Interviewed in Talking Points Memo

I was interviewed on the right to the city, and the psychological impact of privatization, for an interesting article by Erika Eichelberger, "Who Really Runs Your City", on the democratic repercussions of American cities' increasing ownership by private corporations. My work is appropriately featured in the final section, on "The Right to the City", and you can read it below. 

In the meantime, the question that remains is what this shift in ownership of the city has done to society on both a collective and individual level.

According to the late urban theorist Edward Soja, “the commons” in any urban space encompasses not just parks, plazas, and streets, but also mass transit, buses, trains, and cars that move through the city. When these things no longer belong to the public, to the citizens, it can have profound psychological impact on those citizens, says Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, an assistant professor of urban studies at The New School in New York who focuses on environmental psychology.

“People’s sense of place its sustaining to people’s sense of self,” she explains. “When people feel like they have no control over their environment, that the city is run only by the profit motive, their ability to feel connected to their city, to feel a part of their city, and hence to contribute to their city, is really undermined.”

It’s no wonder Chicagoans and Americans across the country feel disaffected. Remove citizen control of services and city structures and there is less physical and psychological space to develop as an individual in relation to a community.

“These municipal services and public spaces are not just practical, they’re actually part of a larger political ideal of actually living together and being together as part of a society,” Bendiner-Viani adds.




Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani