A Crise da Urbanização Planetária | David Harvey

O aumento do custo de vida, especialmente para alimentação, transporte e habitação, tornou a vida diária cada vez mais difícil para as populações urbanas. Essa talvez seja a razão principal para as manifestações do Brasil em junho de 2013 e que agora voltam a ocupar as ruas por conta do aumento da tarifa dos transportes. Neste artigo o geógrafo David Harvey mostra que os protestos no Brasil, Turquia, Grécia, Espanha e outros países têm como ponto comum o urbano. Vivemos de fato uma crise da urbanização planetária, já que o urbano vem se constituindo com a principal forma de acumulação de capital no mundo, resultando em violência para populações inteiras.

O artigo “The Crisis of Planetary Urbanization”, do geógrafo David Harvey, foi publicado (acesso aberto) em novembro de 2014 para o catálogo da exposição do Museu de Arte Moderna de Nova York. O INCT Observatório das Metrópoles divulga o texto no Brasil com o objetivo de mostrar que as manifestações que voltam às ruas no Brasil no começo de 2015 – por conta do aumento das tarifas dos transportes públicos – retomam o debate sobre a crise urbana mundial. Crise relacionada com a luta pelo direito à mobilidade urbana, à moradia, ao saneamento, à saúde, à educação e à cidade – direito cidadão de bem viver na cidade, de ocupar seus espaços de forma democrática e justa.

Em seu artigo Harvey aponta que a urbanização se tornou a principal forma de acumulação de capital planetária, e é essa forma de acumulação que vem esmagando populações inteiras nos grandes centros urbanos – seja por conta do transporte público, da insegurança e violência urbana, da precariedade dos serviços públicos urbanos.

O Observatório das Metrópoles atuará, em 2015, em prol do Direito à Cidade, entendido a partir de duas perspectivas como bem apontou o professor Orlando Alves dos Santos Jr.: a primeira se refere ao acesso pleno aos serviços da cidade – mobilidade, habitação, saneamento, segurança, lazer, entre outros. A segunda frente refere-se ao desejo de construir uma nova cidade, mais inclusiva, democrática, ecológica, solidária, na qual as pessoas possam participar das decisões.

 

The Crisis of Planetary Urbanization | David Harvey

On the night of June 20, 2013, more than a million people in some 388 Brazilian cities took to the streets in a massive protest movement. The largest of these protests, comprising more than 100,000 people, occurred in Rio de Janeiro and was met with significant police violence. For more than a year prior to this, sporadic protests had been occurring in various Brazilian cities. Led by a “Free Pass” movement that had long been agitating for free public transportation for students, the earlier protests were largely ignored. But by early June 2013, fare increases for public transportation sparked more widespread protests. Many other groups, including the black block anarchists, sprang to the defense of the “Free Pass” protestors and others who came under police attack. By June 13 the movement had morphed into a general protest against police repression, the failure of public services to match social needs, and the deteriorating quality of urban life. The huge expenditures of public resources to host mega-events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games—to the detriment of the public interest but to the great benefit, it was widely understood, of corrupt construction and urban development interests—added to the discontent.

The protests in Brazil came less than a month after thousands of people turned out on the streets of Turkey’s major cities, as anger over the redevelopment of the precious green space of Gezi Park in Istanbul as a shopping center, spread into a broader protest against the increasingly autocratic style of the government and the violence of the police response. Long-simmering discontent over the pace and style of urban transformation, including the wholesale eviction of populations from high-value land in inner-city locations added fuel to the protests. Diminished quality of life in Istanbul and other cities for all but the most affluent classes was clearly an important issue.

The broad parallel between Turkey and Brazil led Bill Keller to write an op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled “The Revolt of the Rising Class.”1 The uprisings were “not born in desperation,” he wrote. Both Brazil and Turkey had experienced remarkable economic growth in a period of global crisis. They were “the latest in a series of revolts arising from the middle class—the urban, educated haves who are in some ways the principal beneficiaries of the regimes they now reject” and who had something to lose by taking to the streets in protest. “By the time the movements reached critical mass, they were about something bigger and more inchoate, dignity, the perquisites of citizenship, the obligations of power.” The revolts signified “a new alienation, a new yearning” that had to be addressed.

