Rebel in the City

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

David Harvey, leading social theorist, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, discusses how cities are at the center of both capital and class struggles--and asks how cities might be reorganized to be more just.

Comments [42]

Phoenix Woman

You can tell who the best guests are by the number of FOX News fans and professional mudslingers who show up to lob fact-free insults at them.

None of the people who have insulted David Harvey have the guts to read his works or listen to his lectures -- if they did, and if they had any morals, they would promptly apologize to the man.

Apr. 22 2012 05:15 PM
paulb from Prospect Heights

That Herbert Hoover quote above really misrepresents the man. He was trying to be self-effacing about his success, not disparaging the less successful.

This Harvey is the least credible guest Brian's had on for ages and ages. It's natural to be skeptical someone is ready to manage government just because they've had some success in business. Harvey demonstrates it's just as natural to be skeptical someone has a sensible thought just because they're paid by some university to think, or a publisher prints what they write.

Marxist!? He's got to be kidding. Gridlock Sam: Now there's an intelligent man.

Apr. 15 2012 09:47 AM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, I love the United States, and even though hotel maids may have powerful unions, I have seen people asleep on the subway here in NY at a all hours. There has to be something better. I am sure they wish that and I know that I do. Eugenia Renskoff

Apr. 10 2012 02:01 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Broklyn, NY

Hi, Brian, I agree with most of what your guest says. Personally, I had an upper middle class life in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a child. My father made a really good living and we enjoyed ourselves. We moved here and lived in San Francisco, where we were immigrants—not a great thing even then. Eventually he did well here too. I miss that lifestyle, the one I knew in the beginning of my life. I miss it especially now after my diminished life after my foreclosure due to mortgage fraud in GA. I had an aunt in Buenos Aires. She had worked in a factory and when she saw people asleep on the commuter train, she used to say something like: Poor people! They have to go to work. Your guest’s remark about the E train reminded me of my aunt’s words in the 80s. She was a hard worker and she identified with others like her. I loved the United States very much, but I wish the poor weren’t poor and had access to health and dental care. There has to be a better way, something more equal and fair for everyone. It is great to be rich—I wish I was—but when someone suffers financially and goes to a soup kitchen or a food bank because he/she has to fed themselves and the kids and that’s the only way, that is no good. No good at all. Eugenia Renskoff

Apr. 10 2012 01:46 PM
Terry in New York from Queens

That conversation was chilling? Of course, there is going to be wide differences in income in a society as we have in the Untied States. It's the same dynamic in NYC, or some small town. The concept of 'right to the city', and 'income justice' simply ignore reality. I'm sure Dr. Harvey is a pleasant man, but this is the same old Marxist diatribe.

Apr. 10 2012 12:50 PM
Bill from Mamaroneck

Income inequality isn’t the problem -
It’s the symptom of the real problem:
Inequality of power in our corporations and workplaces.

This country, to fulfill its destiny as the champion of democracy, needs to recognize the right to a democratic workplace as a fundamental human right. This should be the number one issue in the national political debate.

I think we need a single-issue advocacy organization to spearhead a movement to advocate for the civil right to a democratic workplace.

This organization would call for the abolition of the practice of human rental, with the ultimate aim of encouraging the transformation of all conventional dictatorially-structured corporations into employee owned and democratically managed cooperative enterprises across the nation, organized voluntarily and non-violently on a company-by-company, workplace-by-workplace basis.

Apr. 10 2012 12:03 PM
Billy Pilgrim from Staten Island

Sanest voice on Brian's show in years. Not just a breath of fresh air, but a voice that offers real hope. Please bring him back soon. I'll be getting his book right away, and I hope it addresses the question of how this issues play out in the suburbs. Here in Staten Island, there are at least three long-standing de-facto ghettos filled with human misery. But you wouldn't know it. The Borough Presidents seen to think that improving life on Staten Island is all about things like building a ball park next to Borough Hall. I'm sure that's real nice for the BP when he's courting another developer who wants to be gladhanded by the pols while he rapes another part of the Island. Meanwhile, unelected "public" officials and "authorities" tear down and privatizing our schools, charge us out-the-roof bridge tolls to fund pet projects elsewhere in the city, and continue to f*** with our environment and quality of life. And where is the recourse? It doesn't exist. The atmosphere is completely polluted by the smog generated by local conflict between the national party machines, clawing at each other's throats for political power, polarizing enturbulating any attempt at rational, common-sense problem-solving with utterly idiotic rhetoric. Those of us lucky enough to live in neighborhoods where people know and look out for each other have at least that to fall back on. But there are many more who have to eke out a living whereever they can, often in places where crime, violence, and economic ripoffs are simply accepted as "the way things are."
Get Harvey back and ask him, where is any hope of changing that?

