Searching for justice in cities invokes the recognition paradigm in contemporary critical theory, where Axel Honneth counts as a leading voice. Honneth has not only conceptualised the moral grammar of social conflict but has convincingly explained what we want from life. Linking Honneth’s theory of justice, recognition and freedom with Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space and the Right to the City, this thesis addresses the fundamental question: who has a right to settle where and why – and as a consequence – when to resign, resist, relocate. For such questions, Amsterdam and Hamburg are explored as terrains of conflict with property-led urbanisation and property-led displacement. The argument consists of the following elements: one theoretical stream that grapples with (a) philosophers to recognise the relational role of space and (b) critical urban scholars to recognise the third generation of the Frankfurt School. And second, an empirically grounded stream that equates local gentrification struggles with particular protests in Amsterdam and comprehensive resistance in Hamburg. The analytical framework addresses (c) social movement studies to embrace the relation-to-self (i.e. self-confidence and self-limitations of movements) and (d) Lefebvrian scholars to re/consider the moral dimension and dual character of propertyrights. Conceptualising Anti-Squat property-guardianship as a new phenomenon for housing research (e) the inherent cynicism of this model is re/connected to a moral housing discourse.
Connecting critical theory to spatial practice, this book also unsettles the settlement argument. Possibilities of relocation are crucial to the quality of local conflicts: the freedom of movement and freedom of choice being the most delicate things.
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