Paris 2020 municipal elections: caveats and challenges for la Ville-lumière

Paris 2020 municipal elections: caveats and challenges for la Ville-lumière

Paris 2020 municipal elections: caveats and challenges for la Ville-lumière

After the transportation strikes that blocked the city for over a month in opposition to French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, the year 2020 seems to continue on the path of 2019, conveying radical changes and bouleversements for the French political universe.

Well before the deciding presidential elections which will be held in 2022, the current year appears to be crucial for political parties. In point of fact, in March 2020 the political scenario will be largely dominated by the upcoming municipal elections; for the sake of this article, our attention will vert solely on Paris.

As to avoid simplistic conclusions as well as spurious and scattered information, first and foremost we will provide introductory premises regarding the nature of the electoral system and the incumbent administration.

French political tradition is consistently conjoined with the Two-Round System, given that presidential, legislative, regional and departmental elections all employ the system. The first round resembles the typical First Past the Post (FPTP) system; if a candidate receives an absolute majority of the vote, then it is elected outright with no need for a second ballot. Otherwise, in case no candidate receives an absolute majority, then a second voting round is conducted. The candidate who wins the most votes in the second round will be then elected. For the French National Assembly, all candidates winning more than 12.5% of the votes of registered voters, or the top two candidates, go through the second ballot.

In the case of municipal elections, a Two-Round system is exerted only for municipalities with more than one thousand residents. While it is slightly more representative at the constituency level than the First Past the Post (FPTP), it is deemed to be highly disproportional while artificially boosting large parties.

“Before the city, there was a land” (Cronon,1991).

In his book, William Cronon recounts how Chicago was formed out of a city-less landscape, by people who migrated there and crafted the urban scenery through cultural and economic exchanges.
Cities are not structures, cities are people, or better, they are the people who live them. This is why their destinies are so dissimilar one from the other. Assuming the equation city = people, in a social Darwinistic perspective cities can be considered to be struggling for survival too. Their success or their failure, their sterility or their blossoming, is strictly dependent on the renewed impulses of its inhabitants. What this brief and not exhaustive excursus wishes to highlight, is how significant a mayor can be for an urban space. 

Since 2014 elections, Paris has been administered by the socialist Anne Hidalgo[1], the first women to conquer the French capital and one of the most prominent figures of the Socialist party on the national chessboard. Portrayed as strict and inflexible, the Socialist mayor of Paris has stood and still stands as a symbol of resistance to the ballot-box domination of 2017 which saw the macronian party La République En Marche! (LREM) winning 12 out of 18 National Assembly seats. In between acclaims and harsh criticism, she has renewed her willingness to be elected and has launched her campaign for 2020.

Anne Hidalgo, during a press conference in March 21, 2019. Source: France24

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, around 60 percent from a sample of 2.942 electors, have expressed their dissent towards a putative re-election of Hidalgo; despite this fact, the polls still deem the incumbent mayor to be the favourite, just before Benjamin Griveaux.

Her term has seen efforts to strive towards a “eco-friendlier” city, including battles to thin out car traffic as well as an array of construction projects throughout the city which have appraised a positive record on environmental transition.

La République En Marche (LREM) has indeed been characterized by an odd schism within its proposed candidates. The official name has been the one of Benjamin Griveaux[2], who won the seat in the fifth constituency of Paris during the 2017 legislative elections, with 56.27 percent of the vote. His campaign seems to be proactive and verts around urban planning pillars, like the pretentious project of a Parisian “Central Park”. Howbeit, during the summer another LREM affiliate decided to take a stand in the mayor race. Cédric Villani[3], French deputy and university professor but with an Italian heritage, is best known for being a mathematician rather than a political leader, winning in 2010 the Fields prize for a pioneering empirical work. 

 Cédric Villani and Benjamin Griveaux; Source: Le Parisien

His growing consensus, despite Macron’s latent dissent, is probably due to his willingness to have a direct contact with citizens; within his proposals, the desire to create a parallel body to the parish council, composed by citizens and experts in the socio-economic realm. His attempt represents a forceful rupture and a quantum leap towards inclusiveness under the aegis of horizontal subsidiarity. Quite hazardously, it may appear a sui generis tentative co-governance.

From the part of the Republicans, the presented candidate is Rachida Dati[4]; her proposals will focus primarily on the well-known rightist triad of security, health and family. At the moment, the polls attest her to be the fourth most favoured candidate.

Rachida Dati. Source:

The Green Party’s nominee has been for David Belliard[5], journalist and president of the group at the parish council. Given the fracture from the macronian side, the ecologists will be increasingly relevant and weighty during the campaign. Quite coherently with his party affiliation, the proposed plan for Paris, is to commute it into a ville nature, so a “city of nature”, with particular attention on climate change challenges, tourism and traffic spillovers (namely, limiting emissions).

David Belliard. Source:

The scenario seems to be quite scattered and fragmented in light of a large supply side. The Socialist candidate Hidalgo leads the polls, followed by Griveaux (LREM), Villani (Independent), Dati (LR) and Belliard (EELV), while leaving a marginal and insignificant role to the candidates Rassemblement National and France Insoumise.

The graph shows the projected consensus of each candidate according to the polls. Source: Ifop, Ipsos

After our considerations and suppositions around Paris municipal elections, candidates and their tailored programmes, we ought to ask whether the upcoming mayor will be a blessing or a curse for a city facing growing challenges in terms of security, migration, increasing costs and climate issues. Each candidate’s programme pinpoints on issues such as urban planning, measures for a “greener” Paris, more involvement form the part of the citizens and security, although the latter seems quite marginal. Will their tentative effort be enough or remain exclusively heuristic in value? Will he or she will be capable to restore the grandeur of la Ville-Lumière?


Featured image of Paris:

[1] More at:

[2] More about Griveaux’s campaign:

[3] More about Villani’s research interests and campaign:

[4] More at:

[5] More about proposals and campaign:

Corporate Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Corporate Action Speaks Louder Than Words

The Business Roundtable has released a new definition of a corporation, which advocates that companies account for all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders, when distributing corporate value. To fully implement their stated intent, companies will need to invest not just in their own strategic objectives but in processes that allow communities to self-determine their priorities and direction.

Earlier this month, Apple announced it would invest $2.5 billion to address the housing crisis in the SF Bay Area. Joining Facebook and Google in their investment, Apple has never placed much stock in “philanthropy.” Why the change?

Corporate investment in socially beneficially initiatives may have finally reached a tipping point. This August, the Business Roundtable released a new statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, the first time this credo has been updated in more than twenty years. Signed by 185 member CEOs, including those of many of America’s largest companies, the new statement stipulated that a corporation would no longer solely seek to deliver profits to its shareholders but would instead seek to maximize value for their broader community of stakeholders.

While in recent decades, many companies have increased their philanthropic investments in social programs that benefit communities where they operate, this statement marks the first time that such a large group or business leaders have explicitly changed their shared understanding of a company’s operational intent. 

While the new statement offers cause for celebration, it is likely to be met with a healthy dose of skepticism from social change advocates. Adding a CEO’s signature to a one-page letter of intent, while culturally significant, is a simple act that doesn’t itself deliver any social value. Adapting supply chains, business models, and revenue management to account for the holistic needs of a company’s constituents is orders of magnitude more complex (not to mention, expensive). 

Companies should be judged, not on their intent, but on their actions and follow-through. Revised intent will only matter if corporate leaders make investments that drive results. The three big tech giants’ co-investment in Bay Area housing is a promising start. But more of those 185 companies need to make billion-dollar commitments that advance solutions to pressing social challenges. 

As more companies seek to make good on their new shared intent, it’s vital that journalists and activists alike scrutinize not just what social issues companies choose to address but also the process they use to make those investments and the way that communities are engaged in determining the parameters of social value and wellbeing.

So who exactly are the “communities” these 185 companies will now seek to benefit? A majority of US corporations are headquartered in cities. In 2010, McKinsey reported that 85% of US GDP was generated by cities of 150,000 inhabitants or more. As such, when companies commit to improving the lives of their stakeholders, they should actually interpret this to mean the ecosystem of the cities in which they operate. 

Urbanization worldwide is on the rise. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, including 82 percent of Americans and 41 percent of Europeans. Human consolidation into urban centers helps companies find easy access to skilled labor. But increased human density creates its own slew of hairy problems. Housing is one issue that is well met with a private-sector solution. But what about education, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and general economic inequality? 

Corporate leaders are accustomed to using the leverage of hierarchy to make choices from the top down. Based on whatever sources of information they choose to consider, a select group of senior leaders within any one company will typically decide how resources are allocated and utilized. When it comes to making meaningful, long-term investments in the health and well-being of cities and their residents, a top down decision making model will often fail to deliver meaningful outcomes. Indeed, companies could learn from the experience of the international development sector, where many practitioners have finally realized how vitally important it is to involve target stakeholders from the very beginning in the process of defining problems and devising solutions. 