Apr. 10 2012 11:56 AM
Seena from Queens, NY

As a Queens resident, I take offense at people who think "Manhattan" is the center of the universe. There is a lot of culture here, and it is growing. We have interesting museums, arts, music, dance, great parks, fabulous restaurants, etc. Okay, maybe we don't have the Met and the Philharmonic, but at least it's all affordable. Queens has a wonderful feeling of openness.
I feel sorry for the professor who called earlier who said she feels isolated living in Flushing. She should try to partake in all of the activities that Queens has to offer. Check out the Queens Borough President's Office Page and Discover Queens website. She may just be surprised.

Apr. 10 2012 11:38 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

"socialist societies have all collapsed" Really - JG, that's news to countries on northern Europe.

Apr. 10 2012 11:37 AM
Brian from Hoboken

I have a right to live in manhattan. I have a right to live on Park Ave. I have a right to drive a Mercedes. Where does it end? I am a progressive guy, but this leads me scratching my head. This gives the righties a good socialism argument for us Dems.

Apr. 10 2012 11:32 AM
Dave Rosenstein from Upper Eastside

As a life-long Manhattanite now in my 60s, I thought I knew my city. I recently interned at a hospital in the Bronx (I'm a substance abuse counselor). I was stunned by the level of poverty I saw in that borough. Aside from some communities on the edges, around the Throgs Neck, Triboro and Whitestone Bridges, in Riverdale and adjacent to Westchester County, the difference between Manhattan and the neighborhoods the #6 train traveled and the populace we served was like like visiting another, impoverished third-world country. Even the subway stations were decrepit, in one water flowed from the ceiling onto the platform during a rainstorm. Imagine that at the 86th Street and Lexington Ave station!

Apr. 10 2012 11:31 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

"Money power" in the U.S.

Concentrated Wealth = Concentrated political power (for those that have it)

Class divide already exists and is a reality. Rightwingers in the U.S. believe that by even mentioning this reality is akin to "class warfare."

@ Jeff Park Slope - Guess you missed the Hayekian analysis on this same topic yesterday. No one, not even Marx, disputed that capitalism is THE DRIVER of WEALTH. I don't even think that there is a question about that. What is in question is what shall be done as wealth accumulates to the top and the middles class and lower CONTINUES to stagnate in terms of wages, wealth and structural degradation. I'm not against capitalism and virtually no one in the U.S. is, I'm for promoting opportunities for everyone in our American society, something that has been deteriorating in the U.S. for more than 30 years with no political or policy redress to the detriment of all. What are we going to do about it?

Apr. 10 2012 11:31 AM
elka from NYC

How does he know who these people are on the E train? He is just making stuff up to push his point and his book. Did he follow them all to work and then back home? I ride the E train early in the morning and I make a good living, so I look tired too. This is soooooooooooo old and stale I cannot listen to it anymore. People who don't even know a working class person will just make all kinds of assumptions. If they were hotel maids then they are making a good living, because they all belong to a powerful union. This intellectuall horse spit is so tiring and boring. Come up with something that makes sense. The 19th century is over.

Apr. 10 2012 11:30 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Also - if you want to make Manhattan "affordable" get rid of rent-stabilization in Manhattan for people earning over 100k.

Apr. 10 2012 11:29 AM
Karla Fisk from Inwood, NYC

Has the high percentage of Manhattan apartments owned by non-American absentee owners (who own multiple apartments in multiple world capitals) been addressed?

Apr. 10 2012 11:28 AM

jgarbuz: those "useless professors" you mention are the generally overqualified and underpaid dispensers of the cultural capital the financial elite so crave for their own self-image and their offspring.

