Rights to public space: regulatory reconfigurations of liberty

Ruppert, Evelyn S. (2006). Rights to public space: regulatory reconfigurations of liberty. Urban Geography, 27(3) pp. 271–292.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2747/0272-3638.27.3.271


I define how public space is constituted not by real property but by a regime made up of regulatory practices. What is at issue in assertions about the decline of public space is that this regulatory regime is reconfiguring liberty, that is, rights to public space, through a change in the conception of the public, of who and what belong as part of the public. By way of a case study, the redevelopment of the corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets in Toronto, I argue that liberty is defined by a multiplicity of practices (such as laws, regulations, urban design, surveillance and policing) that are oriented to a particular conception of the public, and which seek to guide the conduct of agents. This suggests that if our concern is to expand the political and social uses of public space then we need to turn our attention away from resources, spaces and goods and towards how the regulatory regime configures liberty and in turn the possibilities that public space can be taken and made.

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