shadow cities

shadow cities.png

(2005) by Robert Neuwirth (@RobertNeuwirth)

his 12 min ted of shadow cities from 2005 []

reading from book: p 5: for armstrong, southland wasn’t constrained by its material conditions. instead, the human spirit radiated out from the metal walls and garbage heaps to offer something no legal neighborhood could: freedom. ‘this place is very addictive.. it’s a simple life, but nobody is restricting you, nobody is controlling what you do. once you have stayed here, you cannot go back’

need to engage these residents because they are building the cities of the future..



prologue – crossing the tin roof boundary line


rocinha.. largest squatter community in rio de janeiro


little more than a decade ago.. people lived in waterlogged wooden barracks.. when they wanted electricity, they stole it, looping long strands of wire thru the trees and pilfering weak current from faraway poles.. they hauled water up the hill in buckets and wheelbarrows a.. today.. there are 30 000 homes.. spread across the sharp incline of two brothers mtn.. most are two,three or four stories tall, made from reinforced concrete and brick..  electricity and water have come to this illegal city and w them a degree of consumerism.. most families have a fridge, a color tv, and a stereo..  rocinha today is a squatter village 150 000 people strong.. occupies hilltop between wealthy neighborhoods of gávea and são conrado


1/5 of rio lives like this. a million people. they don’t own the land.. but they hold it.. and no one contests their possession.. their communities are called favelas..t

i reveled in the contrasts.. illegal houses w the best views in town.. permanent buildings in an impermanent community… a side walk cafe in the squatter neighborhood

they build their illegal homes simply because they couldn’t afford anyplace else to live. and from that humble origin, against all odds, they produce something complex, and sometimes harsh and unruly. they produced a new city..

iwan baan ness

southland.. a small shanty community  on the western side of nairobi kenya.. electricity but illegal from someone else’s wires.., no toilet (families shared a single pit latrine).. no sewers.. no water (bought from nearby tap owner)..

could have been anywhere in the city, more than half of city lives like this .. 1.5 million people ..stuffed into mud or metal huts w no services/toilets/rights.. nairobi..t

they paid 1500 shillings in rent – about $20 a month, a relatively high price for a kenyan shantytown.. can’t be late or landlord will bundle you out and take your things


boys pooping on trash heap.. perhaps no big thing.. but it stood in jarring contrast to something armstrong had said was we were eating – that he treasure the quality of life in his neighborhood..  for armstrong, southland wasn’t constrained by its material conditions. instead, the human spirit radiated out from the metal walls and garbage heaps to offer something no legal neighborhood could: freedom. ‘this place is very addictive.. it’s a simple life, but nobody is restricting you, nobody is controlling what you do. once you have stayed here, you cannot go back’ ..t.. – he meant back beyond that mtn of trash, back in the legal city of legal buildings w legal leases and legal rights.. ‘once you have stayed here, you can stay for the rest of your life’..


evicted in 62.. vowed never be booted again.. so.. far from sea.. far from center of city.. he moved his family to a steep unused plot near the tracks of the railway .. it was rough but it was home.. built houses from bamboo topped w grass mats.. the jungle was their toilet.. carried water from public taps near train station.. : squatter colony.. maintained a low profile for 9 yrs..  then pub permanent foundations in homes and lay quiet for another decade..  before they finally compiled savings and paid a contractor to run water pipes and open communal taps.. 89.. 27 years later.. finally built something more permanent than bamboo.. w steel and concrete.. waited 7 more years for final piece – electricity..


today.. perhaps 1000 families

mumbai– is india’s richest city.. 40% of tax revenues for entire nation.. yet.. 1/2 inhabitants .. more than 6 million – have created homes same way..t


sultanbeyli istanbul.. 1969 .. 2 dozen families.. raised cows, sold milk to passing city dweller and harvested lumber.. today.. an independent squatter metropolis – population 300 000.. w mayor.. a planning dept, dept of public works.. sanitation dept.. municipal bus service..t

nobody owns but everybody builds..t  main drag is 5 miles long w stores, restaurants, banks and real estate brokerages.. this illegal city even has its own post office..

