Reading the Neoliberal Smart City Narrative: The Political Potential of Everyday Meaning-making

The Right to the Smart City

ISBN: 978-1-78769-140-7, eISBN: 978-1-78769-139-1

Publication date: 7 June 2019


One of the key normative questions that critical smart city scholars pose is if, and how, politically meaningful agency of citizens in the neoliberal smart city is possible? The Lefebvrian concept of the “right to the city” proves particularly fruitful in this endeavor, as it allows for imaging ways and possibilities in which citizens can assert the use value of the city over the exchange value, and thus affirm the social “urban” over the economic “city.” This chapter seeks to contribute to this quest for and imaginations of politically meaningful agency in the neoliberal smart city. First, it does so by arguing that what smart city scholarship typically considers as politically meaningful interventions into the neoliberal smart city are too often initiatives that are strongly influenced by peoples’ and cities’ access to specific and unevenly distributed resources, like technological or political literacies and economic (infra-) structures. Therefore, and second, the chapter proposes that we look for critical interventions into the neoliberal smart city by “ordinary citizens” elsewhere, namely, in urban inhabitants’ everyday readings of the promotional and performative narrative of the neoliberal smart city.



Engelbert, J. (2019), "Reading the Neoliberal Smart City Narrative: The Political Potential of Everyday Meaning-making", Cardullo, P., Di Feliciantonio, C. and Kitchin, R. (Ed.) The Right to the Smart City, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 43-55.

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