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The same forces may be compelling changes globally, but what effect they have locally is a product of their interactions with the circumstances of concrete localities. As the problems differ, they also demand different solutions. To ignore this is to fall in with the universalist self-images of neoliberal capitalism, or to fall back on the similarly informed universalist prescriptions of an earlier socialism. But neither should local particularities be allowed to conceal the forces at work globally.

18 China has never been a “typical” non-Western agrarian society. Compared to another big industrializing country like Brazil, for example, China has a worse ratio of people to available cultivable farmland, lower state investment in agriculture, and far weaker permitted mobilization (so far) of the rural poor to defend their own interests. Yet both China and Brazil have witnessed the growth of urban slums that are characterized by poverty, violence, and repression. Masses of slum-dwelling peasants with few citizenship rights live in such slums, into which they have been driven or enticed.

5 Since Marx and Engels were interested primarily in the emergence of the capitalist city, they projected its characteristics on its genealogy, ignoring that the relationship between town and country historically was marked as much by symbiosis (not just economically but socially and culturally as well) as antagonism. 6 From an ecologically sensitive contemporary perspective, the “modern” city appears instead as a betrayal of the premodern city’s promise of a more ecologically sound and sociable relationship between the city and the countryside.

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