Democratization and Putting People at the Center in a Just Transition, Political Reform and the Green New Deal

By Evan Casper-Futterman and Jason Spicer, Metropolitiques.euNovember 18, 2019 | CREATE!

Earlier this year, US Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez introduced a Congressional resolution for a Green New Deal (GND), an idea since supported by a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. The resolution calls for “transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil-society groups, academia, and businesses.” To some, the reference to worker cooperatives might seem accidental or even strange—how are they central to solving the climate crisis? Two recent books help draw this connection, by taking up the challenges of radical social and institutional transformation to make a GND maximally effective. One outlines the requirements for a maximally participatory democracy, but raises questions about its ideological valences; the other outlines a multilayered effort in one US city, leaving us with questions about organizational capacity to pull off the GND. Inasmuch as these works draw mainly on non-US examples, they magnify the challenges that remain here.

Connecting climate change and the organization of the economy is neither a new nor marginal idea. Many leading thinkers and reformers on these fronts, including Greta ThunbergVandana ShivaNaomi KleinGar AlperovitzGus Speth, and others, have argued the corporate greenwashing approach to sustainability, as has been advanced through profit-maximizing investor-owned firms, is unlikely to end the climate crisis of disaster capitalism, or lead to a “just transition” towards a sustainable, equitable economy. In fact, these very firms generated and profited from the crisis. By contrast, cooperatives and democratic enterprises of all kinds (including housing co‑ops, credit unions, and food/consumer cooperatives) exist for a different “logic” than traditional enterprises, as sociologist Joyce Rothschild long ago observed. These member-owned organizational forms, which according to the late political scientist Robert Dahl best embodied economic democracy, allow us to prioritize the needs of people and planet over profit.

To make the world habitable for the next century, however, will likely mean going beyond firm-level reorganization: simply or mechanistically adding more democratically organized enterprises may be necessary for transformation, but insufficient on its own, if past experience is any guide. For example, large US housing cooperatives developed by unions, many during the original New Deal, ultimately succumbed to the market logic of capitalism, owing to insufficient safeguards and the prevalence of conventional financing, among other reasons. To avoid such a fate, democratic businesses will need to be part of a broader effort that addresses how we fundamentally govern and share power every day. The elements of top-down economic expertise, technocracy, and bureaucracy of the first New Deal, as Sabeel Rahman’s work suggests, are unlikely to yield the desired outcome today.

Instead, the GND will need to build on the more transformative parts of the original New Deal, and seek to reconfigure the organizational apparatus of socio-economic and political governance at every scale. Today, the indivisible aims of multiracial social democracy and decarbonization warrant a complete transformation of our community boards and energy utilities and environmental protection agencies, along with the expansion or creation of new public institutions, such as municipal and state public banks (like those newly authorized in California), and regional economic-development bureaus. Economic democracy at the firm level, as embodied through entities like worker cooperatives, is thus just one of many systemic organizational changes that will need to be deployed from the municipal and regional scales upwards, in order to effect the national goals of the GND.

We Decide! by Michael Menser, and Jackson Rising, edited by Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya, both address the challenge of simultaneously rescuing the habitability of our planet, while reorganizing and democratizing production, consumption, surplus allocation, and our organs of self-government. These two volumes add to the emerging conversation on cooperatives, economic democracy and systems change. Both remind us how much remains to be done to make another economy possible.

Drawing on his background in philosophy and business ethics, and a broad range of activism and scholarship on environmental sustainability, solidarity economy, and democratic theory, Menser begins his book with the important task of (re)defining an ideal of democratic principles and practice for a more thoroughly democratic society. From ancient Greece to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy to the transnational Via Campesina movement, Menser outlines what he calls Maximal Democracy, or MaxD, comprising four principles from which functional democratic practice can guide itself: collective (rather than self-) determination, shared authority, human capacity development, and the connection and proliferation of networks for the furtherance of the preceding values and practices.

