Borys Cymbrowsky

The Proletarian Public Space and Its Transformation. The Case of Socialist and Post-socialist Cities



The article discusses the relation between public sphere and public space in the context of state socialism and post-socialist transformation. Public sphere is an important and defining condition for the constitution and functioning of public space. It is argued that in societies under state socialism a specific form of public sphere prevailed which was based on the experience of production, and not on experience of dealing with capital. This circumstance influenced the conditions and shape of the public space. The specific form of public space in socialist cities is discussed as "proletarian public space", as it developed along with the process of massive industrialization and ascendancy of working class as the leading social force. Post-socialist transformation caused a rapid delegitimation of working people in the public sphere, and even a decrease of significance of the public in favour of the private. No longer production, but again capital became the decisive factor for defining public sphere. This process has been very well visible in the transformation of the public space of cities. Along with the decrease of production and the relative disappearance of working class from the public sphere, urban public space in numerous cities became a battleground between the investors and developers on the one side and inhabitants and urban social movements on the other. The activists of those movements develop a sort of proletarian public sphere which, however, is not based on production but on the entitlement to decide upon it derived from the fact of inhabiting a particular tenement house or neighbourhood.


  • Public Sphere
  • Public Space
  • State Socialism
  • Post-socialism
  • Proletarian Public Sphere
  • Proletarian Public Space


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