Title: Urban sustainability: from neoliberal governance to the right to the city

Authors: Brian Elliott

Addresses: Philosophy Department, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon 97207-0751, USA

Abstract: The sustainable development (SD) paradigm has attained a near universal level of acceptance among environmental theorists and practitioners. Part of the success of SD over the last three decades rests on its assumed political neutrality. This paper contests that neutrality and argues that in fact SD is a clear outshoot of neoliberal governance. The idea of the right to the city offers a concrete counter-model to SD as it relates specifically to the city. Finally, the most salient environmental failure of SD concerns intergovernmental efforts to tackle climate change. On this front, the widely touted mechanism of metropolitan climate action plans merely serves to undermine further the credibility of the nation state as an environmental agent. As Anthony Giddens (2011) has recently argued, it is necessary to overcome the neoliberal limits placed on state action if credible long-term responses to climate change are to emerge.

Keywords: urban sustainability; urban development; social sustainability; neoliberalism; right to the city; David Harvey; Karl Marx; Henri Lefebvre; Situationist International; Hannah Arendt; Herbert Marcuse; sustainable development; sustainable development; environmental failure; intergovernmental efforts; climate change; cities.

DOI: 10.1504/IER.2016.076174

Interdisciplinary Environmental Review, 2016 Vol.17 No.2, pp.116 - 131

Received: 20 Dec 2014
Accepted: 06 Oct 2015

Published online: 27 Apr 2016 *

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