The Antinomies of the Postpolitical City: In Search of a Democratic Politics of Environmental Production


In recent years, urban research has become increasingly concerned with the social, political and economic implications of the techno‐political and socio‐scientific consensus that the present unsustainable and unjust environmental conditions require a transformation of the way urban life is organized. In the article, I shall argue that the present consensual vision of the urban environment presenting a clear and present danger annuls the properly political moment and contributes to what a number of authors have defined as the emergence and consolidation of a postpolitical and postdemocratic condition. This will be the key theme developed in this contribution. First, I shall attempt to theorize and re‐centre the political as a pivotal moment in urban political‐ecological processes. Second, I shall argue that the particular staging of the environmental problem and its modes of management signals and helps to consolidate a postpolitical condition, one that evacuates the properly political from the plane of immanence that underpins any political intervention. The consolidation of an urban postpolitical condition runs, so I argue, parallel to the formation of a postdemocratic arrangement that has replaced debate, disagreement and dissensus with a series of technologies of governing that fuse around consensus, agreement, accountancy metrics and technocratic environmental management. In the third part, I maintain that this postpolitical consensual police order revolves decidedly around embracing a populist gesture. However, the disappearance of the political in a postpolitical arrangement leaves all manner of traces that allow for the resurfacing of the properly political. This will be the theme of the final section. I shall conclude that re‐centring the political is a necessary condition for tackling questions of urban environmental justice and for creating egalibertarian socio‐ecological urban assemblages.