This blog is a working record of my always-developing intellectual and political project. I am Mark Purcell, an urbanist, geographer, and political theorist in the Department of Urban Design & Planning at the University of Washington. At UW I teach primarily in three programs, the Ph.D. in the Built Environment, the Ph.D. in Urban Design & Planning, and the undergraduate major in Community, Environment, and Planning. I am also a member of Becoming-Poor, a political/spatial/urban theory reading group at UW. My professional page is here. It has more on my work, including a full cv, articles to download, and some reading notes I have posted under a creative commons license.
The title of the blog comes from Henri Lefebvre. In The Urban Revolution Lefebvre insists the purpose of radical critique is to “open a path to the possible, to explore and delineate a landscape that is not merely part of the ‘real,’ the accomplished, occupied by existing social, political, and economic forces.” For Lefebvre the “real” was the existing capitalist city, and the possible was what he called “urban society,” a virtual object that is both a horizon toward which we must move and also something that is always already here, present in our everyday lives, even if it is inchoate, emerging, and difficult to see.
For me this virtual object, this possible toward which radical critique must cut a path, is democracy. Not liberal democracy and its elections, parties, and governing institutions. But real democracy, democracy at the bone, democracy as a way of life, a social life in which people become active, reappropriate their own proper power, and undertake the ongoing project of managing the conditions of their existence. Democracy toward the horizon. A path to the possible.
In addition to Lefebvre, I am also a big fan/student of the work of, among others: Aristotle, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Bakunin, Marx, Rousseau, Gramsci, Nietzsche, Deleuze & Guattari, Foucault, Ranciere, Laclau & Mouffe, Hardt & Negri, Castoriadis, Virno, Agamben, Calvino, and David Foster Wallace.