Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Harvey

Subject Categories

Geography | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Marxian Labor Theory of Value, Right to the City, Urban Politics, Urban Protest


This dissertation examines the theoretical and political contradictions surrounding the notion of the right to the city. The right to the city concept has lately attracted a great deal of attention, both from academics who have long engaged with urban theory and politics, and from grassroots activists around the globe who have been fighting on the ground for an alternative just urbanism. In addition to urbanists and grassroots urban justice activists, the right to the city concept has also drawn considerable attention from the United Nations (UN) agencies such as UN-HABITAT and UNESCO, which have organized meetings and outlined policies to absorb the notion into their own political agendas. This wide-ranging interest has created a conceptual vortex that has pulled discordant political projects behind the banner of the right to the city. By reframing the notion of the right to the city to foreground its roots in Marxian labor theory of value, this dissertation offers a theoretical framework to analyze diverse and often contradictory struggles for realizing the right to the city. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in New York, Boston and Istanbul, the dissertation is organized around the three pillars of the labor theory of value, namely, use value, exchange value and value. It begins with an examination of the political struggles that are mobilized for accessing use values in the city. This is followed by an examination of the UN agencies' claim over the right to the city that is primarily for realizing exchange values in the city. Although this dissertation acknowledges the usefulness of the analyses of urban political struggles based on the contradiction between use value and exchange value, it concludes with the shortcomings of such analyses and argues for a politics of value, which aims to cast labor in the epicenter of struggles for the right to the city.