Apr. 10 2012 11:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Reagan brought down communism and turned 3 billion slaves into eager, hard working, strongly competing capitalists. That was the end of the halcyon "Golden" post-WWII era when all you had to do to get rich in America was to work hard. Those days are over. You have to be very smart and clever as well as to work very hard to make it now.

Apr. 10 2012 11:27 AM

Great --and scary-- chart showing the incredible change in family income growth between Post-WWII through 1979 and from 1980 to 2007 (yes, Reagan Revolution era).

Please check it out. I know it put me back on my heels. How about Brian's commenters' reactsions?

Apr. 10 2012 11:27 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I'm not defending bourgeois, post-Guillinani New York but Mr. Harvey should be aware public policy and urban planning returning to corrupted, nepotistic, party patronage and incompetence, masked in a well-meaning albeit - naive liberalism - that DOES NOTHING for the working class or poor, is not what most New Yorkers want to return to.

Apr. 10 2012 11:27 AM
The Truth from Becky

Class discrimination - the great equalizer.

Apr. 10 2012 11:26 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Why don't liberal/progressives ever seem to have a good comeback when they're accused of being "divisive" for pointing out divisions that already exist? Why is it "class warfare" to point out that certain policies benefit the rich over the poor but not class warfare to enact those policies?

Apr. 10 2012 11:24 AM
LES from LES

What will David think of discount stores-big box in Lower East Side?-Class War?

Apr. 10 2012 11:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

We need more useful secretaries and fewer useless professors.

Apr. 10 2012 11:24 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Yes -- like mothers trying to survive on less than living wages REALLY have the chance to make good use of Schwartzman's monument-to-self disguised as a selfless donation...

In David's defense of Schwartzman's under-earned gains with the library "donation" is an unspoken endorsement of the PREREQUISITE that one must make $16000 an hour (and stack chips their progeny will never spend) in order to contribute to the society that nurtured him/her. How base.

Apr. 10 2012 11:23 AM

If, as the author is now saying, the income were distributed more widely then the city, counties, states, and the nation would have a wider and deeper tax base. If the revenue came from more of the middle class, fairly paid working class, then what the city does do with the money would be more likely to reflect what those lower income quintiles need and want.

I was rather aghast at the clip about some BigBigMoney Guy giving $100M to the NY Public Library, and realized that BigBigMoney Guy was probably behind some the angst and destruction being wrought to that great institution, the main NYC library.

Then, since I've heard this discuss on WNYC, I wondered why Brian didn't mention that with money coming from one Big Donor, that donor gets to set the terms in all likelihood. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Gee, sometimes WNYC even fundraises making that point! BTW, how many minimum amount donors are on the WNYC board? Even as advisers? Truly curious, as I'm thinking there just might be one or two....

Apr. 10 2012 11:23 AM
omutunde from Harlem

Most democratic voters live in gated communities. FACT!/photo.php?fbid=399473303411193&set=a.355216881170169.87162.355080727850451&type=1&theater

Apr. 10 2012 11:22 AM

fuva - exactly. That relationship is what Obama's billionaire/secretary argument doesn't articulate clearly enough. Compare-and-contrast rhetoric doesn't seem effective so far. We need compelling narratives of causation: exactly how the gains of the few are effecting the losses of many.

Apr. 10 2012 11:22 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

How does your guest not even mention Reagan? It started in 1980 right?

Apr. 10 2012 11:22 AM
Ben from Westchester

I'm wealthy and proud of it. I started with little, got a great education, worked hard, and I'm proud to be where I am.

I also think that Greg David's thesis is ridiculous.

Of course the wealthy who donate money to city institutions are terrific. They are doing great deeds and we thank them. But undoubtedly the wealthy and their philanthropy are now driving the public agenda more than the public's will is driving that agenda. Look at education, for example, where the Broad and Gates Foundations (two guys who made a mint) are in the driver's seat for education policy in the US.

In some ways, they are doing better than the bloated Board of Education that we had in the 70s and 80s. But it is NOT THEIR PLACE to be the final arbiter of what is right for our kids.

In short, it is great if people are making more money, but terrible if they are converting that into public political power.