Why? Because the most effective solutions to the biggest problems facing the world today cannot be mass produced. Each city, each community is unique and requires an approach that is adapted for its specific challenges and needs. Service designers have demonstrated that those with the most direct experience of a problem often have the best insights into how to address it. For example, if you would like to understand the ecosystem of soup kitchens in a city, the best person to ask would be a homeless person. Yet, involving the users who are most affected by a problem requires that those making the investment appreciate that the process used to arrive at the solution is just as valuable as the process itself. 

As companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook seek to operationalize toward their new collective intent, they will likely be rewarded for their attention to how, not just what, they seek to address. In cities, where many of these investments will likely originate, a collaborative process focused on intentional innovation and community involvement is likely to deliver the greatest return. 


The 2019 Future Innovation Forum:  Towards the Urban Commons of Conviviality

The 2019 Future Innovation Forum: Towards the Urban Commons of Conviviality

There are no alternatives to neoliberalism and capital?

With this question Mayor Park Won Soon opened the 2019 Future Innovation Forum in Seoul on Tuesday October 1st, underlying that we actually have thousands of alternatives which, of course, require courage.

Mayor Park’s Opening Speech

The Forum was organized by the The Center for Asian Urban Societies (CAUS) together with FOREXCOM Inc. and hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government at the Social Innovation Park, an emblematic space of the city.

Seoul, indeed, under the Park’s mandate, focused on social innovation and sharing economy with the goal to favour a paradigm shift, a transition towards an innovation-led Sharing City. A city that can really be a place of freedom and conviviality of diverse and different individuals. Social innovation is considered a tool to realize this transition and transform urban space in an a more equal, free and fair space that allow citizens to own the city together and become the subject of conviviality. “It transforms the life of self-development for competition and consumption into a life of friendship and hospitality for freedom, dignity, and symbiosis, and enables us to imagine and create a more free and dignified life-cycle”.

Today the Seoul Metropolitan Government in its goal to build “the City for All” proposes to take the results of the Sharing City Seoul project, launched in 2012, and go further, transforming the city in “a distributed and resilient” urban system in which expand democracy in its participative version. That means develop Seoul into a “City as a Commons”. This crucial transition will proceed on three trajectories that will allow to create and enjoy the commonwealth and the common rule that is “urban commons”:

  1. The Economic transition for sustainable circulation of resources for production and consumption
  2. The Ecological transition that pursues inclusive growth with the recovery of the social-disadvantaged
  3. The Social transition that makes social value accepted as core principles of social operation.

To deepen the reflection about this transition, the Forum gathered many experts that framed the Commons universe. The plenary morning session, saw the involvement of LabGov, that intervened with a presentation of professor Christian Iaione. He talked of the meaning of making a civil regulation on commons for the future of the “Sharing Seoul” and for the city’s new task, presenting the Co-city methodological approach and the co-governance project run by LabGov, bringing insights also from the Bologna Regulation on collaboration between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons“ (here to explore the Co-City protocol and here to download the Co-Cities full open book).

Christian Iaione, LabGov co-founder, presenting at the Future Innovation Forum

On the main stage also Michel Bauwens that introduce a model of poly-governance for the creation of a partner city based on meta-regulation. “The poly-governance mechanisms and institutions discovered by Elinor Ostrom (1990) as the hallmark of the management of commons resources becomes the new normal in institutional design. Poly-governance structures, possibly matched by appropriate property mechanisms, consists at least of the three levels (commons, state and market) but can be even more fine-grained, as the work of Foster & Iaione (2016) has suggested” ( see here for more information).

The following open discussion with Iaione and Bauwens involved Mayor’s Park, professor Ezio Manzini (Politecnico) and professor Lee Kwang-Suk (Seoul National Universty of Science and Technology) focusing on the meaning of transitioning from a sharing city to a commoning city and the importance to prevent neoliberal capitalism from coopting commons.

The Forum was also the occasion for the Mayor to meet the INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE.

The inspiring morning was followed by four sessions in the afternoon:

  • Urban commons and co-creation: how to build the commoning platforms in Cities?
  • Urban commons and democracy: who owns the urban nature? Urban commons against inequality
  • Tech-Knowledge as Urban Commons for resilient community and
  • Commoning Public Land 

Every session saw the participation of many experts, practitioners, scholars, from USA as Neal Gorenflo – executive director and co-founder of Shareable, from Europe as Mayo Fuster – director of Dimmons Research Group at Open University of Catalunia, and several presenters from South Korea, coming from various sectors, in order to deepen both economical, ecological and social aspects around the topic of the commons.

