ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tribute to Neil Smith

For many of us, the Graduate Centre, City University of New York, in the heart of the city with all its com­plexities has been a political touchstone to test and articulate our political ideas and practices. Neil Smith was one radical intellectual who made it so. In the wee hours of 29 September we lost Neil, who was, for many, a warm, generous intellectual and comrade with a zest for revolutionary change, one who pushed his students to think beyond rhetoric. Whether we agreed with him or not, none of us could remain untouched by his committed Marxist praxis and sincere encouragement.

Many of us borrowed his ideas freely; his work on gentrification, environmental justice and uneven development remain clear precepts and flag-posts for thinking through many political inequalities and the direction in which they unfold today. His work on “production of nature” rigorously shows how the capitalist commodity production process is based on an ontological separation between “nature” and “society” which makes them both amenable to and available for capitalist exploitation. There is, in short, no pre-given nature; capitalism produces nature in its own image such that all nature is now essentially “second nature”. His insights on the politics of scale offer a theoretical foundation for connecting struggles, “jumping scales” from the body to the globe for effective strategies of resistance. He was a critical geographer who critiqued his discipline and held it accountable for its role in creating US globalism and the US Empire.

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