Menser reviews an illustrative set of practices that might reconfigure the power dynamics embedded in the relationships of our daily lives. From participatory budgeting to workplace democracy, from anti-consumerist consumption and supply chains to public utilities, the overriding theme is the rearticulation of power relationships between state, markets, and civil society. The movements and organizations Menser profiles are ideologically diverse, and in some cases apolitical. This might make some readers more than a little bit nervous about the implications of these models and practices: if they are ideologically open containers, does this not mean that a variety of political projects might be able to sabotage and co‑opt them for other ends? This is a legitimate concern, and one that we share. The adoption of certain organizational practices, such as those featured in this book, will be necessary, but not sufficient, to achieve deep systems change. While they enable the expression of more deeply democratic values, they ultimately reflect and animate the political and socio-economic values participants bring to them.

By way of conclusion, Menser identifies a few core “best practices” for the sustainable stewardship of MaxD at a scale of impact beyond the outcomes for its participants. These are: a bank or financing entity, a university or research arm, a nongovernmental coordinating entity, and a strong multi-issue social movement base. One can certainly debate about whether these four are the only shared elements, or suggest add‑ons for any given locality, but it would be difficult to dispute the value that these four elements bring, regardless of the specificities of place or ideology. In the actual doing of the work on the ground, however, the specificities of place and ideology take on significantly greater importance.

For those in search of an ideologically coherent and applied vision of Menser’s MaxD formulation, Jackson Rising is a useful complement. The diverse array of municipal and regional institutions necessary for the promulgation of a successful Green New Deal is further elaborated here, as various authors in the edited work give a 360‑degree view of efforts to create a sustainable, just transition in Jackson, Mississippi. In the book’s preface, the long, violent shadow of racialized capitalism and the historical struggle for land and freedom is brought into searing relief by Rukia Lumumba, widow of deceased revolutionary Chokwe Lumumba, who was elected Jackon’s mayor in 2013 and passed away after only a few months in office. In the subsequent chapters, Akuno and others outline the political vision and program of Cooperation Jackson and the Jackson–Kush Plan.

The sweeping scope and language of the book contrasts sharply with its reporting of the realities of inch-by-inch progress and setbacks on the ground in Jackson, and places this volume in a lineage of political manifestos like the Black Panther Party platform and program, and the 13‑point program of the Young Lords. Similarly, the volume’s most theoretically and programmatically comprehensive sections are those addressing the large-scale visions for cooperative development incubators, digital fabrication, community land trustsgardeningfood production and eco‑villages, as well as people’s assemblies and a human-rights charter for the city.

Notably, both of these works consider the issue of gender in economic democracy. Far too often, the role gender plays in the work of participatory institutions and collective governance is relegated to footnote status, or treated separately. In Menser’s work, the analysis of Seikatsu, the multipurpose cooperative conglomerate enterprise run and managed mostly by women, is theoretically bolstered with a review of the frameworks from the environmental justice and subsistence perspectives (explicitly building on the work of Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, among others). In Jackson Rising, a reprinted interview with Saki Hall frames the solidarity economy as an extension of the household and care labor that has always disproportionately fallen to women. Nonetheless, the Hall contribution remains somewhat disconnected from the programmatic chapters that often take the main stage in the book.

While the question of who actually leads and sustains the democratic practices and institutions featured in both of these works (the answer: it’s mostly women) is thus considered, it remains a secondary concern. We get little sense of what might be required to move from the male-dominated world of disaster capitalism to a feminist just transition, as the GND’s erstwhile chief sponsor, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, continues to be dismissed and derided by her critics in highly troubling, gendered ways. The co‑authors of the present article, meanwhile, are men, as are the authors and primary editors of the two works discussed throughout—another reminder of how central and deep gender inequality remains in today’s economy.