The Forum gathered also a C.I.T.I.E.S delegation with representatives from Montreal and Barcelona. The Case of Barcelona with its sharing ecosystem, the experience around the topic of commons,  and the birth of the Sharing Cities Action, was also presented on the stage by Mayo Fuster during the first afternoon session as best practice in the field.

The day closed with the message from the Forum Director, professor Seoung-won Lee (Seoul National University) and from the Head of the Social Innovation Division inside the Seoul Metropolitan Government. They both stressed the relevance of this crucial paradigm shift, the importance to incorporate and let thrive the commons to really build a city for all and the relevance of connecting experiences among cities.

Flooding cities: climate risks in the urban age

Flooding cities: climate risks in the urban age

“Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time” –Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme to provide an authoritative international statement of scientific opinion on climate change, periodically assessing its causes, consequences and possible responses.

Climate change nowadays is an utmost emergency, unleashing multifarious spin-offs with a worldwide impact. If years ago global climate change still had latent effects, now they have become clearly observable. Temperatures will continue to rise, frost-free seasons (and growing seasons) will lengthen, precipitation patterns will change, the sea level will rise 1-4 feet by 2100, droughts and heat waves are projected to become more and more intense and cold waves less intense everywhere.

It seems evident that corrective measures by countries are needed in order to stop or at least to decelerate the phenomenon: just to mention one, the Paris climate conference (COP21) held in December 2015 was the first-ever universal and legally binding global climate deal adopted by 195 countries in pursuance of the reduction of greenhouse emissions while limiting global warming to 1.5°C.


There shall be no attempt in creating a hierarchy of natural disasters, since each of them has severe impacts on the natural environment and considerably threatens human lives.

Howbeit, there are some calamities which are considered to be more harmful than others according to the scale of their potential of havoc and disruption.

Pie Chart showing the economic damages (expressed in USD) of disasters by type and region (Source: UNISDR)

Floods, namely the abnormal accumulation of water over normally dry land, are caused by the overflow of inland waters or tidal waters, or by an unusual accumulation of water from sources such as heavy rains or dam or levee breaches[1]. At the moment, they are the most common (and among the most deadly) natural disasters in the United States, with an incidence of 38% amounting to a total of  $1,011 bn.

A latest study released this month, “ How Climate Change Will Impact Major Cities Across the U.S”[2], charts cities’ risk levels for incurring damage from climate change, such as floods for instance; what surprisingly has been recounted by the study is that the most vulnerable cities are also the least prepared.

What U.S. Cities Facing Climate Disaster Risks Are Least Prepared?

The correlates of readiness and resilience are linked to some factors worth mentioning: wealth, income, inequality, unemployment rates and so on.

As a matter of fact, top 5 low-readiness/ high risk have shown a considerably larger black and Latino population and higher poverty rates, disclosing therefore a direct causality between poverty and vulnerability to climate change.

Flooding Cities: some examples

Still and all, we shall cross the American frontier to shed a light on some other interesting cases.

For the purpose, the Indonesian current situation case seems to be worth of interest.

Since its capital Jakarta continues to sink in the Java Sea, the government and its president Joko  “Jokowi” Widodo, recently announced their plan of dislocating the capital to the verdant island of Borneo. The interesting thing to notice is how natural disasters can revolutionize the urban planning of a city, or better, of a whole country. In fact, Borneo promises a “greener” future for the country, significantly reducing traffic congestion, overcrowding and air polluting factors. The idea lies in the grand strategy and believed abstraction of making Indonesia’s capital a “forest city”.

Another high risk zone are the Netherlands, whose large parts are situated below the sea level. Climate change effects, namely the aforementioned rising sea levels and heat waves, further exacerbate the threat of flooding for the country.[3]

Since the last devastating flood of the North Sea in 1953 – which hit also England, Scotland and Germany – an elaborate system of dams, sluice gates, storm surge barriers and other protective measures are in place next to the dikes. These are framed within the Delta Program, whose aim is to protect the country against the dreadful threat of floods.

Italy too has had a long history of disaster caused by floods (Polesine in 1951, Florence in 1966, Genoa in 1970, Versilia in 1996, Sarno in 1998, Piedmont both in 1994 and 2000, Friuli in 2003 and the most recent in Apulia in 2005).

The safeguard protection concept has been implemented by establishing the rules responding to the appropriate land management, while identifying the river basin as the basic unit for developing a proper land management plan.

