Urban Inhabitants

Right to the City Paper

In this paper, you will define, develop and defend one discreet “right to the city.”  Lefebvre’s original right to the city essay assert a vague claim to privileges that all urban inhabitants should enjoy.  In this essay, you will distill Lefebvre’s call into a concrete right for urban residents. For example, one aspect of the right to the city that is evident in its original formulation is the right to participate in local decision-making; however, this right is never clearly delineated.  If you wanted to explore urban inhabitants’ right to participate, you will need to decide who participates, in which types of decisions and how the process will work.  You could call for the establishment of neighborhood councils that would decide where public works projects would occur within their communities.  Your paper would have to outline exactly what types of projects would be subject to this type of participation, who would make those decisions, and what process would be used.  You would also need to consider the potential problems or drawbacks to such a right.  Could neighborhood control over local planning decisions result in exclusionary practices?  How would conflicts among residents be resolved?  Your call for “the right to the city” may be nothing like Lefebvre’s.  In other words, you’ll need to do some thinking first, before you start to write. 

Like Lefebvre, you will need to outline your rationalization for establishing a “right to the city.”  Your rationale can either be based upon specific conditions that exist in today’s cities (feel free to use Portland as an example), or it can be based upon an idea (what cities should be—you can make an ethical argument here,)

Remember, you are making a philosophical argument for the “right to the city.”   Like most essays, philosophical papers have an introduction with a clear thesis, a body and a conclusion, but there are certain conventions that are followed in philosophical writing.  While Lefebvre’s original Right to the City essay may have been dense or difficult to follow, it did have an internal structure to it.  He spends the first ten pages of the essay establishing a rationale for his call to the right to the city.  He outlines how cities are unique places that satisfy particular human needs, then goes on to explain that the ways in which we currently conceptualize, build and operate in our cities undermines the intrinsic, libratory benefits of urban society.   This initial argument provides the framework for his introduction of the concept of the “right to the city.”  Had he not laid out the problems that he saw with how urban society is understood and constructed, his call for the “right to the city” would not have made any sense.

Because philosophy deals with ideas, this type of writing requires authors to be very clear and specific about their concepts and logic.  In philosophical writing, you must explicitly define your ideas and outline your argument in a logical fashion that takes the reader step-by-step through your thought processes.  Even though it might seem awkward or simplistic to define these terms as your write, it will help you effectively communicate your ideas to your readers.

This paper should be about 2-3 pages long.  In it you must:

  • Clearly define a discreet entitlement that would fall under the banner of “the right to the city.” 
  • Provide a rationale for why this “right to the city” is necessary and why it is a right that is unique to urban dwellers
  • Make sure you define the terms you use, especially if they are broad concepts that may have multiple meanings (terms like participation, equality, etc.)
  • Fully explain how you got from one idea to the next.  How does your rationale result in your specific call for a “right to the city?”

Like most academic papers, you’ll need:

  • An introduction with a clear thesis—tell your reader what you are going to say
  • A body that includes your definition, description and rationale for your “right to the city.”  You can describe your right first, then rationalize it or structure your paper like Lefebvre’s essay and rationalize, then describe your ideas.  Make sure you define your terms, use examples to illustrate your points, and fully outline the logic of your argument.
  • A conclusion.  Think of your conclusion as a where do we go from here…paragraph.  Now that you’ve outlined your right to the city, what can urban dwellers do with this call?  What could a future city look like?  How might this right change over time? 
  • Citations for any ideas, facts or quotes that are not your own.  Philosophical arguments often build upon other’s ideas, so feel free to draw upon Lefebvre, Young or any other thinker; just give them credit if you borrow their ideas!  Please use a recognized citation format.
  • Standard 12 point font and margins.  Please proofread your paper for basic spelling, grammar, capitalization and other errors.



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