Street Revolutions – Paving Way For The Commune

Throughout the renovation, Haussmann understood all too well that controlling urban space also meant controlling social reproduction. The rebuilding of Paris led to a growing socio-spatial segregation. Gradually, this dual social opposition, still present today – between the centre and the suburbs on the one hand, and between the east and west of the Paris urban area on the other – appeared and increased. This airtight spatial segregation fostered a reproduction of social classes. Workers had barely enough resources to meet their immediate needs, let alone long-term needs (children, education). Women were grossly exploited and underpaid. Segregation marginalized the poor and protected the bourgeoisie* from the real/imagined dangers of the criminal classes. At the same time, variations in land prices led to a segregation of economic functions and a concentration of shops, services and finance houses in the affluent areas of central Paris, with large industrial companies relegated to the periphery. The spatial reconstruction of Paris was also reflected in a growing separation between home and workplace, prefiguring the current division of the two. The city centre, with its department stores, monuments and boulevards became a showcase of capitalism and goods for the benefit of only a few (a phenomenon referred to by Baudelaire in “The Eyes of the Poor”, in Paris Spleen). All these elements sowed the seeds for the uprising of the Communards, the dramatic failure of which (several tens of thousands of deaths on the barricades and in summary executions) in June 1871 was almost certainly a result of the premature nature of this revolution and of a workers’ organization that was still too fragile to combat the reactionary forces.

*Note: Bourgeoisie – the middle class, typically with reference to its perceived materialistic values or conventional attitudes.

– Huriot, Jean-Marie, and Oliver Waine. “Haussmann: From Modernity to Revolution.” – Metropolitics. May 15, 2013. Accessed December 6, 2014. http://www.metropolitiques.eu/Haussmann-from-modernity-to.html.

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