Promises of the Political

Promises of the Political

Insurgent Cities in a Post-Political Environment

By Erik Swyngedouw

The possibility of a new emancipatory and democratizing politics, explored through the lens of recent urban insurgencies.





The possibility of a new emancipatory and democratizing politics, explored through the lens of recent urban insurgencies.

In Promises of the Political, Erik Swyngedouw explores whether progressive and emancipatory politics is still possible in a post-political era. Activists and scholars have developed the concept of post-politicization to describe the process by which “the political” is replaced by techno-managerial governance. If the political domain has been systematically narrowed into a managerial apparatus in which consensual governance prevails, where can we find any possibility of a new democratic politics? Swyngedouw examines this question through the lens of recent urban insurgencies. In Zuccotti Park, Paternoster Square, Taksim Square, Tahrir Square, Hong Kong, and elsewhere, he argues, insurgents have gathered to choreograph new configurations of the democratic.

Swyngedouw grounds his argument in urban and ecological processes, struggles, and conflicts through which post-politicization has become institutionally entrenched. He casts “the city” and “nature” as emblematic of the construction of post-democratic modes of governance. He describes the disappearance of the urban polis into the politics of neoliberal planetary urbanization; and he argues that the political-managerial framing of “nature” and the environment contributes to the formation of depoliticized governance—most notably in the impotent politics of climate change. Finally, he explores the possibilities for a reassertion of the political, considering whether—after the squares are cleared, the tents folded, and everyday life resumes—the urban uprisings of the last several years signal a return of the political.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262038225 232 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262535656 232 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • A wonderfully erudite dissection of the post-political and yet hyper-political times in which we live. Characteristically brilliant, characteristically iconoclastic, characteristically dialectical, this is the antidote to the optimism of the optimist and the pessimism of the pessimist in equal measure.

    Colin Hay

    Sciences Po, Paris

  • Erik Swyngedouw brings insights from urban political ecology to bear on debates over contemporary post-politics. He presents an egalitarian vision of the political that is responsive to the effects of planetary urbanization without falling prey to catastrophism or populism. Cities today are sites of new insurgencies. They are also openings to an egalitarian socio-ecological commons.

    Jodi Dean

    Harter Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, author of The Communist Horizon and Crowds and Party

  • In this productively pugnacious intervention, renowned spatial theorist Erik Swyngedouw develops a devastating critique of “depoliticization” in contemporary public discourse on environment, urbanization, capitalism, and democracy. Only an insurgent movement for radical democratization, he argues, can reveal possible alternatives to hegemonic forms of identitarian violence, neoliberal austerity, and ecological plunder, while opening up new horizons for “being-in-common.”

    Neil Brenner

    Professor of Urban Theory, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University