Capitalist expansion has altered the relation between societies and urban spaces. The public is no longer involved in the production of cities but rather private investments take the lead creating separate isolated spheres of interactions and preventing people from coming together (Purcell, 2014).Therefore, as neoliberalism turned “the right to the city” exclusive to private interests, people sought to reclaim this right by taking matter into their own hands to satisfy collective and individual needs as the state and the market were behind the alienations and injustices. The right to the city conceptualized by Lefebvre involves a society beyond capitalism and the state that is based on the collective production, appropriation, and management of the city while reintegrating it into the “web of social connections” (Lefebvre, 1996). Having similar characteristics to this concept, “urban commons” can be seen as a practical approach for achieving this right. Therefore, the research aimed to expand the concept of urban commons in the literature in terms of its wide variety of practices and relation to the right to the city as well as explore the circumstances behind their emergence, management and social relations of users. Most importantly, the research analyzed urban commons as alternative planning tools to the state and the market for collectively managing the city and gaining access to its resources. Through a qualitative approach primarily based on interviews and observations supplemented by secondary sources, the research sought to have an in-depth understanding of urban commons in the context of Beirut, Lebanon. Interviews were conducted among diverse respondents including activists, citizens, experts and scholars and a multiple case study research strategy was chosen to investigate empirically three types of urban commons with different scales and duration: October 17th revolution, Nation Station (a community kitchen/center) and the informal bus system. The urban commons studied reflected the aspirations of communities and represented their socio-economic and political needs as people self-organized and collectively shaped the city. The continuous appropriation of space provoked a realization that brought awareness to the importance of common spaces for the democratization and functioning of a more just and inclusive city. Through everyday inhabitance, people were able to gain a sense of ownership and belonging to the city and form close relations with strangers. Therefore, instead being spectators to their surroundings, the urban commons provided an organizational model that challenges the state and the market and goes beyond private property regimes while providing opportunities for people to reclaim their right to the city through their participation in the production of the city’s spaces and resources affecting their everyday lives.

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Baliga, A. (Anitra) Dr.
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Karen-Jo Mourad Karam. (2022, October 3). Reclaiming the right to the city through the urban commons. Retrieved from