James Davis | Music and Letters
In this paper, we argue that it is generative to link struggles around access to, control over, and the transformation of urban energy systems to the imaginary of the right to the city; and we explore the conceptual, empirical and political contributions of this connection. Our paper starts with two main questions: (1) what do we learn from reading attempts to reclaim urban energy systems from a right to the city perspective? (2) What can this analysis add to debates around the right to the city? We make two main arguments from our empirical engagements with initiatives seeking to remunicipalise urban energy systems in Berlin and London, each of which is premised upon calls for more just, democratic and ecologically sustainable forms of energy supply. First, we argue that these struggles need to transcend concerns around energy infrastructure to raise broader questions around the democratisation of urban space. Second, we contend that appropriating long-lasting urban infrastructure requires the creation of new and durable forms of democratic institutions, providing insights into the notion of self-management (autogestion) beyond more spontaneous and fleeting forms of protest and uprising addressed in much of right to the city literature. Overall, the paper hopes to put the question of autogestion and related strategies at the centre of conversations around right to the city moving forward.