings together a selection of texts portraying transformative processes around the world that are emblematic as they were able to change their situated social realities in multiple ways, addressing different axes of domination simultaneously, and anticipating forms of social organization that configure alternatives to the commodifying, patriarchal, colonial, and destructive logics of modern capitalism.

These processes, of course, have faced a series of challenges and contradictions, both internally and from the outside, which has resulted in a diversity of landscapes of transformative achievements in practice. Nevertheless, and maybe precisely because of their partial failures, they have all produced a range of insights. In this sense, this book does not intend to romanticize the social struggles it presents. It seeks instead to portray their contexts, conditions, and complex evolution through honest analysis and in solidarity with those affected in order to contribute to the knowledges of social movements, peoples, and collectives that promote emancipatory, multidimensional change.

Stopping the Machines of socio-ecological destruction and building alternative worlds

The present text is the result of a collective process of analysis, dialogue, and editing based on the second meeting of the Global Working Group Beyond Development in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, and in Nabón County, in Azuay province, in May 2017. It represents an effort to understand the historical moment our world is living through, its patterns of domination and the tendencies, prospects, and challenges of a multidimensional transformation.

Our discussions have been deeply rooted in our localized experiences of struggle and alternatives, with their particular histories, strategies, advances, and challenges, and in the search for global connections, translations, and lessons between our experiences. The perspective of the Global Working Group Beyond Development is the idea of multidimensional social transformation. Its point of departure is that a multidimensional crisis calls for multidimensional responses. Social transformation today should address simultaneously the complex relations between class, race, coloniality, gender, and Nature, as it is precisely their historical entanglements and interdependencies that configure the civilizational bases of the system we face. Although the debates presented here have much in common with a socio-ecological perspective, we believe that it is necessary to highlight gender, race, and coloniality as necessary dimensions of social transformation that are no less significant than relations between classes or society and Nature. Although the term “socio-ecological” does not necessarily exclude these dimensions, it does not explicitly include them either.