for years turkey’s squatter built at night to take advantage of an ancient legal precept.. if started construction at dusk and moved in by sunrise w/o being discovered by authorities.. they gained legal standing and could not be evicted w/o a court fight.. that’s why squatter housing in turkey is called.. jecekondu.. meaning..’it happened at night’..  half the residents of istanbul – 6 million – dwell in gecekondu homes..

in sultanbeyli, the squatter are not longer furtive (attempting to avoid notice or attention).. gone are the nights of anxiety.. the tiny homes.  now mayor calls them gunduzkondu ‘happening during day’


four cities/countries/continents/cultures. on reality: squatters..

estimates are that there are about a billion squatters in the world today.. one of every 6 humans on the planet.. and the density is on the rise.. every day, close to 200 000 people leave their ancestral homes in the rural regions and move to the cities.. t.. almost a million and a half people a week, 70 mn a year..  w/in 25 years, the number of squatters is expected to double.. the best guess is that by 2030 there will be two billion squatters, one in four people on earth.. t

w numbers like these.. squatters are pretty diverse.. but these are not the mass of squatters.. the overwhelming majority of world’s one bn squatters are simply people who came to the city, needed a place to live that they and their families could afford.. not being able to find it on private market.. built it for selves on land that wasn’t theirs.. for them, squatting is a family value


the squatters mix more concrete than any developer.. lay more brick than any govt..  have created huge hidden econ.. an unofficial system of squatter: landlords, tenants, merchants, consumers, builders, laborers, brokers, investors, teachers, schoolkids.. beggars, millionaires


squatter are the largest builders of housing in the world – and they are creating the cities of tomorrow

300 people a day make trek to istanbul.. 300 more to mumbai and 300 more to nairobi..


we ignore the hard work it takes to build a community and argue instead that these are people trying to get something for nothing..t.. sponging off the system..ripping us off because they don’t pay taxes..  we would decry the density, the lack of adequate sanitation the cacophony of construction styles, the sad sack structural engineering politicians would call for inspections.. wealthy neighbors would clamor for police action.. ..  ultimately we would wipe it out…

why do we have this animus against squatters?

favela, kijiji, johpadpatti, gecekondue: brazil, kenya, indai, and turkey ahve specific descriptive evocative terms for their squatter communities.. it’s the same around the world.. aashiwa’i.. cairo.. barriadas – lima.. kampungs – kual lumpur.. mudukko – coluumbo.. penhgu.. shaghai.. most languages have specific and even poetic names for their squatter communities..  but in english.. there’s come to be one dominant term: slum.

slum in dictionary – simply an overcrowded city neighborhood w lousy housing.. but term is laden w emotional values: decay, dirt, and disease.. danger, despair, and degradation .. criminality, horror, abuse, and fear

a slum is the apotheosis of everything that people who do not live in a slum fear..


some in rio command prices similar to legal neighborhoods..  for decades national/state/local govts refused to provide services.. w that neglect came criminality.. some of rio’s favelas are now controlled by highly org’d and extremely well armed drug gangs.. these gangs are both criminal and communitarian.. they offer squatters .. no crime.. as long as people look other way when dealers doing their business..

nairobi.. 2/3 of residents live in shantytowns.. and is world hq for un’s habitat group.. i wondered why they had been unsuccessful in working to improve conditions  of 1/5 million people .. w/o water, electricity, sewers, sanitation – just a few miles from its comfortable hq’s

istanbul.. turkey has two notable laws that give squatter legal and political rights.. if turkey’s legal system were in place in all the countries i visited, squatters would be in much better shape around the world…


they all laughed.. 6 men because i didn’t understand their concept of land ownership..


you can’t talk about squatters  w/o talking about property. but talking about property involved diff issues depending on where you are in the world..

in developed world.. esp us.. many still view property in same absolutist terms that william blackstone.. ” property is ‘that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world.. in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe..’


tocqueville: in no other country in the world is love of property keener or more alert than in us.. and nowhere else does the majority display less inclination towards doctrines that threaten the way property is owned’


to developing world.. title deeds – can actually jeopardize this sense of security by bringing in speculators, planners, tax men and lots of red tape and regulations..t

exactly.. same for developed world..  too much ness

they all laughed – all 4 places.. they didn’t laugh because they would turn down a title deed if it was offered. they laughed because private ownership is not their most crucial concern

hardt and negri property law


we can learn from their ie.. the world’s squatters offer a diff way of looking at land.. rather than treating it as an econ value, squatters live according to a more ancient notion: the idea that every person has a natural right, simply by  virtue of being born, to have a home, a place a location in the world. .t..their way of dealing w land offers the possibility of a more equitable city and a more just world..


