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Slums in times of financial capitalism – Roberto Rocco, Delft University of Technology

By on September 22, 2016
Lecturer - profile

Roberto Rocco

Senior Assistant Professor

Main affiliation
Delft University of Technology



European Union



I am an Assistant Professor at the Cahir of Spatial Planning and Strategy of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of the Delft University of Technology, TU Delft. My research interests lie on regional planning and design, the governance of natural resources at the regional level, and tools for urban development and governance in the Global South, particularly the governance and the political meaning of informal urbanization.

I am originally an architect and urban planner graduate from FAU, the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo. I later followed post-graduate courses in spatial planning in Paris and Delft, where I obtained my doctoral degree with a thesis on the location patterns of large global enterprises in regional settings.

I teach courses at the European Master of Urbanism EMU as well as courses on research methodology, metropolitan planning and design and planning theory. I am interested in SPATIAL JUSTICE and GOVERNANCE as instruments that enable action to improve our cities and make them more livable and socially sustainable.

I am the president of the Salzburg Congress on Urban Planning and Development, based in Austria. SCUPAD congregates academics and practitioners concerned with urban development in the Global South and has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. SCUPAD promotes a big conference every year.

I am also board member of NALACS, the Netherlands Association on Latin American and Caribbean studies. NALACS mission is to gather and promote networking among academics and practitioners concerned with Latin America and the Caribbean working in the Netherlands.

English Proficiency

Previous experience of recording video lectures

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Frequency of lectures
Very often

Recording opportunities
Habitat III attendance and availability
I will be in Quito from 14 to 22 OCT


Main themes
Sustainable Cities
Slum Upgrading
Planning and Design

Slums in times of financial capitalism

This lecture discusses the place of slums in city development in times of financial capitalism. It argues that the financialisation of the production of urban space renders it impossible to continue with policies of self-help. It discusses concepts of positive rights in order to claim that local and national governments must invest in slum upgrading strategies and social housing schemes in order to counter the extreme inequality generated by financial capitalist in the city.

Issues which the lecture addresses
The Latin American slum is slowly becoming more urbanised, as local governments invest in more or less successful strategies of urbanisation and upgrading. Very few of these strategies include real mechanisms of participation and co-design, which result in typologies that do not respond to the real needs of inhabitants. This is especially true in the case of mass produced housing where the opportunities for entrepreneurship and small business is very reduced.But most importantly, the price of land and the financialisation of the housing market make it impossible for households to access the formal hosing market. New slums appear all the time, as a substantial part of Latin Americans do not have access to formal means of financing. This is a paradox of the financialisation of urban space, which denies a great part of the population of Latin American cities the right to interfere in how their living environment is produced. The positive aspects of self help and entrepreneurship of the poor colide with the idea of positive rights and the right to adequate shelter.

Short analysis of the above issues
Social Housing schemes in Latin America fail to reach the most destitute. They also fail to deliver typologies that are familiar to Latin American families and that allow them to pursue entrepreneurship. Small wonder, slums in LAC continue to grow. But the idea that leaving the poor to help themselves is a solution for housing in LAC fails to recognise the positive rights of citizens in modern democracies and the fact that the inputs for housing in LAC far exceeds the capacity of households to pay for them. The financialisation of the production of urban space that rides the wave of liberalisation of markets is visibly increasing inequality in LAC cities. Local and national governments need to address the housing question with a more robust approach to housing provision.

Propositions for addressing the issue
1. The way we produce space is intimately related to our economies, understood broadly.
2.The association of the production of urban space and capitalism is very old. (Henri Pirenne)
3. Mercantilism/ Colonialism/Industrialisation and the birth of the modern urban slum
/Fordism and the birth of the suburb/
4. Globalisation and financialisation of the production of urban space: global cities and slums
5.The limits to financialisation: successive financial crisis triggered by real estate crises
6. Globalisation and the production of urban space in subordinate modernisation
7. Subordinate modernisation in weak institutional contexts , where the rule of law is defective and there is a deficit in civil rights
8. Exclusive urbanisation as a result of this logic (neoliberalism)
9. Positive rights and the idea of the entrepreneurship of the poor
10. Poor official responses
11. Land price and financing of affordable housing in LAC (empirical evidence)
12. A robust notion of sustainability, that includes social sustainability and spatial justice
13. Planning Urgencies in LAC deriving from the processes described

Additional Reading Materials

BRAZIL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT 2001. Estatuto da Cidade: Guia para implementação pelos municípios e cidadãos. Brasilia: Federal Senate/ Ministerio das Cidades/ Instituto Polis/ CEF.

EDMUNDSON, W., 2004, An Introduction to Rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

FAINSTEIN, S. S. 2010. The just city, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

HARVEY, D. 2008. The Right to the City. New Left Review, Sept/ Oct, 23-40.

HOLSTON, J. 2009. Insurgent citizenship : disjunctions of democracy and modernity in Brazil, Princeton, N.J. ; Woodstock, Princeton University Press.

MARCUSE, P. & KEMPEN, R. V. 2000. Conclusion: A Changed Spatial Order. In: MARCUSE, P. &

KEMPEN, R. V. (eds.) Globalizing Cities: a new spatial order? Oxford: Blackwell

MARCUSE, P. 2009. From critical urban theory to the right to the city. City, 13, 185-197.

MARCUSE, P. 2009. Spatial Justice: Derivative but Causal of Social Injustice. Espace et justice/Space and Justice [Online], 1.

MARX, B., STOKER, T. & SURI, T. 2013. The Economics of Slums in the Developing World. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27, 187-210.

ROY, A. & ALSAYYAD, N. 2004. Urban Informality : transnational perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia, New York, Lexington

UN-HABITAT 2006. State of the World’s Cities 2006/2007. In: UN-HABITAT (ed.). Nairobi.

UN-HABITAT 2011. Affordable Land and Housing in Latin America and the Caribbean. B. McBride and M. French. Nairobi, UN_Habitat.

WORLD BANK 2005. The Urban Poor in Latin America. Directions in Development. M. Fay. Washington, The World Bank.

Draft presentation