These two works are also notable for what they fail to feature, namely a significant number of other US case studies or practices. This is not so much a weakness of the works or their authors, as much as a reflection of a limited set of successes from which to draw on in the US context. Jackson Rising chronicles a strong vision. But like many of its peer projects across the country, the reality is that very little of the democratically managed infrastructure it describes and envisions functionally exists on the ground. Meanwhile, though Menser’s work is replete with exciting examples, few are from the US.

This leaves both US activists and scholars with something to ponder: has the US movement for a participatory and democratic economy built sufficiently robust regional or municipal coordinating institutions to serve these four functions that Menser concludes are so critical? If not, one wonders about existing capacity to implement a multiscalar GND. Is it at risk of becoming the latest in a long line of movements whose success at issue framing has run ahead of its ability to mobilize resources and effect change? Without the regional and municipal coordinating capacity, do we risk repeating the top-down technocratic, bureaucratic, not-so-New Deal of a century ago? In so doing, we might ensure our short-term survival, but to paraphrase the Knights of Labor from the 19th century, “something of slavery” will still remain with us, and “something of freedom” will still be yet to come.

Beyond federal legislation and action, the fight for a just transition and for economic democracy in the US will hinge on the strength of place-based networks and regimes like those outlined in these two books. While the GND cannot create these networks and practices, it can provide a policy framework to enable their successful development.

Excerpt, Zenit, Nov 2019

The Person at the Center

Luis Berrios, Secretary of the Social-Caritas Pastoral Vicariate of the Archbishopric of Santiago, said to Zenit that, in his opinion, the social pact “is a new Constitution that considers the person at the center” and  that ”guarantees social rights through which all persons can live with the dignity proper to us.”

In general, “the whole country” has been affected, said Berrios. “Some have been affected materially, as a result of physical damages and a great part of the population has been affected emotionally.”

In Santiago, the municipalities of Puente Alto, Maipu, Penalolen, Renca, and Quilicura have been very affected, as means of life, of locomotion, supply sources have been lost, and public infrastructure has been damaged. However, Berrios noted, “the greatest harm has been suffered by communities and families where there has been a loss of human lives.”

Aid Given by the Church

“Specialized institutions of the Church have designed a methodology and a Web platform to encourage the establishment of Town Halls through which communities, parishes, and schools can elaborate their proposals, which will be systematized by a University and made available to the Authorities,” stated Berrios.

Through its Vicariate, the Church of Santiago has implemented strategies of immediate response and some of the early recovery, in face of the social and humanitarian crisis, such as five listening and orientation centers, in which affected people have been received whose rights were violated to help them with a possible complaint.

Individual and communal containment actions were also carried out for those that requested them and advice on labor rights, explained the Secretary of the Social Pastoral.

Food and Hygiene

In the third place, direct aid has been given in terms of food and hygiene to families that have lost their source of income, many of them migrants that have arrived recently in the country.

Finally, the network of parish soup kitchens is being supported, both in terms of supply and volunteering, specified Berrios.

In the ambit of early recovery, actions of containment have been carried out, such as those of young volunteers working with boys and girls and adolescents through the so-called Urban Colonies, he explained.NOVEMBER 19, 2019 15:28HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE


Beyond dreams of village life: residential clubs and clubbisation

by Éric Charmes & translated by Oliver Waineon 26 October 2011Tags: clubbisation | gated communities | periurban | mobility | local attachment

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]



Version imprimable

Print  At a time of increasing “metropolisation” and ever greater pressure on mobility, how can neighbourhood attachments be explained? These phenomena, far from being contradictory, would in fact appear to be two sides of the same coin. What’s more, although city-dwellers remain attached to the neighbourhood in which they live, these attachments are changing, too. Using analyses developed in his recent work La ville émiettée (“The Fragmented City”), published by Presses Universitaires de France, Éric Charmes suggests an analogy with private clubs to describe these new neighbourhood relationships, and proposes the term “clubbisation” to qualify this process.