unauthorized home less ness

time present

1 – rio de janeiro – city w/o titles


when i arrived in rocinha, i still had the idea that squatter communities had to be primitive. but rocinha was like nothing i had ever imagined


the first revelation: the squatter community was busier than the legal community right next to it. it had more life


next revelation: building not much from outside..


the higher up the moment was where poorest people lived.. elderly frail, younger out of it – drugs


like all 600 favelas in rio, rocinha is an illegal community..  means little farm


original residents from ed mutiroes – mutual construction societies – and helped each other build.. by now though.. bonds of ethnicity, homeland and language have started to break down.. most current constructing in rocinha is done by wage laborers looking to be hired by professional contractors..


pres of resident associations (have 3 of them in rocinha) has found one of major jobs is to org a recreation program.. for kids.. kids need structured recreation or they might get into trouble

ed time line ness.. and schooling the world

as community developed.. residents were emboldened by their numbers.. they seized services same way they seized land.. gatos: pirate public services – ran wires to tap into electric grid


if rio.. when you see blue plastic water tanks on each roof, you can be pretty sure you’re in a favela..

part of rocinha.. real estate gone bust.. carving streets to capitalize on view.. private mansions on hill.. but ran out of money..and abandoned..little by little squatters moved in.. capitalizing on rough roads.. today rocinha only squatter community w a municipal road w/in its boundaries..  all others are self contained

family would build 2 story dwelling. but need money to pay off investment.. would sell roof rights to a friend who would build an addition al 2 stories.. and that person in turn might sell his/her roof rights.. rocinha has a thriving housing market..


rocinha has been such a commercial success that resident coined new word – asphaltization.. it is the squatter city version of gentrification..  businesses from outside the favela – from the asphalt city, the legal city – invading illegal turf.. ie: internet services.. credit cards


on getting 8% profit and feeling good about it although it’s not 45 or 20%.. on wanting to expand businesses to other favelas but would face competitions.. on tapping into pride of residents for their communities.. store gives ie: candy to children; first building to have air condition; offer credit despite being squatters..


macdonalds’ is there.. so far only offers water and soft ice cream.. very successful


2001/2 fancy stores start opening up: burgers, furniture and appliances; fruit and protein blender drinks


some residents have fears about asfaltizacao.. they believe continuing invasion is killing self reliant spirit of the community..  the more power businesses grab at expense of long term residents and community networks they have created.. but process moving too rapidly.. in 2001 – dozen small pharmacies owned by squatters spread throughout community.. by feb 2002 – only 3 months later.. two major asfalto chains had purchased building in lower part and opened large, 24 hr drug stores..


associations leader’s response: lower your prices.. it’s necessary to develop.. businesses come here because they see big profits.. he (assoc leader who came here when he was 3 months old.. 40 now) sees big consumer chains as a possibility , a way forward for rocinha.. but may soon offer some increasingly dangerous trade offs for squatters..



in 2001 – only 3 foreigners.. one coming in was warned.. no trash pick up.. but never will be victim of crime..


led to – landlords withholding rents from locals in order to rent to higher paying tourists

when i asked (after i left) whether asfaltizacao had improve rocinha. the answer, resoundingly , was no.. they all agreed tha rocinha today is better for making money. but, despite water and electricity and easily available consumer goods, they felt it had become a much worse place to live. life, they said, was less enjoyable.. younger people, by contrast, who didn’t know the neighborhood before.. answered differently. they couldn’t imagine living in rocinha w/o water and electricity and mtv

schooling the world


locals start copying businesses in smaller versions..

so then calling this growing community organically – p 55?


this is how a squatter community develops. this is how a city develop: organically.


so i say: thank good for mass production. praise be to plastic pipe. all honor prefab window.. with these products a mud or a cardboard hut gives way to wood and wood give s way to brick and brick to concrete.. suddenly a community goes from small huts and barrack to stylish apt block bu tw/o developers or builders.. all built by squatters themselves..



