Institutionalization and Depoliticization of the Right to the City: Changing Scenarios for Radical Social Movements

Sergio Belda-Miquel, Jordi Peris Blanes, Alexandre Frediani
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

The right to the city, a concept previously associated with radical social movements, has been accepted by several governments and has inspired new public policies. However, some authors see this process of institutionalization as involving a loss of a significant part of the radical origins of the concept. This article approaches this process and the new opportunities and limitations it may entail for social movement organizations with a more radical perspective on the right to the city. We explore the paradigmatic case of Brazil and the action of a particular organization, the Movimento dos Sem Teto da Bahia (MSTB, or Homeless Movement of Bahia) in the city of Salvador. We draw on the discussion of the politics of the right to the city and on an original combination of social movement theories and critical discourse analysis in order to analyse political-institutional and discursive changes in urban reform in Brazil and Salvador. We then analyse how the MSTB moves within this new context, navigating its tensions and contradictions while advancing a radical project of transformation of urban reality within a reformist context. We also reflect on the relevance of Lefebvrian ideas for understanding and inspiring contemporary struggles for the right to the city.