The Spatial Contract

Buy the Book from Manchester University Press. Or Target. Or Amazon.

About the Book

Housing. Water. Energy. Transport. Food. Education. Health care. These are the core systems which make human life possible in the 21st century. Few of us are truly self-sufficient – we rely on the systems built into our cities and towns of all shapes and sizes in order to survive, let alone thrive.

Despite how important these systems are, and how much we rely on them, contemporary politics and mainstream economics in most of the world largely ignore these core systems. Politicians debate what they think will get them elected; economists value what they think drives growth.

This book joins the growing chorus of activists, academics and innovators who think that we should be focusing on what matters, on the parts of our economy in which most of us work and upon which all of us depend for survival. We help push this movement along by suggesting a series of concrete steps we can take to build what we call the “Spatial Contract”. The spatial contract is a form of social contract that pays attention to a simple fact: in order for humans to be free, we rely on these basic systems that enable us to act. At the heart of the spatial contract is an agreement to channel that action into ensuring these systems are built, maintained and available to all who need them, in big cities and small towns all around the world.


“Freedom is at the center of my work these days, and this book has helped me think about it more clearly.” – Transportation Consultant Jarrett Walker, in his Human Transit review of the Spatial Contract

“Since 1968, the Left has struggled to challenge the hegemonic hold neoliberal notions of homo economicus exercise over contemporary political imaginaries. Schafran, Smith and Hall’s The Spatial Contract offers an ambitious and wide-ranging attempt to fill this void.” Geopgrapher Kevin Grove, in Progress in Human Geography Symposium on the Spatial Contract

“The aim of this excellent book is to provide a guide or manifesto for a new kind of progressive politics – one that is centred on an understanding of ‘reliance systems’ or, in other words, those systems or infrastructures that enable human agency to be realized.” Geographer Rhys Jones in Human Geography Symposium on the Spatial Contract

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