Seine-et-Marne, Paris region © Éric Charmes

The majority of day-to-day life no longer revolves around the home, but rather takes place in a fragmented space on a metropolitan scale. [1] And yet, as any ethnographical or sociological survey will show, people in city centres, inner-city areas and the inner suburbs remain very much attached to the neighbourhoods in which they live, which they will often describe as a “village”. Moreover, on the fringes of metropolitan areas, beyond the traditional suburbs, city life in the country – in formerly rural villages – is proving extremely popular. There is a paradox here, exemplified by the unsuitability of the term “village” to describe contemporary relationships within the neighbourhood and residential spaces. Neighbourhood life, even when animated, has little in common with the rural village life described by ethnographers as late as the 1960s, [2] and which generally extended no further than the parish bounds; unlike the villagers of this period, city-dwellers spend most of their day-to-day life outside their neighbourhood and do not take kindly to the sort of strong social control exerted by neighbours that would have been commonplace in rural villages 50 years ago. This is, of course, nothing new; nonetheless, we still have some difficulties in describing the exact relationship that city-dwellers maintain with the spaces surrounding their home.

These difficulties are most obvious when it comes to describing lifestyles in towns dominated by individual housing on the periurban fringe. With their deserted residential streets and overcrowded, congested highways, these settlements clearly illustrate what some have called “the end of the neighbourhood” [3] or the “deterritorialisation” of lifestyles. However, with their private, protected estates (“gated communities”), these periurban areas are also demonstrating just as clearly the phenomenon of self-segregation. What are we to make of this paradox between neighbourhood life that seems to be losing its importance and local attachments that are growing stronger? Like many paradoxes, it is the result not so much of a contradiction in reality as of an inadequacy of mobilised concepts. Its formulation is based on deeply rooted oppositions in representations of the social realm, such as the opposition between attachment and mobility, or between community and society. However, although these oppositions might have been useful for expressing the transition from rural to urban life at the turn of the 20th century, they are no longer fit for this purpose in societies that are now very much urbanised. These dichotomies currently represent an ideological smokescreen that contrasts phenomena that have long since become complementary.

Local attachments in the metropolitan era

Local territorialisation must be considered in conjunction with, rather than in opposition to, mobility. [4] For instance, it is precisely because city-dwellers spend most of their time in places other than their neighbourhood, and because they do not – or no longer – form a community together with their neighbours, that gated communities have proven so successful. Previously, in lively neighbourhoods where numerous strong local links bound the community together, there existed what Jane Jacobs called the “eyes on the street” [5] and every member of the community – shopkeepers, passers-by, residents – participated in this collective natural surveillance. In this kind of context, local inhabitants felt little need to turn to technical solutions or specialist personnel to control behaviour. By contrast, in contemporary residential spaces, where it is now standard behaviour to mind one’s own business – and where one’s neighbours are rarely one’s friends, colleagues or family – residents do not wish to get involved in the control of communal spaces and prefer to delegate this task to outside service providers or through the use of technology. From this standpoint, the development of gated communities must be understood not as the result of a strong, inward-looking community, but rather the exact opposite, i.e. the consequence of the weakening of local community ties – what Philippe Robert calls the erosion of “neighbourly sociability”, [6] which results principally from the important role that residential and daily mobility now plays.

The work necessary to move away from an opposition between attachment and mobility has already begun. Particular note should be made, in France, of the contributions of Yves Grafmeyer and his colleagues, whose surveys in dense city-centre and inner-city districts have shown that the development of various forms of mobility does not lead to the death of the neighbourhood, contrary to certain predictions made in the 1990s. [7] As Yves Grafmeyer himself has written, “the attachment to the neighbourhood is in no way mutually exclusive with strong investment in other spaces in the city.” [8] Nonetheless, aside from the observation of possible complementarities between local attachments and a broader relationship with the city, a theoretical model to explain the way in which a strong local attachment can be compatible with intense daily mobility and a highly fragmented use of metropolitan spaces has yet to be constructed.