essentially.. they were title deeds that weren’t title deeds.. they were an attempt to memorialize something that might seem ineffable to an outside: the sale of possession rather than property.. these nontitle deeds can be signed, notarized, and filled w the various residents’ associations of rocinha to memorialize transaction that are not quite land sales.. rocindha doesn’t need title deeds or asfalto banks to improve he told me.. his pieces of paper offered everything the community needed to grow


2 – nairobi – the squatter control


500 000 plus live here.. half under 16.. w/o running water, sewers, sanitation or toilets.. piles of trash line every alley and avenue, giving the neighborhood its trademark look


60% of nairobi’s 2.5 million will never see (rich) part of city.. unlike rio.. these squatters live in valleys and unlike rio.. people here are not the proud barons of their domain..  they were desperate to convince me they were substantial.. they showed me things that proved they were people to be reckoned with.. wage earners educated,  et al


kibera disappears in the dark because night is feeding time for thugs.. almost everyone in kibera has had a run in w them..  mud huts out of town are so unsafe you can’t walk from hut to latrine at night..


richest person will have own toilet.. poorest will share among 30


kibera.. most religious place i have ever been.. churches are a growth industry here.. ‘a church s a good business.. once you ge people in.. take a collection’.. pastors families  in kibera are some of most well fed healthy looking well dressed people you will find.. churches do very well for their leaders



women’s merry g o round.. once every week or two, one of women takes home kitty.. not designed to promote saving.. focused on spending..  no men anticipate


the systems ensure tha nairobis’ squatters aren’t really squatters. actually,  they are tenants of rich people who have bought the right to construct temp mud huts on land belonging to govt..  mud is a constant.. because have to remain temp..


kiberia is a community – a mother of four who has lived in kibera for a dozen years ‘kibera is very good.. ‘i ton’ feel there is any other e place in nairobi i could feel so much at home…when i am here, i feel like am in my country home. if i have prob, my neighbors will help.. people here create a society

despite the great move residents have for their communities.. things don’t’ look promising or kibera .. govt has propose massive demolition in all city’s shantytowns


kenya is the control.. of all shadow cities i visited, the shantytowns of kenya are the only ones that are not really squatter cities.. and they are the only ones that remained stagnant.. majority of residents neither built nor controlled community.. most of them pay rent and are tenants..

kibera is not a mud hut city because of its people. it remains mired in muck because the system denies the residents control over their future.. corruption and profiteering keep it this way


‘the problem here is land.. the govt claims the land is forest.. when they come to ask for votes from the forest we suddenly changed from trees to people. but.. legally we are just trees’ –

3 – mumbai – squatter class structure


6 mn of 10-12 mn are squatters.. strangely .. many pay rent to city.. density  means breeding ground for disease..

given a chance to stay put, squatter improve their home sin a novel way..  they build as money becomes available.. on a small scale .. they are quite efficient..


most progressive policies for squatters.. ie: if been there since 95..given a new home at no cost if community is targeted for govt aided project


mumbai is home of a man who has dedicated his life to building a movement of squatters. jockin arputham.. applies tools of capitalism to a critique of capitalism..  he sees savings as the salvation of he urban poor..

4 – istanbul – the promise of squatter self gov


today’s squatter communities are, at least from an architectural pov, almost indistinguishable from the legal neighborhoods of the city

time past

5 – 21st cent medieval city


the us – the pilgrims were squatters for the first year after they landed..


sacramento and san fran – gold was the madness but squatting was the method

6 – squatters in new york


every nook of the neighborhood had diff name.. slab city.. tinkersville..


squatter home were quite imaginative.. john connell designated by mayor farrell as slab city’s road commissions, thatched his roof w flattened tomato cans..  a man named norton, built himself  floating house which can be fastened to the side of the street..


most squatters dwelt in fetid marshy areas..shanties whose roofs didn’t even rise to the level of the ground.. despite sunken appearance, the squatter communities were lively and commercially active


the authorities hated the shantytowns..where some saw industrious citizens or comic potential, the upper crust saw crime, pestilence and disease in thee self built communities


on health reports.. 1885 – the first report was an exaggeration.. the second was sheer bunk.. cholera.. was because not enough money to hook up to water system… and the shallow wells they used were contaminated w cholera ..


