The urbanization of crisis and resistance in Athens

Ruth Lorimer


This paper builds on the ideas of David Harvey and Henri Lefebvre about the urbanisation of capitalism. As capital attempts to overcome its inherent crisis tendencies through the production of urban space, the contradictions of the system become locked into the very fabric of our cities. The 2008 global economic crisis was therefore in many under-explored respects an urban crisis.
I look at how these contradictions of capital and the crisis played out in Athens, and suggest that such an approach can provide insight into the strategies and modes of resistance that have been deployed in the city in the wake of the crisis.
Athens became one of many cities subjected to familiar processes of neoliberalisation, but these processes were imposed in the midst of a crisis and against a background of a very differently configured space (compared to cities of, eg, northern Europe where neoliberal space has been the norm for much longer). Through, for example, policy measures designed to mobilise the urban property market through recommodification (in order to appease the Troika), social inequalities in Athens have been exacerbated by rapidly growing spatial inequalities – growing homelessness, sharp decreases in house prices and an unprecedented growth of the private rented sector combined with other changes to produce a more segregated and alienating city.
I argue that the recent mass movements, riots and militant workers struggles in Athens have been strongly shaped by the urbanisation of capitalism and crisis, and that a better understanding of this relationship can help us formulate strategies for future struggles. I hope this paper will also contribute to debates about the limits to the ability of capital to avert crisis through the production of space.

Ruth Lorimer, Phd student at Leicester De Montford University

alienation - politics of space - neoliberalism - urbanism - crisis