The club: a new model for neighbourly relationships

The concept of a club would seem a promising potential model in this regard. This and other similar concepts are not new in sociology: Georg Simmel, for example, characterised city life using the notion of a circle or group, which we might liken to an exclusive club. [9] Here, we should like to mention one particular definition, inspired by economics and the works of the British geographer Chris Webster. [10] For economists, such clubs are a way of sharing a resource or a set of resources. This form of sharing can be defined using two criteria: the possibility of excluding potential users, and the absence of “congestion” between admitted users (or, to put it another away, the sharing of resources must have a minimal impact on one’s ability to enjoy these resources). The fulfilment of the second criterion is, of course, linked to the first, as it is often by limiting the number of members that congestion is avoided. A landscaped garden or a swimming pool in a condominium complex indisputably meet both of these criteria, provided that there are not too many residents, and that access to these facilities is restricted to residents only (the fulfilment of this second condition may require the imposition of access restrictions – contributing in no small way to the development of gated communities).

Clubs can be managed by both public and private structures. The examples given thus far have focused on private residential complexes, but municipalities can be equally concerned by this phenomenon. After all, they possess the tools necessary to exclude certain populations: they can restrict access to their territory to specific demographic groups and implement policies promoting social population control (e.g. by limiting the amount of social housing built or prohibiting the construction of collective housing). The differences can potentially be quite considerable. Take house prices in the Paris region, for instance: if we compare the ultra-bourgeois Neuilly-sur-Seine, an inner suburb on the western edge of Paris proper (in France’s richest département, Hauts-de-Seine), with an equally nearby suburb on the north-eastern boundary of Paris (in the disadvantaged Seine-Saint-Denis département), the same type of property can cost around five times as much, if not more, in Neuilly. [11]

But to exactly what extent can we compare municipalities to clubs, and inhabitants to club members? The case presented below of small French periurban municipalities shows that this analogy can, in fact, be taken to considerable lengths. However, this would not have been the case just a few decades ago: the changes that have been observed in recent years are the result of what we propose to call “clubbisation” – an inelegant neologism, but one whose meaning is nonetheless clear. Clubbisation is the transition from a relationship with the local environment close to that found in the ideal-type of a community (and which could still be found in many rural villages in the 1960s) to a relationship close to that found in the ideal-type of an exclusive club (and which can be found today in condominium complexes and increasingly, as we will see, in certain periurban towns and villages). Clubbisation is therefore the transition from a local-level relationship, where the core issues were ensuring harmonious living and sharing common-pool resources within a given group, to a relationship where the core issue is the definition of a group to benefit from the sharing of given resources. In an outlook inspired by Michael Walzer’s Spheres of Justice, in which politics and economics constitute relatively autonomous spheres, [12] one might say that recent decades have been marked by the transition from a relationship that is primarily political at local level (where priority is given to the relationship with other people, as in a village community) to a relationship that is primarily economic at local level (where priority is given to the relationship with resources that have a market value, with one of these resources being the members themselves, as in a gentlemen’s club).

These transformations, far from being incompatible with daily and residential mobility, are in fact the very expression of these types of mobility. It is possible to have a market-based relationship with the services, resources and amenities that come with residence in a particular locality, to the extent that we choose the place where we live (taking into consideration income-related constraints). Similarly, it is possible not to feel politically connected to our neighbours and, at the same time, consider that our destiny is relatively independent of that of our neighbourhood, as we can always decide to move. [13] Finally, with the expansion of the territories in which we lead our day-to-day lives, we depend less and less on our neighbourhoods as far as work, friends and family are concerned. Consequently, the local environment and the neighbourhood have lost a large part of their political value. The development of the internet, and the various forms of sociability it enables, only serves to boost this ongoing trend of disconnection between “politicised” spaces and residential spaces. [14] The political space is disappearing at neighbourhood level and persists only at higher levels, such as population centres, city regions, countries and transnational spaces. [15]

Periurban municipalities: residential clubs?

One type of territory in particular demonstrates – in an almost ideal-typical way – the nature of this phenomenon, namely the periurban fringes of large French cities. Here, evidence of clubbisation can clearly be seen, with the transformation of rural villages into residential clubs. Today in France, almost 20,000 municipalities can be considered periurban municipalities, as defined by INSEE, the national statistics institute. These are generally former villages that have been absorbed into a city’s sphere of influence. In nine out of ten cases, these municipalities have fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, and their built-up areas – made up for the most part of low-rise housing estates – are surrounded by natural and agricultural spaces. [16] In these towns and villages, the purchase of a detached house in many ways resembles the purchase of a ticket granting admission to a residential club: by moving into a detached house, one becomes a “member” of a municipality whose inhabitants are united by the common enjoyment of a specific living environment. Through the effects of the property market, the “clubs” that offer the most sought-after living environments become those with the most expensive “entry tickets”. The least prestigious clubs – those farthest from the city centre or subject to inconveniences such as motorways, airports and industrial estates – are those that are least expensive, and which are therefore generally home to lower-middle-class households. Property in localities in which many affluent households concentrate becomes all the more sought-after, as well-off families attract other well-off families (mainly because of the “good” attendance this guarantees at the local schools). In this context, residents tend to form groups based on similar tastes and income brackets. They are linked by the sharing of resources that they have acquired (or which they rent) and are concerned above all with the management and maintenance of these resources, as part of an economic process similar to that used to manage a condominium complex. Another major concern of these residents is restricting access to (and enjoyment of) these resources to themselves; consequently, exclusivity and the definition of rules for group membership are key issues. This is reflected in local planning regulations, for instance, which seek to control the characteristics of the population through measures such as banning the building of collective housing, or even prohibiting any new construction at all.

The situation here is very different from that which existed in the rural villages of old, where membership of the local community was more a given than a choice, and where, as a result, the issue of defining rules for group membership was secondary. [17] Furthermore, in the traditional rural village, inhabitants had highly varied social positions and interests (even small villages had their rich and poor residents), which would lead to political debate concerning the development of their community and the definition of rules for the sharing of common resources. [18] The following example illustrates this perfectly: in rural villages containing municipal forest, it was common for this woodland to be managed by the local council, using mechanisms such as affouage (broadly speaking, residents’ right to firewood), for instance. Determining the beneficiaries was not a difficult matter: quite simply, the people that benefited were the local inhabitants, a relatively stable group based on temporal continuity. There would, of course, be some discussions – notably concerning showmen and merchants who were rarely in the village – but these problems were secondary to the issues raised by the sharing of benefits among inhabitants. Some people wanted the municipal woodland to benefit poorer families above all, by allowing them access to resources that they did not possess – thus challenging the place of the village’s richer residents, for example, as the municipality would traditionally grant access in proportion to the amount of land owned. Many comments could be made on the subject of these discussions; however, for our purposes, the important point to note is that the heart of the debate lay not in determining who was to benefit from access to municipal resources, but in how these resources were to be shared.

