On Marx’s human significance, Harvey’s right to the city, and Nussbaum’s capability approach

C. Basta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I juxtapose David Harvey’s idea of the ‘right to the city’ and Martha Nussbaum’s central human capability of ‘control over one’s environment’, and I approach them from the perspective of their mutual convergence on Marx’s conception of human significance. In particular,
I compare how Marx’s conception reverberates in Harvey’s right to the city as human right and in Nussbaum’s control over the environment as central human capability. I discuss how the language of capabilities through which the latter scholar articulates her political liberalism offers ‘important supplementations’ to the language of human rights through which the former scholar articulates his critical discourse. I conclude that the evaluative character of Nussbaum’s capability approach could advance a novel stream in planning theory centred on human development. To elaborate on such potential, I propose the notion of people’s ‘urban functionings’, and I discuss how this notion could provide new interpretative lenses through which to renew the idea of ‘right to the city’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-363
JournalPlanning Theory
Issue number4
Early online date6 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • human capabilities
  • human significance
  • Marx
  • the right to the city
  • urban functionings


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