4 Capitalism, City Space, and Class Formation: A Journey Organized by Friedrich Engels

WITH the assistance of the young Engels, who journeyed to England in 1842, this chapter begins a consideration of three interrelated questions: the determinations that have shaped urban space; the spatial organization of cities within the limitations imposed by these structural determinations at given historical moments; and the contingent and variable patterning of group and class formation within this spatial repertoire. I take up these issues not just to end a long silence within Marxism or to provide an alternative to the recent terms of engagement of Marxism with the city, but also because this subject provides a marvellous, though unrealized, chance to address basic problems of Marxist social and political theory.

If, for Marxism, the accumulation of capital defines the structuring content of the capitalist mode of production, the formation of the working class and its capacity to transform the social order is at the heart of its understanding of agency. Capitalist accumulation and working-class formation, together, delineate a field of analytical and political tension that has challenged, and haunted, Marxism from the start. Although there is no more fundamental question for Marxism than the relationship between capitalism understood abstractly as a system of production, whose organizing principle masks exploitation at the moment of its occurrence, and the identities, dispositions, and activities of actual working people in specific places at given historical moments, these two dimensions of capitalism have been juxtaposed awkwardly and unsurely within Marxist theory.

Too frequently, Marxism has traversed the distance between the poles of structure and agency by lurching from one to the

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