a close reading of health dept reports (1885) shows that the squatter communities were relatively free from egregious violations of the sanitary code.. shanties required much less health dept action than any other kind of dwelling in the city..t


anyone who took the time to enter the shanties and could free themselves from the dominant biases about the squatters, found well tended homes occupied by people who were so busy scratching for money and food they had little time for idleness.. t

the real estate lobby, however was relentless. in 1870 it successfully pressured the state legislature to liberalize the ejection laws, making it easier to push squatters from their homes..

evicted ness


what the real estate interest concealed of course what that some landlords who wanted to make some money on their vacant properties were actually responsible for the growth of squatting around the city..  the landlords who complained so bitterly about the squatter scourge were actually making decent money from their occupants..t

but the landlords had the ear of city hall.. the board of health, in particular, embarked on a drive to rid the city of squatters.. 1881..t


a few isolated squatter hung on in less developed areas.. thru the 1920s marion h laing managed to outwit authorities and remain on her squatter perch on an island off the shore of the bronx..


the squatter were people who communities defied the rigor of square blocks, whose dwelling rolled w the landscape rather than flattened it. they were people who dared to dream of a home and then dared to build it in a place they didn’t own..t

‘the shanty is the most wonderful instance of perfect adaptation of means to and end in the whole range of modern architecture.. nothing is prepared for it, neither ground for material, its builders have but an empirical knowledge of the craft they practice.. they scorn a model, and they work w whatever comes to hand ‘ ..t.. – a sympathetic journalist wrote

reporter continued: ‘inside was even better  -five children; all clean; and money in the bank;..  this is luxury .. who wouldn’t live in a shanty?’


why didn’t ny’s squatter rebel? why didn’t they org resistance to the evictions? why didn’t they city legalize its squatters, as san fran did.. perhaps because ny’s squatters didn’t carry guns..  perhaps.. real estate interests in ny were entrenched.. powerful.. while squatter were recent arrival from ireland and germany and didn’t know how to use the power of their vote or their brawn..  in california, by contrast, almost everyone was recent arrival and so an aristocracy had yet to develop..


as the new deal lifted the econ, and the depression receded, the temp villages disbanded w/o a trace. more recently, in the 70s scores of landlords walked away from old tenement buildings.. many buildings slid into vacancy and rot. by 80s squatter took over many .. in manhattan these illegal occupants tended to be younger, better educated, and more radical than the squatters of old.. still, they braved terrible conditions as they worked to fix their buildings.. and they had to fight to stay.. the city dispossess hundreds of squatters, sometimes mounting massive paramilitary attacks on their buildings. in the end 12 squatter buildings survived.. in 2002… 11 of those buildings were sold to the squatters as low income cooperatives.. t.. (the odd building out opted not to go legal; it remains in stasis: owned by the city and occupied by squatters).

in city of 8 mn… a dozen buildings may seem like a statistical blip.. still..  one of squatter told me ‘for whatever reason the city made a mistake..we slipped thru the cracks in this place that abhors what we are ..  being here, in a mundane and tiny way is committing treason..  ‘ comfort in the fact that whatever else is going on in this ever more expensive city.. this little place that ain’t like the rest of the world will go on.. as long as this little thing is here.. this kind of spirit will persist in manhattan


there was a moment years ago when that spirit persisted all over new york.. squatter families – the crazy poets – ruled much of the city’s available real estate..  it’s not possible to say what kind of city ny would have become if they had won..

issues on the way forward

7 – the habitat fantasy


a cage went in search of a bird – franz kafka.. t


a world away from kibera.. across kenyan capital.. in building surrounded by well watered undulating lawns, likes the complex that houses the world hqs of the united nations human settlement programme: the agency called un-habitat. from this tranquil outpost.. the un studies the neighborhoods it calls slums and i call squatter communities. its job, in a sense is to end the medieval character of these 21st cent medieval cities..


despite good intentions and useful research.. some habitat staffers admit there actions don’t have much relevance to squatters..  we don’t have money..just inform most habitat workers wouldn’t know what to do if suddenly confronted w a squatter.. they are great when discussing theory.. the idea of how to mobilize and improve the lives of squatters.. but sorely lacking on the practicalities..


the true challenge is not to eradicate these communities but to stop treating them as slums – that is, as horrific, scary and criminal – and start treating them as neighborhoods that can be improved.. they don’t need to be knocked down and built new because in most cases this will only produce housing that is not affordable to the people who are living there..

