Intervention – ‘Whose City? The Parasites’, of course…’

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by Andy Merrifield

Andy MerrifieldIn 1970, the English sociologist Ray Pahl published a collection of essays under a simple yet disarming title, Whose City? The question was more original than it sounded, even if its answer was fairly obvious; and Pahl knew it: “One doesn’t have to be very astute now”, he said in an introduction to the second edition of the text, “in order to answer the question ‘Whose City?’: quite evidently the capitalists own British cities and up to 1973 they grew fat on their rents and the revaluations of their portfolios”. What interested Pahl and other critical urban scholars of that era – many of whom like Pahl and Manuel Castells went on to found the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (in 1977) – was how come it was their city? What were the mechanisms whereby capitalists – increasingly finance capitalists – commandeered the city in…

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