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


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.


Performative perspective Criticism of modernity Preposterous history Urban studies Utopian studies 


  1. Bal M (2002) Travelling concepts in the humanities: a rough guide. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  2. Bey H (1991) T.A.Z.: the temporary autonomous zone, ontological anarchy, poetic terrorism. Autonomedia, New York. Accessed 9 Sept 2018
  3. Bollier D (2007) The growth of the commons paradigm. In: Hess C, Ostrom E (eds) Understanding knowledge as a commons: from theory to practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 27–40Google Scholar
  4. Brenner N (2009) What is critical urban theory? City 13(2–3):195–204Google Scholar
  5. Butler J (1993) Critically queer. Gay Lesbian Q 1:17–32Google Scholar
  6. Carlsson C (2008) Nowtopia. How pirate programmers, outlaw bicyclists, and vacant-lot gardeners are inventing the future today! AK Press, Edinburgh, Oakland, and West ViriginiaGoogle Scholar
  7. Civic S (2013) Future possible: cooperatives from ownership to use. A conversation with sostre civic. Quaderns 265:9–12Google Scholar
  8. De Angelis M (2003) Reflections on alternatives, commons and communities. The Commoner 6:1–14Google Scholar
  9. Editorial team of Praktyka teoretyczna (2012) Wprowadzenie. Rzecz-pospolita i aktualność komunizmu. Genealogia i krytyki polityczno-filozoficzne projektu dobra wspólnego [Introduction to the Polish edition of Commonwealth—Commonwealth and currency of communism: genealogy and political-philosophical critiques of the common]. In Hardt M, Negri A (eds) Rzecz-pospolita. Poza własność prywatną i dobro publiczne (trans: Editorial team of Praktyka Teoretyczna). Korporacja ha!art, Kraków, pp 7–71Google Scholar
  10. Freyd E (1933) Życie WSM, 1 SeptGoogle Scholar
  11. Goldfarb J (2006) The politics of small things: the power of the powerless in dark times. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gorz A (1999) Reclaiming work: beyond the wage-based society. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Hardt M, Negri A (eds) (2009) Commonwealth. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Accessed 7 Sept 2018
  14. Harvey D (1997) The new urbanism and the communitarian trap. Harv Des Mag 1:68–69Google Scholar
  15. Ingold T (2011) Building, dwelling, living: how animals and people make themselves at home in the world. In: Ingold T (eds) The perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. Taylor & Francis, London, pp 172 –188Google Scholar
  16. Jackson M (1996) Introduction: phenomenology, radical empiricism and anthropological critique. In: Jackson M (ed) Things as they are: new directions in phenomenological anthropology. Indiana University Press, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  17. Jacoby R (1999) The end of utopia. Politics and culture in an age of apathy. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Lefebvre H (2014) Critique of everyday life (trans: Elliott G). Verso, London and New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Levitas R (1990) Concept of utopia. Syracuse University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Levitas R (2013) Utopia as method. The imaginary reconstitution of society. Palgrave–MacMillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. McKenzie J (2001) Perform or else: from discipline to performance. Routledge, London and New York. Accessed 9 Sept 2018
  22. Merrifield A (2011) Magical marxism. Subversive politics and the imagination. Pluto Press, London and New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Merrifield A (2014) The new urban question. Pluto Press, London. Accessed 7 Sept 2018
  24. Merrifield A (2017) The amateur. The pleasures of doing what you love. Verso, London and New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Miessen M (2017) Crossbenching: towards a proactive mode of participation as a critical spatial practice. Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College/University of London, London. Accessed 7 Sept 2018
  26. Płucienniczak P (2010) Tymczasowa Strefa Eskapistyczna [Temporary Escapist Zone]. E-splot, 2 March 2010. Accessed 14 Dec 2017
  27. Próchnik A (1933) Współżycie ideowe czy walka polityczna [Ideological coexistence or political struggle]. Życie WSM [Life of the WHC], October, pp 1–2Google Scholar
  28. Próchnik A (1934a) Polityka ogrodnicza WSM [The WHC horticultural policy]. Życie WSM [Life of the WHC], July, pp 1–2Google Scholar
  29. Próchnik A (1934b) Spółdzielnia czy spółdzielczość [A cooperative or cooperativism]. Życie WSM [Life of the WHC], September, pp 2–4Google Scholar
  30. Schutz A, Luckmann T (1973) The structures of the life-world (trans: Zaner RM, Engelhardt HT Jr.). Northwestern University Press, EvanstonGoogle Scholar
  31. Sennett R (2008) The craftsman. Yale University Press, New Haven and LondonGoogle Scholar
  32. Skórzyńska A (2016) Czy możliwe jest kulturoznawstwo aktywistyczne? Partycypacja w perspektywie filozofii praxis [Are activist cultural studies possible? Participation in the praxis philosophy perspective]. In: Matysek-Imielińska M (ed) Uczestnictwo, ruch, wspólnota [Participation, Movement, Community]. Prace Kulturoznawcze, vol 19. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego, Wrocław, pp 15–40Google Scholar
  33. Sowa J (2015) Inna Rzeczpospolita jest możliwa! Widma przeszłości, wizje przyszłości [Another republic is possible! Specters of the past, visions of the future]. W.A.B, WarszawaGoogle Scholar
  34. Wallerstein I (1998) Utopistics, or historical choices of the twenty-first century. The New Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations