Reviews

Towards a political economy of urbanism

Displacement, Revolution, and the New Urban Condition - Theories and Cast Studies. Ipsita Chatterjee; Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., B 1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044. Rs. 645.   | Photo Credit: Scanned in Chennai R.K.Sridharan



This book is a microcosmic study of labour, migration, displacement, relocation and the upheaval they cause in terms of space and locale at one level and the exploitation at another. Seen through the Marxist lens, the central premise of the study also looks at the spaces of living of the migrant labour as being as pivotal to labour issues, as are wage relations, which by default take precedence. In fact, as the author Ipsita Chatterjee puts it, “exploitations originating in wage relations are actualised through spatial estrangement”.

Urbanisation is seen not as a phenomenon of development but as a fulcrum of labour-space exploitation and the resistance that flows from this spiral. Put in context to the Indian condition, the writer very academically expostulates the rampant urbanisation in the Third World, which has in turn thrown up the various theories of space, placement, displacement and replacement pertinent earlier to the West alone and is now universally applicable.

Sabarmati Riverfront Development — and, by default, Gujarat — is an apt and convenient marker of reference in that, Gujarat has had a historical orientation for industry and development. Development ‘conceptualised as per capita growth, investment, greenness of the city, cleanliness of the roads and beauty of the ‘modern’ landscape’ coupled with pluralism in society, tense communal situations, class, caste and religious fault lines.

At the societal level, displacement and migration entail a reference to economic class and caste equations, the socio-economic conditions that propel the movement affecting livelihoods and the socio-cultural identities of memory and associations, customs and practices, faith and belief systems. There is continued exploitation through all the strata and remains so immutably, through the passage of time, across all space and circumstance. This, in relation to displacement, conjures a situation that is universal in context, of uprooting and relocation, of exclusion and adjustment, of growth and stagnation. In all this, the interlinking of displacement with urban exploitation with globalisation is so complete, that globalisation itself can be very succinctly seen as a concomitant of displacement. Intertwined in this is the politics of displacement, the policies that guide this politics, and the politics of displacement, resettlement and resistance that go by the name of New Urban Politics, which looks at exploitation as a socio-economic denomination and revolution its consequence. The study of governance mechanisms shows that when entrepreneurship displaces cultural identities, evolving development strategies displace redistributive social indices, governance as a result becomes an indication for polarised exploitation rather than targeted collective uplift. The bird’s eye view on the New Urban Politics literature, in terms of the traditional Marxian theory of displacement and exploitation expresses in full measure the fissures in the growth engine and the tractions in the approach to these divisions.

In her attempt to conceptually project a global political economy of urbanism, so that the urban realities of a globalised world is understood as whole and is integrated within the overall growth engine and the interconnected discourse of globalisation, Ipsita Chatterjee’s exposition projects the contradictions within, through a very explicit lens of an Indian city. Woven into this contradiction is the entire gamut of conflicts, negotiations, social consciousness that in turn prop up political schisms, seeds of discord and revolt, civic awareness and civil society activism.

The book’s attempt to ‘conceptualise the contemporary urban condition’ is well served. However, it only reiterates the fact that change is a constant and it is to that constant that all concepts need to be tailored to, all change is to be adapted to. If the world has to change, all precepts and perceptions that govern those precepts need to change too.

Displacement, Revolution, and the New Urban Condition - Theories and Cast Studies. Ipsita Chatterjee; Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., B 1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044. Rs. 645.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 9:06:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/towards-a-political-economy-of-urbanism/article6952256.ece

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