For more than a century, municipal socialism has fired the imaginations of workers fighting to make cities livable and democratic. At every turn propertied elites challenged their right to govern.
Prominent US labor historian, Shelton Stromquist, offers the first global account of the origins of this new trans-local socialist politics. He explains how and why cities after 1890 became crucibles for municipal socialism. Drawing on the colorful stories of local activists and their social-democratic movements in cities as diverse as Broken Hill, Christchurch, Malmö, Bradford, Stuttgart, Vienna, and Hamilton, OH, the book shows how this new urban politics arose.
Long governed by propertied elites, cities in the nineteenth century were transformed by mass migration and industrialization that tore apart their physical and social fabric. Amidst massive strikes and faced with epidemic disease, fouled streets, unsafe water, decrepit housing, and with little economic security and few public amenities, urban workers invented a local politics that promised to democratize cities they might themselves govern and reclaim the wealth they created. This new politics challenged the class power of urban elites as well as the centralizing tendencies of national social-democratic movements. Municipal socialist ideas have continued to inspire activists in their fight for the right of cities to govern themselves.
“The culmination of Stromquist's lifetime of impressive scholarship on rank-and-file workers and socialist movements, Claiming the City arrives right on time as we explore the possibilities of transformation at the municipal scale. Astonishingly sweeping in its range of fine-grained case studies, the book teems with comparative insights while it traces transnational connections established by a mobile working class and internationalist commitments.”
“I'm sure that Shelton Stromquist's monumental book will have a lasting impact. It is an inspiring work by a historian of great stature on a very important, but much neglected, topic; it will certainly resonate throughout discussions of history and socialist politics.”
“This magisterial account of socialist and labor activism at the local level sweeps ambitiously across Europe, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Shelton Stromquist eloquently unearths a global movement of "internationalism from below" that transformed cities and, as well, reshaped national and global. politics. Claiming the City is a magnificent achievement that vividly demonstrates the value of global labor history.”