8 – are squatters criminals?


each time i spoke w a reporter, i felt like i was entering a twilight zone where journalists had no compunction about bending the facts to fit the mold they thought their editors or readers wanted..  the reporters were all nice people.. but drilled in heads for years that squatters are neglectful and criminal and.. these opinions persist although these are the very same squatters who are driving them to work and cleaning their houses and hauling the materials for anew building rising next to their homes and, even, cooking for them, washing their clothes and taking care of their kids.. t

but the spurious facts get repeated no matter what.. squatter and crime..  and if you repeat something enough, it comes to seem true..t


(on cops killing) as one city official alter told me, he’d rather work w the dealers than the cops because they are more honorable.. it’s important to understand that the criminal enterprises are part of the reality of the favelas, and that the danger is real


it’s odd to hear joachin talk so openly about kenya’s corrupt legal system, for he is trained as a lawyer..


there’s another form of crime that’s rampant *in the developing world.. corruption.. there’s competition over corruption. every countryi visited took a perverse pride in the deep corruption of its public officials..everything depends on bribes.. t


there’s no doubt that all of these countries are corrupt. but non of them can compete w kenya..

i interviewed score so people – landlords, tenants, academics – who all told me the same story: anything that you want to do in the community.. the civil servants.. insist on payoffs. bribery is a way of life

remember this from saltillo trip


things can be much more dangerous in the legal city than in the illegal one

squatter communities may be illegal.. but that doesn’t make them criminal

9 – proper squatters, improper squatters


i asked 4 roommates if govt offered you a title deed what would happen.. there was no hesitation: the govt should never offer title deeds..  people will start fighting.. so we will just have an exchange of grabbers


a title deed, would upset their amity (a friendly relationship), thus destroying the community in the name of helping it

10 day care ness

aristotle: in the opinion of some the regulation of property is the chief point of all, that being the question upon which all revolutions turn’.. his thought.. that people who have less access to property have a greater tendency to revolt

malcoms x: revolution is based on land.. land is the basis of freedom justice and equality’.. malcom thought revolution was necessary to achieve property and real independence


what is it about property? it’s the basis of the modern western system that has undeniably grown wealth and material comfort

for some

but it’s an incredibly divisive thing.. no one’s been able to come up w a convincing justification for it..t

indeed.. hardt & negri property law.. wilde property law

john locke came closest – the right to property was forged thru labor.. ‘every man has a property in his own person.. the labour of his body and work of his hands .. are properly his.. whatsoever then.. he removes out of the estate that nature hath provided and left it in,, he hath mixed his labour w it and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property


its a wonderful theory.. workers make land into property thru sheer effort..but once you delve into it things fall apart

after all.. what is labor..  and which labor gets the land..?


anyway.. why on earth should labor be what counts? isn’t existing enough..?

yeah.. that..

perhaps no one saw the conflicts inherent in property more clearly than jean jacques rousseau 1755: ‘ the true founder of civil society was the first man who having enclosed a piece of land thought of saying, ‘this is mine’..  how many crimes, wars, murders and how much misery and horror the human race might have been spared if someone had pulled pup the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellows: ‘beware of listening to this charlatan. you are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth itself belongs to no one..


it’s a wonderfully contradictory statement, for even as rousseau argues that private property institutionalize ineq and out right violence, he also credits it w being the root of civic interaction and the foundation of society.. according to rousseau then, civilization implies ineq and property is tis big enforcer

yeah.. civilization as poison..cancer..

even adam smith.. the role property plays in keeping the poor poor and the rich rich who do not..


