The Role of Traders and Small Businesses in Urban Social Movements: The Case of London’s Workspace Struggles


This article focuses on the role of traders and small businesses in urban social movements by exploring three examples of opposition to commercial displacement in London. While the work of Castells, Lefebvre and the wider field of urban social movement research has radically expanded the terrain of struggle beyond the workplace to take in a wide range of community and grassroots groups and concerns, little attention has been paid to the potential role of traders and small businesses, particularly in the global North. The article focuses specifically on the mobilization of traders and small businesses in response to the threat of commercial displacement which, as one of the ways in which surplus value is extracted from cities, is a potentially significant site of urban contestation. Drawing on the author’s research and involvement with one metropolitan and two local ‘workspace struggles’ in London, the article demonstrates that commercial displacement may mobilize threatened traders and small businesses to play a role in broader urban social movements with wide‐ranging goals and concerns. Further research on workspace struggles has the potential to offer much‐needed insights for radical urban politics and possibilities for developing alternatives by challenging and working across divides between economy and society.