1st Edition

Post-socialist Cities and the Urban Common Good Transformations in Central and Eastern Europe

By Maja Grabkowska Copyright 2023
    208 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    208 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the changing approaches to urban common good in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. The question of common good is fundamental to urban living; however, understanding of the term varies depending on local contexts and conditions, particularly complex in countries with experience of communism.

    In cities east of the former Iron Curtain, the once ideologically imposed principle of common good became gradually devalued throughout the 20th century due to the lack of citizen agency, only to reappear as a response to the ills of neoliberal capitalism around the 2010s. The book reveals how the idea of urban common good has been reconstructed and practiced in European cities after socialism. It documents the paradigm shift from city as a communal infrastructure to city as a commodity, which lately has been challenged by the approach to city as a commons. These transformations have been traced and analysed within several urban themes: housing, public transport, green infrastructure, public space, urban regeneration, and spatial justice. A special focus is on the changes in the public discourse in Poland and the perspectives of key urban stakeholders in three case-study cities of Gdańsk, Kraków, and Łódź. The findings point to the need for drawing from best practices of the socialist legacy, with its celebration of the common. At the same time, they call for learning from the mistakes of the recent past, in which the opportunity for citizen empowerment has been unseized.

    The book is intended for researchers, academics, and postgraduates, as well as practitioners and anyone interested in rediscovering the inherent potential of urban commonality. It will appeal to those working in human geography, spatial planning, and other areas of urban studies.


    PART I: Urban common good before and after 1989 in theory and practice

    1. The city and the common good: in search of a common ground

    Commonality in the city

    What makes the urban common good?

    The neoliberal imprint: city as a commodity versus city as a commons

    Post-socialist geographies of urban common good

    2. Transforming conceptions of urban common good in Central and Eastern Europe

    Urban common good during and after socialism

    City as a communal infrastructure: the rise and demise of the socialist urban utopia

    City as a commodity: privatisation and appropriation of the common since 1989

    City as a commons: return to the idea(l) of urban common good in the mid-2010s

    PART II: Commoning the post-socialist city: evidence from Poland

    3. Towards the city as a commons: the changing public discourse in Poland between 1989 and 2019
    Discourse analysis as a key to understanding urban change in Poland after socialism

    Occasional and unassuming: legal notions of urban common good

    Unravelling of the urban common good in the print media

    Embracement of the urban common(s) in academic research

    4. Interpretations of common good by urban actors in Gdańsk, Kraków and Łódź

    Selection and overview of the case-study cities

    Interviewing urban stakeholders in Gdańsk, Kraków and Łódź

    The post-socialist urban common good unpacked

    Going back to the obvious’?: the forging of urban common good in concrete narratives

    5. (Re)making of the urban common good in a post-socialist city


    Maja Grabkowska is a human geographer and Assistant Professor at the Department of Socio-Economic Geography, University of Gdańsk, Poland. She authored and co-authored research publications on post-socialist urban regeneration, gentrification, and grassroot initiatives, including a book titled Regeneration of the Post-socialist Inner City: Social Change and Bottom-up Transformations in Gdańsk (2012). She is also a co-founder of Sopocka Inicjatywa Rozwojowa, an informal citizen group in Sopot, Poland, advocating participatory democracy and sustainable development at the local level.