In a periurban residential municipality, the exact opposite is the case. Let’s continue with the example of woodland: in the periurban fringes, municipal woodland, where it exists, is valued for its natural beauty and used as a leisure amenity. [19] These kinds of demands – unique to periurbanites – often lead to such woodland being either turned into protected green spaces or integrated into a regional natural park. The landscape quality therefore takes precedence over the forestry management issues. There is no longer any question, for example, of heavy cutting for logging. Furthermore, the problem facing local residents is not how to share the benefits of access to woodland, as this is impossible (the enjoyment of a landscape or of a woodland walk cannot be divided up); instead, the question is how to determine the number and type of people who can take advantage of these local landscapes and walk in these green spaces, and more specifically how to limit the risks of “congestion”. Consequently, one of the main worries of inhabitants of small residential municipalities is restricting the urbanisation of the municipal territory. This fear reflects a concern for the quality of the landscapes that they enjoy. For periurbanites, more houses in their area means potentially less woodland. Moreover, if the population increases, there is a risk that the paths and glades will be used by more people for their Sunday afternoon walks. In the periurban residential club, therefore, debate focuses on access rules, but touches very little on how to share the resources concerned. Similarly, little time is spent debating political issues, for two reasons: first, tastes and income levels among local residents will be relatively homogeneous; and second, these residents accepted to benefit from a living environment governed by fixed rules – that are not to be subsequently modified – the moment they signed the deeds or lease of their property. This commitment is comparable to the agreements signed when moving into a condominium.

Table 1: Clubbisation – or from shared resources to club resources [20]

“Clubbisation” and metropolitan areas

As the examples above show, the concepts of clubs and clubbisation can be used to consider relationships with a local area in a way that goes beyond the dichotomy between community and society. These concepts enable us to imagine a strong relationship with one’s place of residence that works with, and not against, mobility. They allow us to explain why and how the nature of the relationship with one’s place of residence has changed. The local community is no longer a given, as its social perimeter fluctuates significantly with residential and daily mobility. The neighbourhood is increasingly less the location of a common destiny shared by a relatively stable community, and more a location where specific common-pool resources are shared by individuals brought together on a temporary basis (if not in real terms, then at least in terms of the way they portray their situation). Or, to put it more succinctly, it is no longer the group that makes the neighbourhood, but the neighbourhood that makes the group. The facilities, amenities and services offered by a neighbourhood are no longer produced by a group, but instead produce a group. This means that the core issue is no longer the rules defined for sharing the resources offered by a given locality, but rather the rules defined for becoming a resident of this locality in the first place. And the key aim of this control is undoubtedly – and increasingly [21] – the preservation of the social environment, in a context where the neighbourhood stands for less as a political space than as an economic resource. Indeed, to borrow the terms of the pluralist philosopher Michael Walzer, [22] city-dwellers’ relationships with their neighbourhood are becoming less associated with the political sphere and increasingly attached to the economic sphere.

What are we to think of this clubbisation of French municipalities in political and moral terms and, more importantly, what should be done? To answer these questions, the full extent of this clubbisation must be assessed. In particular, we need to determine whether the residential clubs described above have counterparts in city centres, inner-city areas and traditional suburbs. Even if we consider only the periurban fringe, this is nonetheless a massive phenomenon, which potentially concerns hundreds of towns and villages around every large city. Must we oppose this clubbisation of the periurban fringe, and, more specifically, fight against the commodification of the social environment and its consequences, namely the social division of space and the resultant segregation? Expressing the question in these terms seems inappropriate. Clubbisation is a large-scale process and efforts to directly oppose it would be in vain (at least from a reformist perspective). The margins for manoeuvre and the true political stakes lie in the fact that the new relationship with the local environment that results from clubbisation is also a new relationship with metropolitan areas in general. Residential clubs can only develop where there is a strong relationship of dependence on a metropolitan environment: in order to live in a residential town or village, it must be possible to work in a different town, do one’s shopping in another and send one’s children to school in yet another. In sum, clubbisation does not exclude the political sphere from urban issues: it simply redefines the scales and spaces for which this sphere is relevant. Although we are increasingly able to choose our neighbours, the metropolitan area, for its part, is increasingly becoming a common territory to be shared. The issue at stake is therefore the political regulation of this shared territory and of the relationships that must be developed between its various components. A first step towards achieving this kind of regulation is making city-dwellers aware of the organic dependencies that exist between the different components of the metropolitan areas in which they live, work and play. To do this, we must accurately and realistically assess the situation and stop presenting self-segregation and the metropolis as two opposing forces; the concepts of clubs and clubbisation can help achieve this goal.