The infographic provided below shows the areas at high hydrogeological critical state per type of disaster (floods, landslides and avalanches).

Source: “Flood Risk Management in Italy: tools for the hydrogeological land planning”[4]

Quite utopically, we could ask ourselves how a flood-proof city would look like then.

An article from The Guardian underlines how recent floods show that it is not just the unprecedented magnitude of storms that can unleash a disaster, indeed massive urbanisation constitutes a significant catalyst in this sense.

Tragic events such as the ones we have just mentioned, shall therefore not only be seen in the light of fatalism, but rather as artificial man-mad disasters.

For the sake of this, many architects and urbanists are pushing creative initiatives for cities that treat stormwater as a resource, rather than a hazard. Just to mention some, the permeable pavements in Chicago or the construction of 16 “Sponge Cities” in China as a solution for the freshwater scarcity and flooding suffered by many cities as a result of urbanization.

To conclude, we have mentioned how natural disasters can constitute a threat, endangering human lives and altering the urban landscape. Will this detrimental ongoing process ever come to a halt? The key then is to increase the readiness of cities to the phenomenon, as in an “urban-smart” metamorphosis, while keeping an eye on preventive measure and impact evaluation.



[1] More information available at :

[2] Eylul Tekin, analyzed risk factors along with each city’s plans to adapt to those weather hazards. More information available at:

[3] More information available at:

[4] More information available at :

Source main image: Getty Images, WSJ, 2014

Book Review: “Messy Urbanism, Understanding the ‘Other’ Cities of Asia”

Book Review: “Messy Urbanism, Understanding the ‘Other’ Cities of Asia”

Edited by Manish Chalana and Jeffrey Hou  

Grasping the complexity of urban life in dense and chaotic city spaces continues to be one of the main puzzles urban planners, sociologists, architects and urban dwellers alike try to solve. The book aims to provide a deeper understanding of the heterogeneity of the apparent disorder of Asian cities. More than what can be judged by an external eye as messy, Asian urban realities have an order, functioning, cultural meaning, and history of their own that the different authors help us discover.

Central to the book edited by Manish Chalana and Jeffrey Hou, is a reflection on normative dichotomies between formal/informal, order/chaos, legal/illegal and the impact that these dichotomies have on urban planning practices and discourses regarding the complexity of Asian Cities. In the first chapter, Chalana and Hou frame the debate on the notion of messiness and introduce the main tensions at stake analyzed by the articles in the book. Through multiple case studies, from Hong Kong to Manila, Tokyo to Ho Chi Minh City, the book deconstructs the meaning of messiness, bringing to the surface the specific colonial, racial, and class underpinnings hidden behind it. Messiness, as defined by the editors in Chapter 1, refers to activities and structures that do not follow institutionalized or culturally prescribed notions of order.

As previously mentioned, different authors throughout the book develop their chapters on a specific reality of messiness. If Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the collection of articles, Chapter 2 directly presents us with anhistorical account of attempts at controlling the sidewalks of HCMC. Kim unveils the consequences on street life caused by colonial city building, regulation, independence and war, post-war nationalism and recent economic liberalization in Vietnam. Kim points out that the desire to order the streets has been constant through the various historical periods, and so has been the failure in controlling their fervent activities.

Chapter 3 similarly reflects on the power relationships that inform the practices of ordering and messiness. Kusno presents an historical understanding of Jakarta’s urbanism to show how the organization of knowledge changes in time in order to make of messiness a pretext for governing. The author moreover uses the example of the growing presence of motorbikes to highlight how messiness and informality can become an insurgent practice in itself, a re-appropriation of the urban space through mobility. 

Chapter 4 and chapter 5 bring us to Manila and Bangkok, putting forward the importance of space and the embedded cultural and historical meanings that define it. Indeed, the disordered layering of multiethnic urbanity in Manila assumes a new significance through Gomez’s account of the semiotics of urban space. When looking at the urban mosaic of Manila we realize that its messiness is in reality a form of cultural concordance and dynamicity, of layered and intermingled realities.  In the case of Bangkok, Noobanjong also highlights the embeddedness of urban space in cultural and historical contexts through the example of Sanam Luang or Royal Field. Showing how the symbolic role of the Royal Field has changed during royal, military and democratic rule, the author joins other writers in the book in defining space as a device for the State to manifest and implement its hegemonic powers.

Similar to Gomez’s analysis of Manila, chapters 6 and 7 highlight the multiple layering of urban life. Exploring the theme of urban development and its effect on pre-existing structures, Oshima walks us through the long history of Shinjuku’s transportation and commerce node. The vernacular urbanism of Shinjuku provides an example of urban stratifications provide the dynamicity of urban experience. It is the production of meaning and practices springing from messiness that is highlighted by Daisy Tam in Chapter 7. Little Manila in Hong Kong becomes the spatial embodiment of insurgent planning in that the domestic Pilipino workers that occupy the CBD’s space on Sundays resist and redefine the ideal use of the urban space.

Chapter 8 also deals with contested urban space. Presenting the example of Mong Kok Flower Market in Hong Kong, the chapter points to the tension that exists between policy makers’ top-down planning decisions and the needs of citizens’ everyday lives. The conflicts at the Flower Market therefore also show how urban actors manage to compromise and act in a strategic way so to ensure their existence within the formal and institutional structures.

Chapter 9 returns to a post-colonial perspective in order to advocate against formalization and relocation policies with regards to informal settlements in Delhi, India. Through examples of livelihoods in Kathpuli Colony the authors show that formalization practices erase local knowledge and the local cultural structures based on which housing was built.

Chapter 10 distinguishes itself for introducing a new analytical framework. The author indeed interprets messiness as a result of transnational networks and connections that were formed in the making of the city of Chandigarh, India. Chandigarh’s architectural identity represents an example of a modernism that has been reappropriated by non-western cities.

Finally, chapter 11 and chapter 12 return to the analysis of messiness as a contested political notion. Hou in chapter 11 introduces the concept of tactical urbanism, that is, temporary tactics like the setting up of night street markets that allow the activities of these temporary urban dwellers to thrive in the cracks, so to speak, of the formal and institutional structure of the city. To conclude, Chapter 12 discusses the impact of Chinese paternalistic and developmentalist modern State practices in Quanzhou on community participatory practices and environmentally sensitive planning.

“Messy urbanism” develops a deep analysis of the meaning and historical underpinnings of urban informality. Though as hard as it can be because of the different locations and nuances of messy urbanism they deal with, the chapters lack a continuity of analysis between them. The organization of the book would have benefitted from a grouping of chapters according to their thematic and analytical framework. Because of this internal messiness the reader sometimes tends to get lost in each abstract and very specific production of knowledge without understanding what are the main narratives.

On the other hand the editors have succeeded in tying together the chapters to the overall thematic focus on messy urbanism. Analyzed in its totality, the book does a good job at reminding the reader of the importance of cultural subjectivity, historical contexts and power relationships built in urban practices.

While entering the very congested academic debate on urban informality this book provides a refreshing approach to the question of “disorderly” urbanism, cleverly using messiness as both a prism and a conceptual limit to overcome when reflecting on the chaotic nature of urban life. If the book does focus on specific contextual and historical circumstances in South-East and North-East Asia, its thematic interests contributes to answer the question of how to govern informality in today’s megalopolises of the world. It joins other authors like Castels, Portes, Roy, Al Sayyad, and Simone[1] in explaining that informal practices are not limited to survival strategies and rational economic behaviors of the urban poor but rather, they represent and are embedded in cultural and historical patterns. It is important to underline such a refusal of the liberal economic analysis of urban informal practices as framed by authors like De Soto[2] because they often end up completely ignoring the political significance of informal practices. Following Asef Bayat’s famous essay on the politics of the informal people, this book succeeds in recognizing the inherent political nature of the informal order.


Al Sayyad N., Roy A. (eds), 2004, Urban Informality: Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia, Lanham and London, Lexington Books

Bayat, Asef. “Un-Civil Society: The Politics Of The ‘Informal People'”. Third World Quarterly 18.1 (1997): 53-72. Web.

Chalana, Manish, and Jeffrey Hou. Messy Urbanism: Understanding The “Other” Cities Of Asia. 1st ed. HKU Press, 2016. Print.

De Soto H., 1986, The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World, New York, Harpercollins [English ed., 1989]

Portes A., Castells M., Benton L. (eds), 1989, The Informal Economy: Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press

Simone, A. Jakarta: Drawing the City Near, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2014

Photo credits:
Photo by Roberto Verzo via Flickr Creative Commons,

[1] Portes A., Castells M., Benton L. (eds), 1989, The Informal Economy: Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.

Al Sayyad N., Roy A. (eds), 2004, Urban Informality: Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia, Lanham and London, Lexington Books.

Simone, A. Jakarta: Drawing the City Near, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2014.

[2] De Soto H., 1986, The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World, New-York, Harpercollins [English ed., 1989]