fa von hayek: the system of private property is the most important guarantee of freedom, not only for those how own property, but scarcely less for those who do not’

bertrand russell: ‘private property in land had no justification except historically thru power of the sword’ the discussion seldom go beyond what rousseau sketched out. the absolutists focus on property as the origin of *civic interaction. the idealist focus on property as setting the stage for ineq

to me.. those are both one and the same.. *civic interaction as in civilization as in ineq (from measuring things.. and thinking we crave some hard won order)


my friend the squatters – who have had to live the nuances almost their entire lives – would find solace in the theory of pierre joseph proudhon.. 1840 – manifesto called what is property.. his answer – property is robbery.. t.. probably sounds more scandalous today that it did when he wrote it . but proudhon’s argument is more refined that the three word sound bit..  he suggests there’s a diff between property and possession. property turns land into a commodity: people own land not to use it or because they need it for survival, but simply as an investment. possession guarantees personal use and control rather than profit. for proudhon, property, not money, is the root of all evil


hardt & negri property law.. wilde property law


proudhon: ‘individual possession is the condition of social life. 5 000 years of property demos this. property is the suicide of society.. t.. possession is w/in right; property is against right. suppress property while maintaining possess and by this simple modification of the principle, you will revolutionize the law, govt, econ and institutions; you will drive evil from the face of the earth

henry george: ‘private property in land is a bold, bare, enormous wrong’.. progress and poverty published in 1879 .. george differentiated between private ownership of things and of land..  he argues that the things of the world were truly created by labor and could be bought and sold while land was created by nature and therefore should not be turned into an econ value

don’t see how anything was made w/o use of the land though.. so.. we don’t/can’t own anything

george: ‘the equal right of all men to use of land is as clear as their equal right to breath the air.. for we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world and others have no right’

so true.. but goes for everything.. and not about rights.. just about being.. in an undisturbed ecosystem

ambrose bierce defined property in his devil’s dictionary: ‘the theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society .. carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living..t


it doesn’t matter whether you give people title deeds or secure tenure, people simply need to know they won’t be evicted.. when they know they are secure , they build.. they create.. give squatter security and they will develop the cities of tomorrow..t

(i left out his: they establish a market, they buy and sell, they rent.. ugh to those)

property is both necessary and inexcusable.. it does seem to be part of human nature to want to feel that we have something that is ours, or at least under our control, particularly where we live.. at the same time,

when property becomes a commodity.. simply a means of making money.. we have begun the process that leads to homelessness and abandonment to the social contract to care for each other..t

nice.. but i still don’t see us needing property

property is not a priori

you just said it was necessary..?

land was not born as property. property is a human creation and only one way of organizing the world..  before the system of privately held property became prevalent, people used to have a right that was so basic, so inextricably tied to living that no one thought to codify it.. t


today, we have crowned the market as the ultimate arbiter of our ability to dwell here on earth.. yet when it comes to human necessities (such as a place to live or enough to eat) the market doesn’t seem to do such a good job..t .. the market does not provide enough roofs to go around and certainly not at prices most can afford. if the market truly worked, if supply med demand as it’s supposed to in the classic fable of econ.. we would not need govt incentives to spur the production of housing.. we would not need direct govt investment in affordable hosing.. we would not need laws to force banks to make mortgages to low income people.. there would be no homeless. and there would be no squatters..t


there is a problem of property. .. today the world’s squatter are demo ing a new way forward in the fight to create a more equitable globe.. 

w/o any laws to support them, they are making their improper, illegal communities grow and prosper..  we can learn from the m how possession can trump property: how people w no right to any land can produce more housing than people who have  title deed.

time future

10 – the cities of tomorrow


squatter aren’t the enemy of civil society.. they are the most law abiding people around.. ‘people may be poorer here but they pay their bills..’..

(there are enough of them that they could take over and they don’t) – if the rich and well born were treated as badly by govts as the squatters have been, there would have been a rebellion long ago.. the miracle is that the world’s squatters value civil society and want to find a way of working *w/in the system .. they are law abiding outlaws, patriotic criminals

no.. *why outside system


squatters have been extremely effective at clearing land and building on it. they’ve never had the might to defy the moneyed interest for long.. but their brief successes.. show there’s another way to look at land..  for those moments when squatter succeeded, there was freedom of domicile in our cities..t


how do we org a community where property does not exist.. *whose interest are most important..? 

has to be *everyone’s.. so org like this: 2 convers as infra.. ie: cure ios city



rebel architecture

iwan baan ness

living spaces

empty buildings

occupied buildings.. common ing..

unauthorized home less ness




hardt/negri property law