Further reading

  • Charmes, Éric. 2011. La ville émiettée. Essai sur la clubbisation de la vie urbaine, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.


[1] The author would like to thank Bilel Benbouzid for his observations.

[2] See later for our characterisation of this village life.

[3] See in particular Ascher, François. 1998. “La fin des quartiers”, in Haumont, Nicole (dir.), L’urbain dans tous ses états : faire, vivre, dire la ville, Paris: L’Harmattan, pp. 183–201.

[4] This paragraph contains elements taken from Charmes, Éric. 2011. “Les gated communities : des ghettos de riches ?”,, 29 March. Consulted on 26 October 2011. URL:

[5] Jacobs, Jane. 1961. Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Random House.

[6] Robert, Philippe. 2000. “Les territoires du contrôle social, quels changements ?”, Déviance et société, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 215–23.

[7] In particular, see Ascher, François. 1998. Op. cit.

[8] Grafmeyer, Yves. 2006. “Le quartier des sociologues”, in Authier, Bacqué & Guerin-Pace, Le quartier. Enjeux scientifiques, actions politiques et pratiques sociales, Paris: La Découverte, p. 28.

[9] Simmel, Georg. 1999 [1908]. Sociologie. Étude sur les formes de la socialisation, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

[10] See Webster, Chris J. 2003. “The Nature of the Neighbourhood”, Urban Studies, vol. 40, no. 13, pp. 2591–2612.

[11] See Filippi, Benoît et al. 2007. Marchés du logement et fractures urbaines en Île-de-France, Paris: PUCA Ministère de l’Équipement.

[12] See Walzer, Michael. 1984. Spheres of Justice. A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, New York: Basic Books.

[13] Rémy, Jean. 2004. “Culture de la mobilité et nouvelles formes de territorialité”, in Vodoz, Pfister-Giauque & Jemelin (dir.), Les territoires de la mobilité. L’aire du temps, Lausanne: Presses Polytechniques et Universitaires Romandes, pp. 13–42.

[14] Montgomery, Alesia F. 2010. “Ghettos and enclaves in the cross-place realm: mapping socially bounded spaces across cities”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 659–675.

[15] For more detailed information about this scale-related effect, see Charmes, Éric. 2011. La ville émiettée. Essai sur la clubbisation de la vie urbaine, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, p. 93 seq.

[16] Charmes, Éric. 2011. Op. cit., chap. 1.

[17] This and the following paragraphs contain elements taken from Charmes, Éric. 2011. Op. cit., pp. 240–242. The situation described here was still true of certain villages in the 1960s. In particular, see the following works: Morin, Edgar. 1967. Commune en France. La métamorphose de Plodémet, Paris: Fayard; Pelras, Christian. 2001. Goulien. Commune bretonne du Cap Sizun. Entre XIXe siècle et IIIe millénaire, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes; and Wylie, Laurence. 1979 [1968]. Un village du Vaucluse, Paris: Gallimard.

[18] Vivier, Nadine. 1998. Propriété collective et identité communale. Les biens communaux en France. 1750–1914, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne.

[19] For a detailed description of suburbanites’ relationship with nature and the different registers that this relationship can take, see Vanier, Martin. 2003. “Le périurbain à l’heure du crapaud buffle : tiers espace de la nature, nature du tiers espace”, Revue de géographie alpine, vol. 91, no. 4, pp. 79–89.

[20] Table drawn up on the basis of a critical reading of Ostrom, Elinor, Gardner, Roy & Walker, James. 1993. Rules, games, and common-pool resources, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. See also Charmes, Éric, 2011. Op. cit., chap. 5.

[21] The work that has done the most to popularise this proposition, even if the methodology used is questionable, is Maurin, Éric. 2004. Le ghetto français, Paris: Le Seuil.

[22] Walzer, Michael. 1984. Op. cit.