Until Citizen's United is overturned, campaign donations are brought to zero, and the lobbyists are all stoned, the level of wealth and its role in modern NYC isn't appropriate.

Apr. 10 2012 11:21 AM
Mark from Qns.

Mr. Harvey's comments regarding workers riding in on the E train are spot on. If you ever ride a train from the outer boroughs early in the morning, on ANY day of the week, you'll see the people that actually WORK in this city. It's difficult to see that reality while riding in a cab on the upper east side I guess.

Apr. 10 2012 11:20 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Socialist societies have all collapsed, even the Kibbutzim in Israel, probably the most humane and truly voluntary socialist experiment in all of history.

The US was a lucky country, particularly after WWII, when our overwhelming victory over all the other powers made us feel temporarily rich. The collapse of communism merely returned the world to the normal Ricardo state, where all workers must struggle for subsistence. Also, the collapse of the "traditional" family unit has only exacerbated this inevitable reversion to more realistic and harsher economic conditions.

Apr. 10 2012 11:20 AM
Jeff Park Slope

New York is a magnet for immigrants. Immigrants tend to come here relatively poor in the hope that they will improve their living standards. If you want to raise average incomes, then reduce immigration. I am not arguing for that, but it does skew the numbers when there is a constant flow of the poor into an area.

In the US, we are supposed to be free to "pursue happiness" to work and to gain.
In NY, the relatively poor have a tremendous amount of power. Taxes are very high in NY to fund social services that benefit primarily the poor.

Equality of opportunity vs. opportunity of outcome. Freedom vs slavery. I've chosen. What is your choice? Harrison Bergeron is effectively a story about socialism.

Under socialism almost all are equally poor. The exceptions are the rulers.

Who creates wealth? Not the government. Wealth is created by businessmen and their efforts enable themselves and others to pay taxes. Call it trickle down if you want to, but what is the alternative, since governments cannot create wealth they can only redistribute it. Why have a socialist on the show without someone else to counter what he says? Why not a Hayekian economist to counter his spurious arguments?

Apr. 10 2012 11:19 AM
KRB from Maplewood, NJ

Just on the point the caller just made about the women/workers on the E train. I was struck by this when there was the transit strike a few years ago and the city could not function b/c all of the people who do the service jobs and help businesses run could not get into Manhattan b/c they can't afford to live on the island!!

Apr. 10 2012 11:19 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Hooray for Prof. Harvey! So true, about how the working class is invisible to the upper class elite. And here's the REAL twist: they are invisible even to some of the most "liberal" members of the elite, who delude themselves with their self-satisfied smugness.

Apr. 10 2012 11:18 AM

I don't want rich people deciding what little cultural gifts the rest of us get. I'd rather have equitable taxes and let the populous decide how we spend our common money.

Apr. 10 2012 11:17 AM
Prometheus from NJ

"People wore coats long before there were coat factories"

Karl Marx

Apr. 10 2012 11:17 AM
C.E. Connelly from Manhattan

Thanks Brian. Finally, some clear-eye analysis of inequality.

Apr. 10 2012 11:16 AM

What are some strategies Prof. Harvey might recommend for *representing* and *disseminating* the kind of striking information he just did at the start of the program more effectively -- in a way that breaks through the wall of aspiration toward joining the 1%, even the desire to keep the 1% intact as an asymptotic ideal?

Apr. 10 2012 11:15 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Yes, "this level of class disparity is absolutely appalling". But why? It's not enough to point to income disparity or unfairness, which many people accept as facts of life...What is the relationship between the increasingly rich and the increasingly poor, and how does this hurt national productivity? THIS is what needs articulation. Maybe David Harvey will do it.

Apr. 10 2012 11:13 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

Message From the 1%
"If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he is not worth much."
— Herbert Hoover

Message to the 1%
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both."
— Louis Brandeis

Apr. 10 2012 11:11 AM
john from office

Did Brian just call him a Marxist?? Is he encased in amber??

Was he found in some field in Russa or China, lost and disoriented??

Apr. 10 2012 11:09 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

What does Dr. Harvey think of Saskia Sassen's Global City thesis, in this case regarding NYC? Does NYC have any more responsibility as compared to other cities in the U.S. due to its status and position on the global economy?

Apr. 10 2012 11:07 AM

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