The spatial contract

A new politics of provision for an urbanized planet

By Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith and Stephen Hall

The spatial contract


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4337-2
  • Pages: 168
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £14.99
  • Published Date: March 2020
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development, Economics, finance, business & management / Political economy, Urban Economics, Earth sciences, geography, environment, planning / Urban & municipal planning, Sociology, Urban & municipal planning, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Economy, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban
  • Series: Manchester Capitalism


Housing. Water. Energy. Transport. Food. Education. Health care. These are the core systems which make human life possible in the 21st century. Few of us are truly self-sufficient - we rely on the systems built into our cities and towns of all shapes and sizes in order to survive, let alone thrive.

Despite how important these systems are, and how much we rely on them, contemporary politics and mainstream economics in most of the world largely ignore these core systems. Politicians debate what they think will get them elected; economists value what they think drives growth.

This book joins the growing chorus of activists, academics and innovators who think that we should be focusing on what matters, on the parts of our economy in which most of us work and upon which all of us depend for survival. We help push this movement along by suggesting a series of concrete steps we can take to build what we call the "Spatial Contract". The spatial contract is a form of social contract that pays attention to a simple fact: in order for humans to be free, we rely on these basic systems that enable us to act. At the heart of the spatial contract is an agreement to channel that action into ensuring these systems are built, maintained and available to all who need them, in big cities and small towns all around the world.


List of tables
Preface and acknowledgements
1 Freedom, reliance and the spatial contract
2 Seeing like a system
3 Seeing like a settlement
4 Reliance and exploitation
Conclusion: Building a healthy spatial contract


Matthew Noah Smith is Associate Professor in philosophy in the Northeastern University Department of Philosophy and Religion

Alex Schafran is an urban planner and geographer, and the author of The Road to Resegregation: Northern California and the Failure of Politics

Stephen Hall is University Academic Fellow in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds

The spatial contract

By Alex Schafran, Matthew Noah Smith, Stephen Hall

Paperback £14.99 / $21.95

Hardcover £65.00 / $96.95

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