Urban Commons: Rethinking the City, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Urban Commons

Rethinking the City, 1st Edition

Edited by Christian Borch, Martin Kornberger


176 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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This book rethinks the city by examining its various forms of collectivity – their atmospheres, modes of exclusion and self-organization, as well as how they are governed – on the basis of a critical discussion of the notion of urban commons. The idea of the commons has received surprisingly little attention in urban theory, although the city may well be conceived as a shared resource. Urban Commons: Rethinking the City offers an attempt to reconsider what a city might be by studying how the notion of the commons opens up new understandings of urban collectivities, addressing a range of questions about urban diversity, urban governance, urban belonging, urban sexuality, urban subcultures, and urban poverty; but also by discussing in more methodological terms how one might study the urban commons. In these respects, the rethinking of the city undertaken in this book has a critical dimension, as the notion of the commons delivers new insights about how collective urban life is formed and governed.


‘Cities are set to rule the world, yet how they work as collectives is poorly understood or misinterpreted through borrowed ideas on the commons. This insightful volume looks from within the city to propose atmospheres, active usage of the shared, and commoners as key collectives, in the process revealing the true nature of the urban commons and gesturing the kind of politics needed to secure a better urban and global future. A marvelous original book’. Ash Amin, 1931 Chair of Geography, University of Cambridge and author of Land of Strangers (Polity, 2012).

‘It is exciting to see a book that tackles the urban commons from so many angles and scholarly perspectives. We get insights from planning, philosophy, urban studies and beyond, and a kaleidoscopic focus on the commons in relation to non-humans, waste, exclusion, atmosphere and more. It is also heartening to see the careful and critical attention that the commons – a slippery, multivalent and mobile category – deserves’. Nicholas Blomley, Professor of Geography, Simon Fraser University and author of Rights of Passage (Routledge, 2011).

Urban Commons presents a fresh and innovative approach to investigating the city through the organisation of collectivity. Its point of departure is a critique of the conventional understanding of urban commons as finite resource pools. Instead, the book tests the city as a non-subtractive resource which implies that its consumption simultaneously becomes a form of production. In other words, using the city does not diminish but increases its value. Based on this conceptual framework, the book brings together a broad range of theoretical and empirical contributions and engages the reader with a rich, multidisciplinary juxtaposition of critical inquiries. Urban Commons addresses fundamental questions of the contemporary urban condition. It establishes perspectives that can enrich diverse discourses ranging from sustainable development in cities to issues of urban governance, collaboration and co-production. Its combination of theorising and presenting case studies makes it accessible to a broad audience of urban scholars, practitioners and students. It is a highly recommendable resource for anyone interested in how the wider notion of ‘the commons’ can be translated to urban studies’. Philipp Rode, Executive Director, LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Table of Contents

Martin Kornberger and Christian Borch: Introduction: Urban Commons 1. Jonathan Metzger: The City is not a Menschenpark: Rethinking the Tragedy of the Urban Commons beyond the Human/Non-Human Divide 2. Leif Jerram: The False Promise of the Commons: Historical Fantasies, Sexuality and the ‘Really-Existing’ Urban Common of Modernity 3. Orvar Löfgren: Sharing an Atmosphere: Spaces in Urban Commons 4. Patrik Zapata and María José Zapata Campos: Producing, Appropriating, and Recreating the Myth of the Urban Commons 5. Martina Löw: Managing the Urban Commons: Public Interest and the Representation of Interconnectedness 6. Greg M. Nielsen: Mediated Exclusions from the Urban Commons: Journalism and Poverty 7. Maja Hojer Bruun: Community and the Commons: Open Access and Community Ownership of the Urban Commons

About the Editors

Christian Borch is Professor of Political Sociology at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His work focuses on crowds, architecture, financial markets and urban theory. His previous books include The Politics of Crowds: An Alternative History of Sociology (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Foucault, Crime and Power: Problematisations of Crime in the Twentieth Century (Routledge, 2015).

Martin Kornberger is Professor of Strategy and Organization at Copenhagen Business School and visiting professor at the Research Institute for Urban Management and Governance at the WU Wien. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Vienna. Amongst other things, his work focuses on urban strategy and governance.

About the Series

Space, Materiality and the Normative

Space, Materiality and the Normative presents new ways of thinking about the connections between space and materiality from a normative perspective. The series is concerned with addressing the use, regulation and experience of space and materiality, broadly understood, and in particular with exploring their links and the challenges they raise for law, politics and normativity.

Space, Materiality and the Normative welcomes analyses of space–materiality–normativity links from any institutional setting (financial market spaces, organisational spaces, urban space, legal space, mediated space, architecture, etc.). Proposals can be theoretical, discussing various conceptual strategies to study the use, regulation and experience space and materiality; they can be historical, outlining changes in how spaces are governed; or they can assume a more contemporary-diagnostic approach, investigating, for example, the emergence of post-national architectures or post-capitalist urban spaces. Submissions are welcomed exploring the following themes:

  • The changing politics of space, bodies and objects
  • Embedded normativities of spatial governance and resistance
  • Megacities and the regulatory (and experiential) challenges they give rise to
  • Spatial atmospheres, how they are experiences and governed
  • The links between space and materiality
  • Colonial and postcolonial spaces and materialities

The book series is intended as a critical interdisciplinary series, at the interface of law, social theory, politics, architecture, geography and urban studies.

For further information on the series, or to discuss a possible contribution, please contact the Series Editors at:

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, School of Law, University of Westminster, email: andreaspm@westminster.ac.uk

Christian Borch, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, email: cbo.lpf@cbs.dk

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Housing & Urban Development
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban