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Introduction

  • Magdalena Matysek-ImielińskaEmail author
Chapter
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Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)

Abstract

The Warsaw Housing Cooperative (‘Żoliborz republic’) is a historic example of an attempt to replace the extensive system of representative democracy and majority rule with the principles of direct democracy and the self-governance of various entities/subjects, an example of creating a commons based on biopolitical production of customs, norms, tastes, principles of cooperation and, finally, subjectivity. A common good produced and distributed contrary to the logic of capital in a modern city, at a time it was desperately lacking its resources. The cooperative’s ambition was to show people how to live and to turn (passive) residents into (active) citizens. Soon, the cooperative’s founders have transpired to be—as we would now say—activists, or critical spatial practitioners (Markus Miessen), and the development became a laboratory for modernist urban planning practices. What began as an estate for working-class residents, thanks to the involvement of intellectuals keen on the concept of ‘sociology in action’, saw the introduction of numerous experimental forms of urban communal living. An analysis of this historical case relates to questions often posed today by both the urban grass-roots movements and researchers such as David Harvey and Andy Merrifield: Who owns the city? Who does the city belong to? Who should manage the city and how? The performative perspective allows me to see ‘architecture in action’ and dwelling as a process, rather than a form. The resident-turned citizen can be seen as engaged in subversive and freedom-oriented undertakings (social, political, economic and educational). In turn, the critical perspective (inseparable from the performative one) revealed the extraordinary power of rebellion and the desire for change resulting from the combination of thought and action, thanks to culture understood as praxis. I assume that the WHC residents’ strategies, described in this book, may prove valuable particularly today, when modern cities are implementing a model of governance based on urban entrepreneurship, while local governments are eager to dismantle the municipal social welfare system, privatise public goods and collective consumption and cooperate with private investors more often than with residents.

Keywords

Performative perspective Criticism of modernity Preposterous history Urban studies Utopian studies 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Historical and Pedagogical ScienceInstitute of Cultural Studies, University of WrocławWrocławPoland

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