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A polemical history of municipal socialism in London — and an argument for turning this capitalist capital red again.
London is conventionally seen as merely a combination of the financial centre in the City and the centre of governmental power in Westminster, a uniquely capitalist capital city. This book is about the third London – a social democratic twentieth-century metropolis, a pioneer in council housing, public enterprise, socialist design, radical local democracy and multiculturalism.
This book charts the development of this municipal power base under leaders from Herbert Morrison to Ken Livingstone, and its destruction in 1986, leaving a gap which has been only very inadequately filled by the Greater London Authority under Livingstone, Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan.
Opposing currently fashionable bullshit about an imaginary “metropolitan elite”, Red Metropolis makes a case for London pride on the left, and makes an argument for using that pride as a weapon against a government of suburban landlords that ruthlessly exploits Londoners.
Owen Hatherley writes regularly on aesthetics and politics for, among others, the Architectural Review, the Calvert Journal, Dezeen, the Guardian, Jacobin, the London Review of Books and New Humanist. He is the author of several books, most recently Landscapes of Communism (Penguin 2015), The Ministry of Nostalgia (Verso, 2016) and The Chaplin Machine (Pluto, 2016), the last of which is based on a PhD thesis accepted by Birkbeck College in 2011. A book on European cities, Trans-Europe Express, will be published in 2018.
“No one else writes so clearly yet with such elegiac intensity about the symbiosis that exists between history and the built environment, or the lives that are caught, mangled and realised in its midst.”
“Hatherley is a hugely knowledgeable and passionate advocate for architecture and planning, a cracking writer, and an undervalued figure of the left. This intelligent and – yes – optimistic polemic is an extraordinary feat, very timely, and should spark debate among all good socialists. For anyone daring to tackle social issues, Red Metropolis should be compulsory reading.”
“This book captures, like no other, the way London local government has been a tumultuous political battle ground and the breeding ground of radical political ideas and social movements whilst at the same time there has been an often unacknowledged subterranean exercise of brilliant administrative initiative. It is a fervent critique of the translation of progressive political imagination into concrete, often too literally concrete, reality. It stands as an excellent basis from which to launch the next wave of radical thinking about the future of the capital. ”
“Some of his suggestions – for instance, that London must stop growing, and seek to give away some of its accumulated power – may strike Londoners as provocative, but this is one of the few serious efforts at historically informed strategic thinking we have seen from the post-2019 left.”