To be sure, the protests in Brazil and Turkey differed from the anti-austerity protests and strikes that dominated in the squares of Greece and Spain. They were different also from the eruptions of violence in London, Stockholm, and the Paris suburbs on the part of marginalized and immigrant populations. And all of these looked different from the “Occupy” movements in many Western cities and the pro-democracy uprisings that echoed from Tunis, Egypt, and Syria into Bosnia and Ukraine.

Yet there were also commonalities across the differences. They were, for example, urban centered, to some degree weakly cross-class, and even (initially at least) inter-ethnic (though that broke down as internal forces moved to divide and rule, and external powers exploited the discontents for geopolitical advantage, as in Syria and Ukraine). Urban disaffection and alienation were quite prominent among the triggers as was the universal outrage at rising social inequalities, escalating costs of living, and gratuitously violent police repressions.

None of this should have been surprising. Urbanization has increasingly constituted a primary site of endless capital accumulation that visits its own forms of barbarism and violence on whole populations in the name of profit. Urbanization has become the center of overwhelming economic activity on a planetary scale never before seen in human history. The Financial Times reports, for example, that “investment in real estate is the most important driver in the Chinese economy,” which in turn has been the main driver of the global economy throughout the world-wide crisis that began in 2007. “The building, sale and outfitting of apartments accounted for 23 percent of Chinese gross domestic product in 2013.” If we add in the expenditures on massive physical infrastructures (road, rail, public works of all kinds) then close to one half of the Chinese economy is taken up with urbanization. China has consumed more than half of the global steel and cement over the last decade. “In just two years, from 2011 to 2012, China produced more cement than the United States did in the entire twentieth century.”

While extreme, these trends are not confined to China. Concrete is everywhere being poured at an unprecedented rate over the surface of planet earth. We are, in short, in the midst of a huge crisis—ecological, social, and political—of planetary urbanization without, it seems, knowing or even marking it.

None of this new development could have occurred without massive population displacements and dispossessions, wave after wave of creative destruction that has taken not only a physical toll but destroyed social solidarities, exaggerated social inequalities, swept aside any pretences of democratic urban governance, and has increasingly looked to militarized police surveillance and terror as its primary mode of social regulation. The unrest attaching to dispossession in China is unknowable but clearly widespread. Sociologist Cihan Tugal has written, “Real estate bubbles, soaring housing prices, and the overall privatization-alienation of common urban goods constitute the common ground of protests in as diverse places as the United States, Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Israel, and Greece.”3 The rising cost of living, particularly for food, transportation, and housing, has made daily life increasingly difficult for urban populations. Food riots in North African cities were frequent and widespread even before the uprisings in Tunisia and Tahrir Square.

This urbanization boom has had very little to do with meeting the needs of people. It has been all about absorbing surplus capital, sustaining profit levels, and maximizing the return on exchange values no matter what the use value demands might be. The consequences have often been irrational in the extreme. While there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in almost every major city, their skylines are littered with empty condominiums for the ultra-rich whose main interest is in speculating in property values rather than constructing a settled life. In New York City, where half of the population has to live on less than $30,000 per year (as contrasted with the top 1 percent, who had an average annual income of $3.57 million per year according to tax records for 2012), there is an affordable housing crisis because nowhere is it possible to find a two-bedroom apartment for the $1,500 per month that a family of four should be spending on housing given an income of $30,000. In almost all the major cities in the U.S. the average expenditure on housing is way over the thirty percent of disposable income that is considered reasonable.4 The same applies to London, where there are whole streets of unoccupied mansions being held for purely speculative purposes. Meanwhile, the British government attempts to increase the supply of affordable housing by putting a bedroom tax on social housing for the most vulnerable sector of the population, resulting in, for example, the eviction of a widow living alone in a two bedroom council house. The empty bedroom tax has plainly been put on the wrong class, but governments these days appear to be singularly dedicated to feathering the nests of the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the disadvantaged. The same irrationality of empty dwellings in the midst of shortages of affordable housing can be found in Brazil, Turkey, Dubai, and Chile as well all the global cities of high finance such as London and New York. Meanwhile, budget austerities and reluctance to tax the wealthy given the overwhelming power of a now triumphant oligarchy means declining public services for the masses and further astonishing accumulation of wealth for the few.

 

Acesse o artigo completo de David Harvey no site do MoMa.

Última modificação em 15-01-2015

 

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